Tuesday, November 2, 2010
A Nose for Trouble
I have been away for three weeks. When I arrive at the garage, there's a new addition to the usual potpourri of aromas that greets me. Standing out among the usual mix of grease, solvents, paint, rotting fast food remnants, stale cigarettes and an overflowing toilet is the acrid and distinct stench of skunk. I ask the dispatcher what stinks (non-metaphorically). He chuckles and tells me the animal apparently took up residence under the building. The owner ordered the mechanic to locate the source of malevolent odor (Hey, why pay for an exterminator?). The mechanic, out of loyalty or a sense of adventure, did as he was told. Armed with a flashlight and broomstick, he squeezed himself underneath the building and following his nose crawled to the skunk's home. A quick visual told him everything he needed to know. Wriggling his way out, he reported back to the owner that the skunk had met an untimely death some time ago and that rats, drawn to the pungency, had begun feasting on its bloated remains. The owner, realizing that his problems were only beginning, told the mechanic to go back and recover the carcass before the building became uninhabitable. The mechanic, who lived in a world of fetid smells and perhaps understood the owner’s problems only in concept, was not a man to shrink from a challenge. He grabbed his flashlight, fixed a hook to the end of the broomstick and crawled back into the bowels of the garage. Finding his way back to the skunk's lair, he maneuvered his body so as to use his improvised tool in such a way as to gaff the stinking remains and haul them out. His eye steady, his aim sure, the mechanic, like those lyrical hunters Ahab or Crocodile Dundee, brought his weapon down on the swollen pelt. But the animal (if that's what you'd call it at that point) was not done. Like the mythical Phoenix, the skunk had taken on new life. It was now a city, a megalopolis, a universe of bacteria ingesting and exhaling the vital components of the former skunk, all of which were contained within a (relatively) airtight membrane. When punctured by the mechanic's hook, that universe, under considerable pressure, exploded—a kind of Big Bang, if you will. The result being that what was left of the former skunk was scattered. There was little left to haul out. Whether or not the mechanic needed a change of clothes, the dispatcher didn't say, but the objective was completed, sort of. The mechanic was unfazed, and there were plenty of other problems to deal with, lingering stink notwithstanding.