Last week I smelled something bad in my kitchen. Now, that's not a completely unheard of phenomenon, what with my sketchy culinary skills and the fact that there is almost always a fragrant teen standing in front of the open fridge.
But this was bad. Like, rotten potato/onion past it's prime/spoiled meat kind of bad. So I did the seek and destroy mission: dug through the tiny pantry looking for an alien-like potato or a dark liquid spot where a rogue onion had fallen. Nothing. I thought mayhap a can of veggies had sprung a leak. So I checked all of the cans in there (and believe me folks, you know I'm a proponent of canned goods. There's a lot.).
The smell worsened as the day meandered into late afternoon and by evening, it was painfully obvious that this was not the odor caused by food.
This was the smell of death.
I believe the angular and beautiful actors on CSI call it "Decomp", and I began wondering where they get that camphor stuff they put under their nostrils when dealing with putrefied remains. Because the smell emanating from the corner of my kitchen was not good, people.
I began a new search, this time wearing gloves and a grimace as I looked high and low for a corpse. A mouse corpse, I hoped. We have lots of critters in our neighborhood so I kept my latex-covered fingers crossed that I wouldn't find a dead squirrel or oozing chipmunk behind the stove or on a high shelf.
No body. But oh Lord, the smell. By this point it had permeated not only the kitchen, but the noxious tendrils had unfurled into other sections of the house. I caught a whiff of it as I walked out of my bedroom. A good and trusted friend came over just to reassure me that the smell wasn't as bad as I claimed and she almost threw up at the front door. Sorry Danielle.
I turned to my lovely friends on Facebook and was handed tons of great advice: Use charcoal! Burn some candles! Find the critter! Move!
We did the charcoal odor absorber things, and used up every scented candle in the house (even the Christmas smelling ones). I considered crafting DIY surgical masks out of dryer sheets. We avoided the kitchen (which I tend to do quite often, smell or no smell) and every so often one of us would ask, "Do you still smell it?" to which we'd all reply, "Yeah."
We have a large, unfinished attic here. Sometimes,we'll hear random scratching noises coming from the attic. Last winter, we found a bat stuck on the stairs. My hero landlord Dave came over and not only retrieved the bat, but took it to a rehab place so it would survive the rest of the cold season and be released in the spring (have I mentioned lately how much I love my landlord and his wife?). I have taught my children well, however, and we pretty much ignore any sounds even though in my head I'm thinking: "That's definitely not flowers in the attic I'm hearing". In my fantasy land, the creatures who are up there are simply stopping for a rest on their journey through the neighborhood. Surely they aren't copulating and making thousands of babies. Surely.
So I've surmised that a wayward animal fell between the walls, somewhere behind the pantry, starved to death and then began rotting. Is it weird that I feel kind of sorry for it? What a way to go.
After a few days, the smell was pretty much gone, unless you stuck your head into the pantry and smelled the wall, hard. I imagined the mummified Stuart Little in there, a "WTF" expression forever frozen on his tiny dried out face. RIP, my stinky little friend.
Unfortunately, another thing might be going away.
This week I learned that I might not have a job after August of next year. It's a long, complicated story that makes little sense to anyone outside of the public school system. It has to do with all-day kindergarten becoming mandatory in Minnesota, with seniority and with, it seems, just plain old fate.
It hasn't completely sunk in yet. I told the kids, just because I wanted them to know. Eight months is a long time, and yet, it's not. I'm sure I can find another job, probably in the same school district. I've worked here for 7 1/2 years, so I've made a few connections, networked in my own awkward way, over time. Eight months gives me time to cut back, to keep socking a little into my meager savings account, to PREPARE.
Believe me when I say, I know this isn't the worst news a girl can get.
But, still, I'm finding myself looking up and asking, "Why?"
2013 seemed to be the year things didn't suck. The child support finally started coming in, beginning in February. After almost 5 years of not having it, there it was. It's only for 3 kids, it's not a king's ransom, but it made a difference. For the first time in ages, I've had some breathing room in my little budget. Not enough to take big gulps of air, but I no longer feel like I'm suffocating every month.
And then, the job. After piecing together 2, 3, sometimes 4 part time jobs together, I got that Holy Grail: the full time job, with benefits. Paid holidays? Sick days? INSURANCE? I felt like I had won the freaking lottery, and even went all "Hear Me Roar" about it here and in the Huffington Post.
Time for another Plan B, apparently. Although at this point, I think I'm well past B. I might be hovering over E. Or F.
But first, I'm going to get through the rest of 2013. I'm going to enjoy Christmas with my kids, enjoy seeing them open presents that I paid for, that I didn't have to pick out at a charity-run Christmas shop. I'm going to take them out to dinner and look at their beautiful, almost-grown faces as they trade barbs with one another and laugh. I'm going to continue to help Molly plan for her fist year away at college (she got into the school of her choice, CAN I GET AN AMEN? More later about that) and not let her see the worry behind my "it's all good" mask.
I'm going to console myself with the knowledge that although my life may seem tangled and knotted and so-not-perfect, it's precious and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Like I told my coworkers when we got the news about our jobs:
I've been through worse. And it didn't kill me. In fact, it made me grateful for all that I have.
I'm grateful for everything, folks. My health, my healthy kids, my kick ass friends and my angel landlord. My crappy little car that starts even when it's 18 below. Family that still likes me, wifi and coworkers who make going to work seem like happy hour every damn day. A dog who wears his Christmas elf collar with pride and who greets me every single day with a wagging tail and adoration in his eyes (okay maybe that's hunger but I am taking some artistic license here).
Plus, my kitchen no longer smells like death. But I am making chili this weekend, so I'm not getting too cocky.
Have a great day, friends.