The Smell of Smoke tells the story of Dottie, a woman in her 80s who struggles with increasing loneliness and frustration over being forgotten by the world around her. One day, she wanders into the East Village bar where she and her late husband had spent many nights with their friends, years before. As Dottie reminisces, the dive bar time travels between the 1940's when the world seemed to belong to herself and her husband, and the sparse desperation that the 1990s offers her. Jason, a neighborhood kid who is trying to hustle his way through survival, follows her into the bar. Charming and manipulative, he takes advantage of Dottie's vulnerable state and convinces her to let him bring his friends to her apartment to transact a drug deal. Dottie is captivated by the male attention and agrees. In the end, despite the boys' criminal actions, Dottie willingly sacrifices her security, and even some of her possessions, to have Jason and his friends return.