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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Smell (the sense of smell) (07/29/10)

TITLE: Yellow Clouds in the Kitchen or, Rotten Eggs, Garlic and Burnt Rubber Effluvium
By Anita van der Elst


The breakfast menu always included farm-fresh eggs when I was growing up. But the cackleberries didnít arrive on our plates by themselves. One of us kids had to gather them first. When it was my turn to gather the fruits of the hensí labors, their clucking and wing-flapping ruckus intimidated me tremendously. But not as much as the sinus shriveling, retch-inducing aroma of chicken poop in the chicken coop. Iíd fervently wish for a gas mask and a giant can of Air Freshener. But when my fairy godmother did not grant my wish, Iíd head in there, sort of holding my breath, snatching little gasps through my mouth whenever dizziness from oxygen deprivation threatened to overwhelm me. Even as I write this I realize Iím breathing shallowly through my mouth. The olfactory memory lingers long.

I wasnít the only one in my family offended by that particular miasma; we all dealt with it in our own way. But there was a family living in the woods near by that didnít seem to be bothered by Eau de Poule Fumier. And they were a bunch of stinkiní thieves. Every few nights those egg-suckers snuck onto the farm, dug tunnels under the chicken wire fence and raided the henhouse. Mustíve been that the signature cologne these robbers wore, in smothering amounts, was the perfect antidote.

My dad determined many a night to sit out there with his shotgun waiting for them. Regardless of the emanation advertising their arrival, their black suits made them hard to spot in the dark. One night, to Dadís elation, the moon was shining bright enough to reflect off the white stripes I guess those varmints hadnít realized ran down their backs. Dad aimed and fired. Got one! Well, he clipped him anyway. Abandoned by his family, the critter slunk off, Dad figured to die somewhere. Dad was right. But we all had reason later to wish the somewhere had been a galaxy far, far away or, at least back in the woods where the scavenger belonged.

The next morning before Mom even came downstairs to start the coffee going and get breakfast under way, her nose detected the pungent redolence. It was so rank as to be actually visible as yellow clouds drifted up from the kitchen sink drain in steady succession. Our efforts to describe the stench ranged from rotten eggs to garlic to burnt rubber and eventually we agreed it was all of them rolled up into one noxious fume. No one wanted breakfast that morning and it was several days before everything we ate had lost the tainted flavor of Eau de Skunkerue.

That black and white cousin to a weasel had found the crawlspace under our old farmhouse, dragged its wounded body to the sacred skunk burial grounds, which was apparently under our kitchen sink, and gave up its sulfuric spirit.

The question of the day became who was going to go under there and retrieve the odiferous offender and bring relief to our watering eyes and choking throats? The task fell to my oldest brother. Whether it was due to his handicapped mental condition or not, the boy didnít seem to have a sense of smell. And he was willing. In retrospect maybe we shouldíve tied a rope to his leg just in case he ended up asphyxiating before he completed his mission. But we didnít think of it at the time and fortunately it ended well. Or as well as retrieving a dead skunk can end.

Sometimes my wounded spirit finds its own deathly dark place. My thoughts are followed by behaviors that betray the smelliness of my bitter resentment and unforgiving attitude. Jesus pursues me and pulls me out of the rottenness. He offers me a free life in exchange for the captivity of death Iíve put myself in. Then I can join in the celebration that Paul describes in the second chapter of Second Corinthians. I like the way The Message puts it:

ďIn the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvationóan aroma redolent with life.Ē

No rotten eggs, garlic and burnt rubber effluvium for me!

Scripture reference: 2 Corinthians 2:14-16

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This article has been read 634 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Robyn Burke08/06/10
Oh, my! I was chuckling throughout this clever endeavor at your veritable feast of descriptive phrases, and then, you turned it around in a very neat and tidy spin, bringing a strong image of the worst odor of all-- sin I too love the way the Message says it.

Good writing--- I 'smell' a winner!
Ruth Brown08/06/10
Great title. The funny story was made even better with the devotional ending. Excellent.
God bless you, Ruth
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/06/10
This is a great story. I saw a TV show the other day where the mom got chickens because they were easy to care for plus gave eggs. I laughed and thought she's never had to clean a chicken coop. Your story brought all kinds of memories flooding back to me. It was a delight to read.
Pat Guy 08/10/10
I enjoyed this immensely.
Lisa Keck08/11/10
Good job and what a great spiritual lesson at the end. I too smell a winner.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/12/10
Congratulations for placing in the top 15 of your level and the top 30 overall.
Margaret Kearley 08/18/10
This is absolutely fantastic Anita - I am still chuckling. Your descriptions are just so brilliant. Never have I found someone who can describe 'Eau de Poule Fumier' so well - truly the worst smell I have smelt in my life and one I can still remember over 30 years later!! Then your challenging ending- wow! Really really great.