Sunday, April 28, 2013

Summer and the Smell of De-Comp In The Morning


     The last time summer beckoned with me teaching in a classroom, my school remained in session  until June 30th, making July 1st my first formal day of intensive and purposeful torpor. 
     But this was not to be. 
     My husband learned he had an emergency business trip for several weeks that began on this same day.

    In decades of marriage, I'd learned these 'extended business trips' coincided with local apocalypse:
    Storm doors blew off hinges.  Pets and children went missing.  Roofs leaked, about which I was happy: I stuck plants underneath the drippage. It was the only way they'd get watered.

   Nothing like this happened when he was home. 
Not my corpulent vermin-corpse: this one was too fresh

   So on July 1, 2011, Jonathan leaves, and I wake up to the smell of death.

   I realize it must be coming from outdoors and the wind is blowing the stench inside -- but I need to rid myself of death-smell as I was writing curriculum, right by the smell window. (Okay, I lied about purposeful torpor. But writing curricula in a balmy morning breeze was a welcome change in routine and I greatly enjoyed the process.  Just not with corpulent-rot wafting over Unit Plans for Oedipus at Collonus).

      So I donned chain mail and football helmet, brandished a scythe and Tilex; my third hand grasped a flashlight and out to my front lawn I repaired.
      But there was no befouling odor outdoors.
      It was coming from inside the house.
      This is my favorite line from horror movies: 'We've traced the call. It's coming from inside the house! Get out! Get out NOW!"
     So I trudged back inside and huffed every nook and cranny that would hold the melted vermin, used my flashlight to look under all the baseboards. 
     That's when I spotted a shadow... turd-shaped... of a being resting its corpse on the top tier of the square aluminum conductor-fins that wrap around the pipe inside the baseboard.
     How did a mouse or mole or death-rodent get UP in there?
     More important was how something so small could emit a Level-Five Death Vapor.  This one harbored the typical fruity de-comp -- but with notes of ammonia and a low-tide crab finish. I sure was not going to feed my fingers inside the little half-inch space and start yanking at its dead parts.
     So I pondered and fretted… “What should I DO?”
     I called every English teacher I know.
     I even phoned Jonathan who said, "Oh, yeah. I smelled that this morning, after I came back inside for my sunglasses I'd forgotten."
     "You SMELLED the death and left ANYWAY?"
     "Well... yeah."

     Reina, a grade 6 English teacher, suggested I phone the Boy Scouts of America who could dispatch an Area Scout in need of a Badge.
     Her other helpful suggestion was to call the Fire Department.
     Or Mark. (Grade 7 English)
     Or wait for her to get back from Kennebunkport, so her ex-husband (employed in green, renewable, sustainable energy) could remove the beast.
     I hung up.
     I bought myself time to hatch a plan by spraying half a bottle of Tilex over the area and covering it with a towel I didn't want anymore, then sealing the site with opened Ziploc Freezer Bags duct-taped around The Zone.
     The only way I could DO any of this was… pretending I was the star investigator in an episode of CSI.  Because our college-bound daughter, Abigail, was not of much help. 
     Actually, in fairness, once I’d spied the turd-shadow and enjoyed a panic attack, I scream-handed her the flashlight to get a closer look. Abby went in like a pro, got close, then announced, “I see a tail … and one eye looking up at me.”
     That was the last I saw of her.
     I pushed a piece of furniture toward the containment-site, turned on a fan, and burned Rainforest-flavored incense OUTDOORS so it could waft its fragrance IN. It was a very Medieval experience, smelling death-rot conjoined with incense.   I am glad we live in the 21st century.
      Satisfied I was safe from inhaling rodent rot-spores into my lungs, I was able to calmly hatch a plan.      
      The beast was resting inside a baseboard. Using my literary-device skills, I thought about THEME.
      I will call…. my OIL COMPANY. They INSTALLED these baseboards.
      They arrived in an hour.
      It is a good thing I did not have Mark, an innocent Boy Scout, Reina’s husband OR the Fire Department come.  This job needed Professionals.  It needed… Sochia’s Gas and Oil.
     This intrepid team comprises our Plumber Contingent. In the past 26 years they have come to our home to snake toilets and sink-traps; they have disassembled entire drains to retrieve things too horrific to report using words.
    Once, when one plumbing artisan decided I had clearly dropped a candle or cellphone from the tank top into my acutely-clogged toilet (saying very Top Gun things like, "YA GOTTA KEEP THE TANKTOP CLEAR OF MISSILES!"), he began to begrudgingly disassemble the upstairs toilet, then carried it off to our front lawn to retrieve some child's toy or my cellphone or candle missile...
     . . .and discovered a poop the size of a Buick lodged inside the toilet trap curve.
     I know which child was constipated at that time, but I will protect her confidentiality.
     Suffice to say, I trust these guys to come to my home to retrieve things only Stephen King could write about; and they did not fail me yesterday.
     The creature had decomposed to some anti-corporeal melting point and leaked itself onto the series of conducting fins serving as coffin. And there were entymological beings that begin with the letter that comes before N. They are the opposite of black in color.
     He had to disassemble the entire baseboard...
     He had to use needle nose pliers to remove six inches of aluminum finning.
     He had to take pieces and parts out-of-doors with a brush and Tilex and scour them.
     He asked for paper towels.
     He wore Hazmat gloves.
     He is my hero.

From my son Zach, by phone, after I reported our mis-adventure on his answering machine. 
"Lovely story, Mom.  My favorite part is the imagery of football gear and Medieval armor.  I'm off to Yoga Class."

Me to Zach's voicemail.  "I am blogging the second half of this story since your machine has limited memory."

  Death Smell, Part II

     I just this second had to have Abby help me push a dead, obviously pregnant, female rodent in the driveway onto a paper plate so I could cast it into the wilderness out back.
     It was freshly dead. Or sort of fresh. Maybe six hours old... starting to stiffen.
     It had a big belly and nipples -- I assume the rodent feti were also dead.
     I decided, as I have no gloves and I’m now OUT of Ziploc baggies, I had to use the plastic packaging to a bag of mouse-traps to nudge the beast onto the paper plate. Talk about theme!
     I flung the plate, the beast and the mouse trap wrapping frisbee-style into the woods, beyond dad's woodpile at Abby's recommendation: "Dad puts his HANDS into the wood pile... you have to go much FARTHER."
     She taunts me, that girl. I was happy casting it just short of the wood pile so I didn't have to walk with pregnant-death balanced on a festive Dixie plate any longer, “Happy BIRTHDAY!”
     I am going to stop thinking of the rodents... because EVEN WHEN I JUST WENT TO THE MOBILE STATION JUST NOW the actual SOCHIA’S DEATH-WRANGLER-Expert who removed the carrion AND all the aluminum fins was there... at the Mobile Station... and he SPOKE to me.
     "Hi, did your problem get resolved? Did we get... you know... everything taken care of?"
He meant the smell, of course -- but I am in a deep and purposeful amnesiac state about this Event so I had no idea who he was or to what her referred.  I had to make him be more specific.
     “Who ARE you?”
     He struggled, as he was trying to be SO appropriate. He said,
     "Yesterday, when we captured -- your little friend."
     THEN I remembered who he was.
     Actually, post-trauma, he looked younger and kinder and softer.
     DURING the capture of my death-creature, he looked older, more formidable and rugged.

     I had that same psychological context-memory of Nick's hematologist, when he was diagnosed with a bleeding disorder. Before we knew it wasn't anything like leukemia, I pictured her with spiky, dark teeth, an overbite, garrish red lipstick and dark, over processed hair.
     Actually, she had a blonde, choppy stylish cut, perfect teeth, kind smile, and wore no makeup except mascara.
    I didn't recognize her, either, upon our second meeting: this time, after Nick was diagnosed as healthy... just a reaction to his theophylline medication.
     Trauma memories, at least for ME, are terribly unreliable.

I know, yuck, right?  :(
     Oh, please, can we see one more picture of corpulent rodent-rot so I can feel confident I DID experience trauma?


     . . . and thank you for your attention to this matter. Moreover, thank you to my oil company and their Intrepid Plumbing Contingent for so many years of service, care and recovery.