The desperate search

2020-01-20 14:03

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I had the grumps with our house last month. And it turned out it wasn’t even the house’s fault.

‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house

Something smelled bad, just like a dead mouse.

Our house is of an age where she needs some attention now and then. Last year we got some stuff done on ye grande olde dame. Our pockets are still feeling the pinch of it. But everything had been done by the end of the year and, after a good spring clean, we were shipshape. Good thing too, because we were expecting house guests over the festive season. But, as I arrived home one day in the preamble to the festivities, on opening the front door, I became aware of a bit of a whiff.

Oh dear, it’s the loo, I thought. We’d had a leaky seal in the main bathroom toilet which had been redone and this was followed a few weeks later by a clogged drain which the guy at home very bravely unblocked. So, when I discovered the whiff, I sniffed around, made my diagnosis and asked the guy if he could don his DIY hat and patch up the seal again. Luckily he’s very good that way, so out came the waxy loo-fix stuff and the toilet outlet pipe was firmly repatched. I scrubbed the loo and bathroom floor and it all seemed to be taken care of. Except the next day, the smell was there again. Slightly stronger.

Well then, it must be the drains again, I thought, and out came the drain deodoriser, regular strength.

I slopped it down every conceivable drain, plughole and into the loo, and was convinced its fresh pine fragrance would do the trick. Except it didn’t.

The rank smell had not shifted.

I need to confess something. I’m not good with bad smells. I retch at the slightest odour and even at the thought of the slightest odour. A rotten potato in the vegetable basket — I’ll make terrible barfing noises. The smell of the rubbish dump wafting over work when the wind blows in the right direction — my eyes water with the effort not to heave and embarrass myself in front of my colleagues. So now, when the smell assaulted my senses again, out came the big guns — the industrial drain zapper stuff that sizzles and smokes when you nervously administer it to a drain. The same one with a skull and crossbones all over the packaging. You have to hold your breath so you don’t inhale its toxic fumes and beware lest it spills on your hand and eats your flesh clean away.

I followed the directions to a T, running water through the drain to sluice all the now detached gunk away. As I screwed the cap back on Satan’s juice, I thought happily, “I’ve nuked it now. All will be well.” Except it wasn’t.

It’s a dead rat in the roof, I thought the next day, holding my nose and trying not to make gagging noises as the odour intensified. When the guy got back from work, I coaxed and cajoled him into going up into no-man’s (or woman’s) land. It’s not a favourite job of his, crawling around in the dark above the ceiling, but he tackles it with fortitude and a headlamp. He hauled out the cumbersome long ladder, went up with a bag in his pocket to act as the rat coffin, had a look around and came down again.

“There’s nothing up there,” he said.

“There has to be,” I said, my hope of vanquishing the stink fading.

“Nope. Nada,” came the emphatic response.

In the meanwhile, the guests had arrived, and add into the mix a few hot days in the upper thirties, and the pong had matured. I was getting desperate.

I countered it’s attack with expensive air freshener. It retaliated with a fouler stench. “We’ll have to go up and look again,” I said.

“You mean, I’ll have to go up,” he said.

I nodded emphatically. “Please look very carefully this time,” I asked.

He rolled his eyes at me, but sportingly went anyway. Again, he gave the all clear. “I promise you, there’s really nothing up there,” he said.

“But,” I started saying.

“No. No buts. There is nothing up there,” he said enunciating more than he needed to. “You go and look if you don’t believe me.” I preferred not to. He put away the ladder again.

I checked under our shoes in the area around where the smell was the worst. I stretched up on my little two-step ladder — the highest I’ll go — and peered into air vents from below. I investigated any marks on the carpet, on all fours to give them a good sniff.

Could it be something under the wooden floor boards? Would we have to rip them up?

It was hard to pinpoint the exact location of the smell. When I thought it smelled worst in the bathroom, the rank odour shifted to the passage and then into the storeroom. Then it was in the passage cupboard. It was everywhere and nowhere.

And by now I was dying of embarrassment. It wasn’t very festive sharing our house with a big stink. I’d lost hope we’d ever find the source and resigned myself to spending New Year in a fug of nasty smelliness. I was distressed, and my rather undignified but completely involuntary huxing noises were, I could tell, annoying everyone.

And then!

The guy walked into the lounge casually. “I found the smell,” he said.

“What is it?” I cried.

“A squashed gecko.”

Can you believe it? All of that from a little gecko?

The poor thing had been squished between the bathroom door and the door frame, way above eye level so we never saw its tragic demise and reeking decomposition. The guy, a hero to all at this point, scraped the corpse into some loo roll and despatched it down the loo. I flushed again to make sure it was definitely gone. I swabbed the door frame with disinfectant from top to bottom and doused the house in room freshener and aired it all out again.

I was sad because I love geckos, but wow, my house smells good.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  opinion and analysis

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