Friday, January 8, 2016

The Smell

Sleeping the sleep of the innocent, even though he is never that.

My husband tried to open a dented can of cat food the other day, but it was warped enough that he tore the ring off the lid after it barely opened. Then he realized that the can looked swollen. He left it on the counter to show me. I usually exchange badly dented cans at the pet store that delivers our food. But I'd stayed inside that bitterly cold day, and the can stayed on the counter. It was trash night and I planned to throw it out, but before I did, Harris knocked it on the floor. 

It landed upside-down and leaked. I heard it and went to see what happened. I think/hope I shooed Harris and the others away before they had a chance to lick any of the brown goo. Because — oh, my god — the smell. 

My nose has been stuffy lately but the odor penetrated with a vengeance. I don't think even the worst cat food could smell that nasty after sitting out for a day. The can must have been rotten long before my husband opened it. It was one of the most terrible smells I've ever encountered — and we once had a good-sized wild animal die and decompose in the walls of our building over a couple of months. This aroma brought back memories of that; it, too, smelled like Death. It also reminded me of the time I watched in horror from the window as my husband, holding his nose, deposited a "flat rat" in our alley trash barrel on a hot summer day... and then forgot to put the bin out for pickup for a week or two. That bin reeked for many, many months. 

Proust had madeleines for nostalgia; I have my dead local wildlife. 

Holding my breath, I wiped up the spilled liquid and threw the can and paper towels in the plastic bag that lined our kitchen wastebasket. I immediately put that bag into a large garbage bag and put that out in the hall, a good distance from our door. Then I washed the kitchen floor with hot water and soap. The Smell remained. I washed and rinsed the floor twice more. As I was cleaning, I was also shooing curious cats out of the kitchen. I wiped down the counters and walls near where the can had been. But I could still smell it. I washed out the wastebasket where the can had briefly been and lined it with fresh plastic bags. I put the kitchen towels in the laundry, not that I'd used them for any of this. When I returned, I could still smell the Smell. I went over the floor with Nature's Miracle, since it works brilliantly on animal odors and has a pleasant scent. Finally, I sprayed air freshener in our rooms and the cabinet where we keep the wastebasket. That did the trick.

I went back to the Netflix program I'd been watching (North and South, a BBC Masterpiece miniseries about romance and blight in a 19th-century English mill town, very good) and tried to forget what had happened. I couldn't help worrying about Harris poisoning himself. So I asked him if he thought he had, but he never says a word to me. He went to sleep in a cute little ball. 

I picked up tiny whiffs of the Smell over the next few hours, which were either imaginary or lingering in my bronchial passages. 

Lesson: If something in our apartment is toxic or dangerous, Harris will eat it or play with it. This is very old news, but he keeps finding innovative ways to teach us.

1 comment:

  1. I opened up a package of food once, and it was beyond spoiled.. it was ...

    well I imagine it was a lot like what you went through..

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