Mystery of the Maleficent Smell

Sunday, October 25, 2009

I looked at the ground for a moment, my attention wavering from my phone conversation. My line of sight gazed over the downed foliage that scattered the moss covered soil and cracked cement. Suddenly, it hit me. An electric current pulsed through the entirety of my brain and my eyes shot open with the speed that only comes when the patterns of the universe suddenly become transparent and understood.

It was so clear. So obvious.

I understood the cause.

I knew what it was.

"God damn, it still smells all yeasty out here. Seriously, what the hell is causing it?" I complained.

"I dunno," replied BF, "but it's still pretty strong. Lucky for me the smoke kinda covers it up." He laughed at me and took a long drag from his cigarette. I used to be on BF about his smoking but now I was innocuous to it and didn't really care one way or the other. At this point the whole smoking topic was kind of a running joke to us. He inhaled, "Mmm, tobacco. Sure you don't want one? It makes you look cool."

"When do I ever want one?" I said walking around outside and sniffing my nose in an attempt to follow the smell. The somewhat fermenting odor had been prevalent for about two weeks. It was everywhere and my roommate and I had exhausted almost every single possibility we could think of as the odious cause. Something in our yard was evil and didn't want us to leave the duplex under threat of nasty, stinky torment.

"It wasn't the fish," I mused to myself. A few days ago I walked out my front door and made my way to the beaten redwood gate. It had rained the night before and as usual the water had made the wood swell to the point that the only way to open it was with a to give it a good bash with my shoulder. As I began to brace my weight I noticed a perfectly good salmon fillet sitting in the mud (as relatively good as a salmon fillet in the mud can, of course, be). Pink, fishy, and rank it sat there under a pulsing blanket of flies.

"Who throws away a piece of salmon like that?" BF puffed.

"Maybe it was funky?" I guessed. "Still, we tossed that and it still smells here." I used the "we" liberally. BF had been the one brave enough to scoop it into the trash after the roommate and I had and our upstairs neighbors had all chosen to ignore it. Personally, I had hoped a neighborhood stray would devour it but to no such luck.

I looked at the old storage shed and wondered if something died in it. Sniffing the air again I confirmed that this wasn't the case. The stench of decay wasn't so fermented or humid. Rather, it would be pungent, heavy and lingering with that distinct death-scent. No, no... this was too rotten-sweet like old tomatoes left in the sun on a humid, Missouri day.

Days of this passed. We began to close the windows. The roommate was unable to identify the yeasty smell which persisted and search as I might, the odor was all encompassing. It came from everywhere and hung like misery stretching its foul sinewy tendrils over the yard and duplex, its grip tightening.

We were trapped.

Flash forward a week later. I picked up the phone to call my best friend Janelle. I had taken the call outside as BF was playing video games and I didn't want to be distracted. Per the usual I had forgotten Janelle's birthday again; a ritual I performed with all my family and friends and twice with myself. As I made my pleas with the utmost contrition I tried to ignore the smell.

Slip and goo suddenly threw me off balance. Friction left me. My back arched and I flailed one arm to find balance, the other arm focused on keeping my phone safe. Somewhere I found level footing preventing me from tumbling to the ground.

As I righted myself I fumed. Lifting up my foot I inspected the smashed, black, rotted flesh. There was still some pink in the middle and the seeds all had taken a sickly adobe hue. "Fucking figs..."

...Holy crap.

-Not pictured: The smell of funkified, yeasty oppression.-

I looked at the ground around me. Corpses of figs littered it. I shot my eyes up and squinted to see plenty more hanging on to the branches wet with natural booze. The figs were fermenting. They were fermenting hard.

The yeasty smell!

My answer had been all around me. I hadn't given any thought to the fig tree this year. Rising three stories high the figs were out of reach this year. A lack of pruning had left the tree to produce hundred of immature figs which never had a chance to really become ripe before they took a sleigh-ride to converting their sugar to alcohol. Alcohol which now made the yard smell like the nastiest home brew outhouse you ever did catch a whiff of.

"Oh God, that's it!" I yelled.

"What?" said the voice over the receiver.

"Nothing, nothing, I just figured something out." I went back to the conversation. There was nothing else to do. The figs on the ground were smashed in. The gardeners would take care of them Tuesday. The ones in the tree were too high for me to take care of.

We would just have to live with the maleficent smell a bit longer.


  1. Oh, dear sweet Jesus. You've solved my problem. I'm pruning my fig trees tomorrow.

  2. Your post has just made my Monday better! I was at the edge of my seat, willing myself to read faster just to find out what was causing the smell! Haha! Great writing! :)

  3. Funny...but what a waste of yummy figs. Hopefully someone will pick them next year. I'd love to find someone up my way (north coast) with figs they didn't want.


Hey, you're leaving a comment! That's pretty darn cool, so thanks. If you have any questions or have found an error on the site or with a recipe, please e-mail me and I will reply as soon as possible.

Vanilla Garlic All rights reserved © Blog Milk Powered by Blogger