The marriage was a bummer. All six years and three-quarters yeas of it. Except for the kids. Two of them. Both sweet and dearly loved, But this story isn’t about them.
We’d moved to an up-scale Chicago suburb. It was a nice apartment. Corner unit, ground floor, a little yard for the kids with windows on the South and East sides, which meant we got cross-breezes. It was livable. We could stay there until my consulting work made enough to buy a house. Yippee.
But inside the apartment there were many episodes of sturm und drang, such as to vex the most hardy soul. For example, the Beast was averse to sex — I found this out on our wedding night — and had limited our physical congress to one night a month, after which she would throw herself on the bed and sob with guilt. She had, as I posted earlier, let herself go, the better to keep me at bay and it worked splendidly.
Grinding my teeth in frustration, I’d come across a little novelty store and spotted a sign to hang on a doorknob. It was a pie chart with an arrow-shaped spinner in the center. The headline read, “No Sex Tonight Because:” and the pie slices were labeled with the excuses most men have heard throughout their lives — such things as Headache, Period, Upset Tummy, Diarrhea, Too Tired and a few more. The sign’s footer read, “Go Ahead, Give it a Spin!”. I drove a small nail in the bedroom door at eye level and hung it there. That didn’t do much for tranquility in the Sprague household.
One hot and humid afternoon in July I pulled up in front of the building, deciding to put the car in the garage later on. As I got out of the car, I heard a buzzing sound. Insects. Flies, to be specific. Big blue-assed fellows. Scores of them and all clamoring to get in the bedroom window, tearing at the screen with their six little legs. I stopped to contemplate this phenomenon; what could be the attraction?
And then I felt a smell. A carrion smell. It was coming out the bedroom window. This, of course, explained the flies.
Once inside the Laini door, I asked the Beast, “What’s with the goddamned smell?”. In what had become her customary response to any question I posed, she thrust out her face in an expression of hostility, and huffed. “That smell,” I said, pointing down to the bedroom. “I don’t smell anything”, she snorted.
‘Well I sure the hell do,” I all but snarled. “I’m gonna find out what it is.”
The kids were still fooling around with their stuff and the Beast worked on dinner so down the hall I went.
Oh, Christ, dinner. Tonight it was to be another Shepard’s Pie. Normally, delicious beyond description that it made a man bolt down at least two plate fulls at one sitting. But not the Beast. Her recipe was literally heart stopping.
It started with a pound of hamburger so fatty it was pink — like a pound of lard with a dab of red food coloring added. This was pressed into the bottom of a casserole dish and covered with pepper and salt. Next came a mixture of French cut green bean and Campbell’s Mushroom Soup. Once assembled, this delight was topped with a layer of Tater-Tots and placed in the oven at 350-375 for 45 min. In Minnesota, we called this Hot Dish. Simply Hot Dish. Ask any Minnesotan.
Well, the Beast would bring the Hot Dish to the table and, on my presenting my plate, she’d thrust in a large spoon and hoist-out a massive portion. The loaded spoon was held over the casserole dish for a few seconds so the grease had a chance to pour out of the meat and drain off the spoon back into the casserole dish. We had many like dinners this.
As I approach the bed room, the smell grew stronger. Wrinkling my nose, I went in. The smell was coming out of the bathroom.
“Jesus Christ,” I said to myself as I went into the bathroom and turned on the light. “This is gonna be bad.”
And it was.
I opened the cabinet beneath the wash basin and looked into the wastebasket. Yes, that was the source alright; the smell was eye-watering. Moving aside so the light could get into the wastebasket, I beheld a pile of bloody sanitary napkins. The ones on the bottom layer had already crusted over while those on top were fresh and juicy. They’d been in there, festering and rotting the whole hot damned day.
“Goddamned it, woman,” I bellowed down the hall, “Get your fat ass in here!”
She came into the bedroom and saw me standing the bathroom door. “Come on over and take a squint at this,” I said as I pointed to the wastebasket’s contents. As she silently beheld the horror, I shook my head and said, “You sow. You goddamned sow.” The flies were still busy at the screen. Their buzzing was the only sound to be heard.
After a few moments, I said, “Alright go get me a paper grocery bag and a yardstick”. She rummaged around in the kitchen for a few minutes than came back with both. “What are you gonna do?” she asked in her plaintiff, whining voice.
I said nothing.
I took the bag, opened it and set it on the bathroom floor then took the wastebasket and emptied its contents into the bag. The stink was worse than ever.
Taking up the yardstick, I thrust is through the paper bag’s handles and lifted it off the floor. Sure that the handles would hold, I called to the kids and told them to open the Laini door, dad was coming through. I marched with purpose down the hall, through the living room, past the kids and out the door.
The flies had noticed their prize was being moved and began to follow as I walked to the green dumpster about two-hundred feet away. I lifted the lid, held the bag overt the gaping maw and let the bag slide off the yardstick. It made a splat as it hit the bottom. Of course, the flies who had followed along followed the bag into the dumpster and prepared to feed. I dropped the lid and they were trapped. They had followed me to their doom.
The Beast and I had rid the immediate area of flies.
The next day my neighbors told me of their amazement yesterday as they saw me marching along with a bag on the end of a stick “What was that anyway, Sprague?” Well I told them and thereafter I was known as the Pied Piper of the flies. Ah, fame.