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Tuesday, January 14, 2003  

I’m not used to staying in B&Bs. I’ve got nothing against the Bed part, but I always have to get up earlier than I care to on vacation if I want any Breakfast. There’s a fair chance that I’ll need to share the bathroom with someone who isn’t my wife. And then there’s the way the places are always decorated. There’s always this Victorian, Jane Austen-looking vibe that they’re trying to cultivate. And yes, I know Jane Austen died before Queen Victoria was even born. Somebody should tell that to the people who decorate Bed and Breakfasts. Once in a while, you’ll find the chair occupied by a nearly life-sized doll whose expression suggests that she is mentally calculating the number of finger bowls she’ll be able to fill with your blood. And, in a confidential to the nice people who hosted us last year, twenty-six self portraits of Red Skelton in clown makeup hanging in the upstairs hall do not a valid design alternative make.

I like that a lot of the places have cats (although the Red Skelton place had a bulldog so orthodontically challenged that it had kibble crumbs on its back) and cable. But some of the places have kind of a weird smell. Obviously it’s not cigarette smoke, as management generally makes guests agree to disembowel themselves in the street if they’re busted sucking a heater in their rooms. Sometimes it’s potpourri, sometimes it’s musty wallpaper, sometimes it’s a vanilla candle so strong that you can count the individual beans with your nostrils. At the place we stayed on Saturday night (not the Austin Motel), it was something entirely different.

“I’m just going to tell you,” our hostess said, after she’d already taken our money, “There’s a dead animal under the deck.”

This particular inn has two houses. The gap between them is bridged by a low-slung deck whose footprint is as big as that of either of the houses. For this reason, the carcass had thus far been inaccessible to anything but the forces of decomposition. Which, given the free reign they enjoyed, were having a field day. When we checked in, we were in the house that contained the office and not so much of the carcass-whiff. We’d be sleeping in the other house.

“It’s a big animal,” she added. I assumed that she meant that it was taking a long time to get to where it would stop stinking. I think I read somewhere that a dead rat will only smell for two weeks before it, um, doesn’t any more. Feel free to use that little tidbit when planning your own vacations. I figured that the two weeks on the rot-clock had already expired and there was still a problem, which meant they were probably going to dig out a squirrel or a rabbit or something. In any case, she assured us that the worst of the smell was right by the door and that our room, one story up and on the other side of the house, was April-fresh.

I don’t know if she actually did the forensic math, but it’s entirely possible that she deduced the size of the animal from the size of the foul miasma it was sending up. Trash and I waded through the faint green comic-book lines rising between the slats of the deck and let ourselves into the structure that would be housing us for the night.

I’ve smelled bad meat. Bad meat doesn’t smell like that. I don’t think I would have recognized the smell if I hadn’t known what it was. It was somehow sweet and flowery, yet inexpressibly wrong. I probably would have just assumed it was yet another weird Bed & Breakfast smell, because it almost seemed like the kind of smell that people who own Bed & Breakfasts might actually try to achieve if they were particularly twisted. I might have thought, “whoa, that is way too much carpet perfume” or “I need to find whatever candle that’s coming from and blow it out now,” but that might have been whatever they were using to try to mask the odor. Knowing that it was actually a time bomb of pestilence that used to be a raccoon (because that much corruption needs something bigger than a rabbit) destroyed the entire illusion.

And our host was right; it wasn’t as bad up in our room. Not nearly as bad. But we could still smell it a little. And anyone who has ever had a misbehaving pet or played the two-year game of Diaper Roulette that is early child care knows that once you’ve smelled something, it’s hard to stop smelling it. Our room was cozy and warm, with so many pillows on the bed that we needed a front-end loader just to make room for us to sit on the edge of it, and under the air freshener and candles and potpourri it smelled like somebody had wiped down the walls with a butcher’s apron.

After we got back from dinner late that night (the Salt Lick, way out in the hinterlands), the odor in our room was quite a bit stronger. We probably should have gone out to prowl Sixth Street, but it was cold and rainy—less than ideal conditions for a bar crawl. Instead, we stole a so-strong-you-can-count-the-beans-with-your-nostrils vanilla candle from the hallway, which worked pretty well until we had to blow it out and drift off into a fitful night’s sleep perforated with nightmares about swarming maggots and decaying zombies. By morning, we’d just about convinced ourselves that the inn had a guest whose name wouldn’t appear in the register. One whose car wasn’t in the parking lot. One whose tastiest bits were being carried off to various anthills.

We didn’t eat much of the breakfast.

posted by M. Giant 3:33 PM 0 comments


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