The stench spreads day after day. It fills our nostrils with unexpected companions, as we, my roommates and I, increasingly debate its place of origin.
I have lived here for three years, but regardless I find myself afraid as this hunt to expel weakness from the house begins. I consider the possibility that the search may be a test. It seems unusual, but these tests are often off the wall and a bit arbitrary. So I ask myself: What shall be the lesson for today? The only way to find out is to drudge on.
Step 1. Find the Smell.
The search begins with a wolf’s howl and I’m off to find the one to blame. I sniff it out like a well trained dog, following the nose’s receptors as they are permeated by the target odor. Here, there, in the corner, and up the stairs, the hallway next with the dirt tinged blue rug. Ueeh… it must be trapped in the wall. Around the bend I go and down the corridor into the basement. Not here, just a bit moldy below ground. As I exit the room, it fills the air like fresh baked pie – only more similar to a recent shit warming in the sunlight.
What about that cute little side table, always looking out of place? I shift a few things around – a shoe, colored chalk, a Joni Mitchell songbook. OH God! I stand back in horror when the eyes of a massive rat stare at me from the shadows. The dusty ash brown fur and naked long tail rest on that same blue carpet. White maggots wiggle all over, boring into the flesh making swiss cheese. My eyes join my nose in frenzy crying wildly for an escape.
Step 2. Find the Meaning.
My left hand falls on my face with the pointer finger rubbing the tip of my nose to keep focused. The mechanical pieces of my brain churn like a clock as I attempt to deduce what this clue means.
Of course! The rat is a symbol for me. I am an unwanted visitor to the house and they want me out. If I don’t leave or change my ways, this here will be my fate. It’s my last chance for redemption – to prove I understand their warning.
My being shakes with the possibility of truth. Could this really be what they’re trying to tell me? They’re my family, how could I leave them? How could the kick me out?
One of my roomies enters and I inform him of my discovery and quickly assure him not to worry – I’ll clean it up. Yes yes. I will rid this house of its infestation.
Step 3. Clean, Clean, Clean.
With the determination of an injured lion, I act quickly until I freeze with the rising up and then actual resting of acidic vomit in my throat. I place a hand over my mouth, taste breakfast, and swallow hard.
As any ambitious lion would, I pick up the rat by its naked tail and toss it into the garbage. Turning my eyes back to the carpet, squishy maggot bodies multiply as if coming up from some deep cavern of maggot industry. They come in all sizes – small like inch worms and plump like green beans. I grab the vacuum from the cleaning closet and suck them in, only to see more appear – a spring of maggot life. Running to the kitchen for a new weapon, I grab a chemical spray that’s certified to kill 99%, along with a sponge. Returning to the front lines with the full attention of a trained soldier, I begin to spray and scrub. More maggots climb to the surface after each wipe down, a signal to kick the vacuum into gear.
Spray Scrub Suck
Spray Scrub Suck
Spray Scrub Suck
… … …
My confidence builds as they start to flee only for my stomach to grumble once again. This time I quash the sensation with the momentum of pending victory.
Finally the maggots stop charging and I open the carpet to the air hoping to hasten its drying in the day’s heat.
To most this may sound like a simple, and grossly exaggerated, affair; but I assure you it was a battle. An unseen part of which was waging inside my own head with thoughts like: Will they ever accept me? Is this the turning of the tide? Please don’t let them see me in this state.
With a sense of relief, I stumble over to the bathroom to wash up. My eyes meet the mirror and I tell myself “This mission means nothing.” I look down into the sink and wash the memory away along with the soap and water. If I mention this to any sane person they would say: It’s just a dead rat in the corner. Whether true or not.
This story recounts a real event in my life. What kind of craziness would you describe it as? I haven’t decided yet.