Authors: Gary Urey
Super Schnoz and the Booger Blaster Breakdown
Pictures by Keith Frawley
ALBERT WHITMAN & COMPANY
For Steve Casinoâ
Big honking thanks to Michelle, Genevieve, Rachel,
and Kaelin. Without you, life would STINK!â
“Schnoz, what's that weird smell?” Jimmy asked me one day while TJ, Mumps, Vivian, and I were cruising on our bikes down Main Street.
I flared my nostrils and inhaled the luscious, intoxicating scent. My nose hairs tingled with joy, my olfactory bulbs throbbing with delight. The wonderful smell had been wafting in the crisp autumn air of Denmark, New Hampshire, for weeks, and my nose could barely contain its excitement.
“That smell isn't weird,” I answered. “It's Strange, as in Jean Paul Puanteur's Strange.”
“Huh?” TJ grunted.
“Strange is the name of an extremely popular unisex perfume,” Vivian said, steering her bike toward Dr. WackjÃ¶b's Gecko GlueÂ® and Snore Cure MistÂ® factory. “Every teenager and adult in town wears it.”
“Schnoz, let me give you a piece of advice,” Jimmy razzed. “Don't let the other guys in school know you like perfume. It could be seriously bad for your honker health.”
TJ laughed. “Perfume's for girls.”
“Don't tell that to my dad,” Mumps said. “He's been spraying himself with Strange every morning for a month.”
“Like Vivian said, the perfume is unisex,” I replied.
“What's âunisex' mean?” Jimmy asked.
I hit the brakes, and my bike skidded to a stop. “It means the perfume is suitable for both sexes, male and female.”
“My mom loves it too,” Vivian added. “She goes through a bottle every two weeks.”
“Jean Paul Puanteur is the greatest perfumer in the world!” I proclaimed. “He's the Mozart of odor, the Picasso of aromaâ”
Before I could finish, one of Dr. WackjÃ¶b's delivery trucks whizzed past us. His Gecko GlueÂ® and Snore Cure MistÂ® products were selling like hotcakes around the world. In fact, they were so successful that
Filthy Rich Review
had featured the company on the cover of its October issue. But the best thing about the business was that it employed hundreds of local people. My mom even got a job there as a quality control supervisor.
“I don't care what anyone thinks,” I said to Jimmy after the truck had turned the corner. “I'm not just a one-sniff pony who only likes the smells of dog poop, armpits, and rotting roadkill. I'm a connoisseur of the sweeter scents in life too, you know.”
“The art of mixing herb oil, spices, and tree resins to make different fragrances goes all the way back to ancient Babylon,” Vivian said. “Perfuming is as old as civilization itself.”
TJ rolled his eyes. “Ancient or not, I still say perfume is for girls.”
“Stop being a sexist!” Vivian yelled and then held up her fists. “Do you want a bop on the chin?”
“I'm not six!” TJ fired back. “I turned eleven two months ago.”
“I said you were a
dork butt. A person who stereotypes people based on their gender.”
“She's right, TJ,” I said. “Apologize. Vivian's smarter and tougher than all of you Not-Right Brothers put together.”
TJ kicked a rock with his sneaker. “I'm sorry, but I didn't mean anything by it. I just assumed only girls wore perfume, that's all.”
“Well, now you know different,” Vivian said. “Let's hurry up and get to Dr. WackjÃ¶b's office. I'm starving.”
Every Wednesday, students were released early from school so the teachers could have meetings. We got out at noon and, weather permitting, rode our bikes to Dr. WackjÃ¶b's office for lunch. As we made our way down the street toward the factory, I deeply inhaled the overpowering smell of Strange. Distinguishing among the perfume's different ingredients proved difficult at first, but soon my powerful olfactory receptors downloaded the parts directly into my mental scent dictionary. The perfume's base was ethyl alcohol and distilled waterâtypical for most perfumes. Next, I sniffed a tantalizing blend of essential oils like lavender, jasmine, sandalwood, and bergamot. I could tell the perfume was of the highest quality because all the ingredients were natural, not one synthetic fragrance in the mix.
The security guard opened the factory gates, and we rolled into the parking lot. I leaned my bike on the rack and took one step toward the office door, and that's when I sensed another extremely subtle, barely detectable ingredient in the Strange concoction. The odor stopped me in my tracks. My nose lifted into the air, huffing like a crazed bloodhound at the scent particles floating on the wind.
“What's wrong, Schnoz?” Vivian asked. “You look like you just smelled a ghost.”
“I smell something, all right,” I said, my heart thumping. “And I have no idea what it is.”
“But you know practically every smell on earth,” Mumps said.
I scanned my mental scent dictionary front to back, starting with the pungent odor of a crushed ant and ending with the cheesy aroma of baked ziti. There was nothing, not one tiny whiff of the Strange scent.
Dr. WackjÃ¶b was chatting on the phone when his secretary escorted us into his office. The overwhelming stench of fresh hÃ¡karl blasted up my nostrils. I loved the smell of fermented, urine-soaked shark meat, but the Icelandic delicacy made Vivian and the Not-Right Brothers nearly gag.
Jimmy pulled his T-shirt up over his nose. “Why does Dr. WackjÃ¶b have to eat that disgusting hÃ¡karl every single day for lunch?”
“I don't like the smell either,” Vivian said. “But we have to give the guy a break. The doctor was a laughingstock in his native Iceland and had to flee. HÃ¡karl reminds him of home.”
“HÃ¡karl reminds me of an unflushed toilet,” Mumps said with grimace.
“So nice to hear from you, Pierre, and I hope to speak with you soon.” Dr. WackjÃ¶b said and then hung up the phone. He pointed to three large pizza boxes sitting on a conference table. “One is plain, one is pepperoni, and the other is black olives and mushrooms. Please, help yourselves.”
Vivian, the Not-Brothers, and I tore into the pizzas like starving rescue dogs. Dr. WackjÃ¶b tied a bib around his neck and popped slices of hÃ¡karl into his mouth. He chewed very slowly, savoring every shark-pee-flavored bite.
While the gang munched away, my nose drifted off to the mysterious smell locked inside Strange. The fragrance resembled vanilla, but the unknown aroma was way more earthy, funky, and bold than any variety I had ever come across during my scent-gathering expeditions. Only a master like Jean Paul Puanteur could confuse my world-class sniffer like this!
Most kids my age have posters of actors, musicians, and athletes hanging on their bedroom walls. As for me, I have only a small, eight-by-ten framed picture of Jean Paul Puanteur. I clipped the photo from a
magazine article about the art and science of making perfume. He is standing in a field of extremely rare and expensive French jasmine, wearing a black tuxedo with bright red Converse sneakers, a brilliant orange sun high in the sky. The man is a scent artist of the highest order.
A set of greasy fingers snapped in front of my face.
“Earth to Schnoz,” Vivian said, ripping me out of my French jasmine daze. “You're staring blankly into space. What are you thinking about?”
“Strange,” I said.
TJ fanned the air in front of his face. “I wish I had a bottle of Strange right now. I'd spray it around the room to get rid of the hÃ¡karl stink!”
Dr. WackjÃ¶b laughed. “Iceland's secret shark recipe goes all the way back to the time of Vikings. What is this Strange you speak of?”
“Strange is a ridiculously popular perfume,” Mumps answered. “Everybody's wearing the stuff.”
“I'm a huge fan of the perfuming arts,” I said. “But there's one ingredient in Strange that my snuffer can't sniff out.”
Dr. WackjÃ¶b raised his white, bushy eyebrows. “You, the one and only Super Schnoz, cannot recognize a scent? I don't believe it. Your nose is to smells what Einstein's brain was to physics.”
“Well, this is one odor equation I have yet to crack.”
“I don't know anything about the perfume business,” Dr. WackjÃ¶b continued. “But just as my company has a secret ingredientâsynthetic setae developed from the sticky pads on a gecko's feetâI would assume perfumers use secret ingredients as well.”
I shrugged. “You're probably right, but if I don't figure out that smell and add it to my scent dictionary I'm going to blow a booger!”
“Perhaps I should call back Pierre and ask him.”
“Who's Pierre?” Vivian asked.
“He's the gentleman I was talking to on the phone as you arrived for lunch. He's a Frenchman, an old friend of mine from when I studied geology for a year at the University Lille Nord de France. I hadn't spoken with him in thirty years. He phoned me out of blue after reading about my successful business in
Filthy Rich Review.”
“Why would this Pierre person know about secret ingredients found in perfume?” I asked.
“GrÃÃ¶arstÃ³r Nef, my old friend's full name is Pierre du Voleur, owner of the FranÃ§ais Scent Company, makers of fine perfumes and fragrances.”
I sat up in my seat, nose hairs quivering with excitement. “Can you ask him about the mystery ingredient in Strange?”
“That won't do any good,” Vivian said.
“Strange is made by Jean Paul Puanteur, a completely different company. Coke would never give up its secret soda formula to Pepsi. Why would two rival perfume companies share ingredients?”
“She's right, Schnoz,” Jimmy said. “If you want to figure out that smell, you'll have to huff it out for yourself.”
The scent receptors inside my honker deflated a little. The task would be daunting, but I had never met a smell my nose couldn't defeat, and Strange was not going to provide the first.
The mysterious odor molecules inside Strange teased my nose during the day and haunted my dreams at night. How could I not know what that last scent is? For the next week, I put myself through a vigorous set of smell exercises. Just as a bodybuilder pumps heavy weights to make their muscles grow, I attempted to expand my olfactory senses by immersing myself with the smelliest things in town.
I spent a hot and humid Saturday locked inside the overflowing port-o-potty at the high school football field. The overwhelming reek of liquefied poop, sopping toilet paper, and stale urine made my eyes water and nose hairs curl. After that, I shoved one of my dad's rancid running shoes over my nose and mouth like a surgical mask. The foot fungus rot penetrated my nasal cavity and absorbed into my sinuses. I then took a midnight dip in the wastewater treatment pond.