A Nose for a Story

Frank Brennan

'Are you OK Miss?' asked the taxi driver. He could see in his mirror that the American lady sitting in the back seat, was having a hard time keeping down her expensive lunch.

'No, I am not! What is that awful smell?' the woman asked.

The taxi driver smiled to himself. He often had to explain the smell to wealthy foreigners after he had driven them a kilometre or so away from their hotel. It was not something their sensitive city noses were used to.

'It's just the sewage, Miss. The pipes from the toilets are old and the weather is hot in India,' he explained. 'There are many people in Bombay - the pipes get very full.'

The taxi driver almost felt sorry for his passenger. She was middle-aged but had a pretty face and shiny dark hair, though her teeth were too big for his taste. Yet he could see as he closed the windows and switched on the air- conditioning that many men would find her attractive. But he had long since learned to distance himself from the delights of his lady passengers. He thought of himself as a professional, like a doctor. He was above such things.

'Don't worry, Miss; there are no more big sewage pipes in the village where we are going,' he added, helpfully.

'Thank God for that!' said the woman, who was now beginning to wish she had not asked for the windows to be left open in the first place.

'No, they use cesspits - big holes in the ground where they put all their-'

Thank you, driver,' the woman said quickly. 'There's no need to go into details. I can imagine.'

Desiree Malpen, in fact, had one of the best imaginations in her business. She was a senior journalist for the National Diary, a publication which was proud of being America's 'number one magazine for lovers of the truth'. Other journalists who wrote for more serious newspapers disagreed. They said that the National Diary loved scandal and dirt and didn't care how much it changed the truth in its stories. The journalists were right. Lots of pictures and lots of scandal - that was the National Diary's recipe for success - and Desiree was one of the magazine's top writers.