Sunday, April 28, 2013

Mommy's Great Evacuation -- Happy Spring!

  Dearest Best-Friend Anna,

    Did you ever hear about Saint Augustine’s “Confessions?”  He was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church back in the fifth century for confessing his sins in emotion-drenched sermons he delivered throughout all of Europe and parts of Eastern Minnesota.
     You’re still Catholic, right?  So I am wondering if there is, at least, a Christian Forgiveness Card I can redeem at Shaw’s if I confess my sins. I know that I, for one, will feel better getting this off my chest, so allow me to confess to you my… special journey … with unspeakable physical atrocity.
     So there we all were, all of our available family members, together for Movie Night: it was me, Jonathan, Abigail with Zachary due in a bit later. We were watching Robin Hood, Men in Tights. I'm lying on the sofa and Abby is lying with me, her head on a pillow on my hip, and we're laughing and laughing. At the movie.  At each other.
     Jonathan is in a rocking chair by the staircase, and he's about to get up to go catch a little cat-nap, but the movie is too funny. He's had a long work day -- plus I made him meet me at a tennis court for a rousing one-hour game. (I am about to become a mother-in-law in five weeks, so I have embarked on a crucial fitness craze and carb-restricted diet.)  Anyway, I am TEEMING with energy.  Jonathan is laugh-yawning.
     Ten minutes before the movie ended, Jonathan took his case of Bilateral Eyelid Dropsy off for a rest. But Abby and I finished the movie, laughing and laughing. Which is when a strange rumbling in my belly started. I laughed at a particularly funny part of the movie... and unexpectedly experienced what I thought was indigestion.  A spontaneous ...  southerly belch.
     That is not – precisely-- what happened.
     Abby bolted upright, taking her pillow with her -- stood -- and screamed.
     You know last year’s TV ad for Travelocity, when the vacationing husband tells his wife she looks like a beach angel, and his wife scream-giggles? Exactly the sound Abby made.  Check it out here:

     Plus, Abby’s face was wearing the same trauma-expression I’d seen in 1998 when she got off a now-condemned rollercoaster:  her mouth wide open, tears brimming, face purple, and the only noise issued from her throat was a strangled gasping snort.
     Finally she managed, "My pillow is ... MOM! WHAT KIND OF GAS WAS TH... OH... Mom... UGHHH!"

     I had forgotten the secret side effect of sudden exercise and diet change: malaria-style dysentery you don't know is en route because there is simply no warning. One minute, you’re lying sideways enjoying a movie, and the next, misadventure ensues.
     I’d experienced this side effect only once before on a similarly-unsafe fad diet. But at least I had been in my own powder room, startled … but safe. I surely was not prone on a leather sofa with my daughter’s head resting on my haunch, giggling uncontrollably.
     I am now collecting the saggy sisterhood of the traveling pants ... giggling and screaming myself. I couldn't recall ever before experiencing a public befouling.
     That is when Jonathan appeared in the hallway roused from slumber, unaware of the tragedy that befell my compression shorts, and he inadvertently blocked my path to the bathroom.
     "Why," he began, "are you guys so NOISY and--UGH... my GAWD.  Something in the house smells like …”
     "Uh, Dad,” clucked Abigail, hands on hips. “Your WIFE just crapped herself."
     "Is THAT wh—Jesus, Carolyn. You smell like dead people. My GAWD."

     I am still laughing... still evacuating...  he is still in my WAY.
     I’d never experienced this kind of 'people proximity’ in a moment of personal crisis.
    Abby is jumping up and down next to Jonathan, micrometers away from me, and I can barely squeeze over the bathroom threshold for the crowd... trying to contain as much of myself and my trail of sadness as I can.
     I close the door... they are LEANING on the door, talking directly ONTO Wood-Muffle voices.
      "I bet," Jonathan boomed, (he is enunciating carefully, so the hollow door can BEST amplify his words) "that you're feeling pretty unhappy you didn't wear cotton foundation garments today. Without SOME kind of barrier, all the evacuation just runs downward from gravity and-- "
     Abby is now making gurgling snort-squeaks but I can't worry if she's choking because I'm busy with the holocaust in my loose, nylon-mesh tennis shorts.
     But I managed to answer Jonathan.
     "It's not so much anything running from gravity.  It's all pretty contained in the seat... but I'm worried about the sofa and pillow because this sports-mesh is designed to expel liquids. I'm wearing... an atomic SEIVE. OH LOOK! Hot PEPPER seeds!"
     There is a thud outside the door where Abby has collapsed from hypoxic pig-squeals and Jonathan is still speaking directly into the door... "I hope you don't think WE are cleaning the sofa. My GAWD this hallway smells. Why don't I hear the bathwater running?"
     Abby has regained her ability to speak, but can only discuss Depends Undergarments. And also, "Why are we pinned against the bathroom door?"
     "I am thinking the same thing," I shouted, still fairly occupied with Dante's Fifth Circle of Hell in my ex-pants.
     Now the two of them are pretending to talk to each other, but they are using the Door Speaker Phone. Abby is noting the "essence" is eeking through the space under the door.
    Assuming they're both flat on the floor like caught fugitives -- nostrils flaring to huff as much evac as possible through the gap -- I open a bottle of peppermint conditioner and squeeze the whole thing at the bottom of the door.
     "Gawd," Jonathan gasps, "It smells like shit and a breath mint. I still don't hear the bathwater running."
     There is conversation about the use of sponge baths and face cloths -- the hope that everything I use in there will be sent to the landfill -- more hope that I find the bottle of Febreze in the linen closet and use it on myself. AFTER I fill the tub and put me in it.
     Eventually, Jonathan returns to his nap.  Abby gets online.  She did not share my story. I asked. It would, she said, be far too embarrassing. For her.
     I did actually throw away my sieve pants and got the sofa et al springtime fresh. Tilex, Murphy's Oil Soap, Orange Pledge with a Febreze chaser. I did eventually turn on the bathwater. And I did get in it.
     I also wore a clean pair of Abigail's pajama bottoms.
     "Oh. I see you're wearing my Sushi Swimming Fish PJ bottoms. You know WHAT? They look REALLY cute on you. They're yours."
     That's when Zachary came home. We decided not to say anything to him... about any of this.
     He didn't seem to ‘notice’ anything, so I assume the exorcism was successful.

     I have SOOO much energy-adrenaline from the Great Evacuation. I may never sleep again.
Gurgle, rumble... :)... I am SO glad I am sending this confession to you. Does this qualify me for canonization?  Please do not post this on the internet,
xxoo carolyn   

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.