Can't you smell that smell
Ooooh that smell.
The smell of death surrounds you.
That Smell, Lynyrd Skynyrd
I've always been either blessed or cursed with a good sense of smell. It probably compensates for the poor vision I've had; it's somewhat like the bear — he can't see 10 feet in front of him, but he can smell dinner walking around two miles away if the wind is right.
My heightened olfaction is a blessing when I smell things like chocolate cake baking or the lilacs bushes in the backyard of my ol' Minnesota home or a woman's good perfume. (To all of my ex-girlfriends who may stumble across this blog, you know what I'm talkin' 'bout.)
But it's the bane of bad as well. As a newspaper reporter, I've followed my nose, as they say, to find stories. Unfortunately, some of those stories have stunk. I had to shoot photographs of a guy police found dead in his shuttered up house after a week of 85-degree temperatures. And I caught a small plane crash one Christmas Eve in which the pilot burned up. It was so cold at the crash site that we actually huddled around the smoldering wreckage, warming our hands by the fire, when we detected the scent.
And once I did a story about some bacterial thing that killed thousands of fish in a small lake at a West Memphis, Ark., trailer park. (For news trivia fans, it was the same trailer park where Damien Echols of the West Memphis Three fame grew up). For some reason, I didn't consider the fact that thousands of dead fish in the summer weren't the most aromatic thing around.
My nose knows.
So, earlier this week when I entered my APBA room and caught a faint whiff of something not quite right, I became concerned. It smelled like a bad night at the burrito buffet, or the start of a skunk's artistry (fartistry?) At first, I thought maybe I had stepped in something and tracked it in. There's a pesky dog next door who thinks it's sport to deposit his treasures in tall tufts of grass and then laughs when I hit them unwittingly with the lawn mower.
As the day continued, the smell worsened. I looked outside to see if maybe some bovine had died behind the hedges by my house. Elsie's smellsie may have been wafting in through a closed window. Nope.
I did that self-checking thing in desperation. Did I do something and not realize it? Have I reached that age? But the stench remained in the room and when I left, the rest of the house smelled fine.
By evening, I couldn't play games in my 1950 APBA baseball replay. It was the first time I had a game cancelled on account of smell. I just couldn't bear to play the New York Stankees against the St. Louis Brown Stuffs. I could envision the baseball grounds crew coming in with cans of Glade air freshener and incense. Maybe I could hang a scented pine tree car freshener in the outfield.
The next day I lit a True Living Heavenly Home candle. It was cinnamon and cherry scented. I'm not that domesticated, but I had gotten one earlier for Christmas cheer. I lit it and waited, the scents of holiday glee mingled with the offensive reek.. It smelled like Martha Stewart farted.
I searched the room for any evidence, like if Jimmy Hoffa was buried under the desk.
And then, lo, I spotted it.
A long worm had died along the baseboard and stiffened, looking like a piece of licorice. A few weeks ago, we had heavy rains and worms were doing conga lines on my back patio. A few had actually slithered in through a gap in lose weather stripping. This one, apparently, slinkied itself all the way to the back room where I play the games and gave up the ghost.
And, apparently, when worms go on to the dirt clod in the sky, they leave behind an awful mess. The worm gave up the ghost, but I almost gave up lunch.
Fortunately, he had the presence to die with a bit of a hook-shaped twist on one end. I used a pen to haul it in, like using a Pick-up Sticks to grab a fish hook. No way was I going to actually touch that. I took it outside and put it in the trash can. I first considered driving to a town 40 miles away and tossing it in some truck stop restroom just to keep the stink away.
By nightfall the smell had pretty much cleared.
But even now, two days later, when I come into the room I think I can detect some hint of worm. It may be paranoia, it may be the heightened sense of smell I have kicking in again.
I'm keeping that Heavenly Home candle and a book of matches nearby just in case that stinky Slinky was traveling with his friends.