I spent most of yesterday shoveling ice and slush -- from the inside of my garage. The entire thing flooded, despite a 2-foot-deep trench I dug in front of the garage doors. The trench just filled up with water and then overflowed. I must have taken about 20 five-gallon buckets of half-frozen water out of that trench yesterday afternoon. Needless to say, it sucked ass. The first thing I am going to do when the snow is gone is hire someone to regrade my driveway so it's no longer higher than the garage floor. I don't care if they have to dig it down so deep I end up needing fucking stairs to get from the driveway to the lawn -- this is the last year I will have an ice-skating rink (and then a pond) inside my garage.
As I was trying to get my lawnmower unstuck from the ice-encrusted garage floor, I was pondering what to write about. Not a lot of funny stuff has happened to me lately, and I've been slacking off in the blogging department because I've been sick for the last week and a half with the worst headache of my entire life. It was so bad I thought I blew a tube in my brain but it turned out to be my first-ever sinus infection. What the hell, sinuses. After all this time you decide to screw with me? Tonight is the first night I'm able to think in complete sentences, so what am I doing? I'm entertaining you, that's what. Why? Because I care. Anyway, yanking the shit out of my frozen lawnmower reminded me of a time when I was still living home and my parents got new "across the street" neighbors, and I think it's a tale worth telling. Or maybe it's not and that's just my inflamed sinuses talking. I guess we'll see. It's a little gross, so be prepared.
When I was a teenager, the house across the street went up for sale. It wasn't for sale for very long because this was the 80's and aside from parachute pants and mullets, things were swell. We lived in a pretty middle-class, tighty-whitey neighborhood, so it was sort of a surprise when an Indian couple moved in. I think I found out later he was a doctor, and I don't think his wife worked, since she was home all day. I don't remember her name, but for the sake of this story, I'll call her Ahladita, because I just looked it up and it means "in a happy mood" and she was always smiling and waving.
She spoke very little English, but she seemed friendly enough. She would periodically bring over dishes of indian food that my mother couldn't stand the smell of. To her credit, she actually tried it the first time, but it was so spicy she couldn't eat it. So from that point on, she would politely accept it, and then when Ahladita left, she'd immediately bury it in the backyard. No, not really. She just double bagged it and put it with the outside trash. Basically, it got the same treatment as the used cat litter. We were an Irish-Italian meat and potatoes family. We didn't know what curry was, and we didn't want to know.
My mother worked part-time as a medical transcriptionist, so she worked out of her home office. I found out later that 'home office' was IRS code for what I normally just called 'the dining room table' but that's between my father and the government. It's only relevant to the story because as a result of working part-time from home, the bulk of the weekly yard work fell to her.
My mother would plant flowers, weed the flowerbeds, mow the lawn, rake the leaves, put mulch down, you name it. The first week they moved in, my mother would see Ahladita across the street, doing the same chores, and they would wave to each other, even though they didn't have a common word between them. One day, my mother noticed something. Whenever she would start to do a particular chore, so would Ahladita. If my mother weeded the flower beds, Ahladita would weed the flowerbeds. If my mother decided to trim the shrubs, Ahladita would trim the shubs. It occurred to my mother that Ahladita thought there were proper times to do things, and was trying to fit in by doing the same things my mother did at exactly the same times. You can't fault the logic, really. It was just a little creepy.
The following week, my father came home from Sears with a new self-propelled, walk behind lawnmower for my mother. As she was using it, she noticed Ahladita watching from across the street. After my mother was done mowing, Ahladita came over and took a closer look at at it. The next day, my mother saw Ahladita pushing the same exact lawn mower back and forth across her lawn.
It was about 95 degrees outside, and Ahladita was streaming sweat, and her sari was soaked. She was leaning into the lawnmower like an ox into a yoke. My mother watched for a second, then realized that the lawnmower Ahladita was pushing wasn't making any noise. She was pushing a non-running self-propelled lawnmower back and forth across the lawn. My mother called my father downstairs, and he went over to check it out. Turns out not only was the lawnmower not running, it also didn't have any gas or oil in it. She basically took it out of the box and started pushing it around.
My dad went back to his garage and got some oil and gas and the mower set up, then showed her how to use it. After that, my parents sort of adopted Ahladita and her husband. Any time they had a question, they'd come over and ask.
One day, Ahladita came over and wiggled her fingers and asked my mother something about worms. My mother wasn't sure what the heck she was talking about, and for five minutes she tried to get her to explain. Eventually, she got something out of her that sounded like "carpet worms." My mother told Ahladita to show her, figuring that would be much easier. So Ahladita brought my mother into her house, and my mother knew immediately that something was very wrong. The entire place smelled like curry and carrion. Ahladita brought my mom into the family room, and walked over toward the fireplace. She stopped in front of the hearth, and knelt down and started slapping the rug. As soon as she did it, hundreds of maggots boiled up from the carpet. My mother completely freaked out, grabbed Ahladita and ran outside, where she then tried to explain to her what they were and where they came from, and why it was never good when maggots came out your carpet when you slapped at it. Something horrible was happening with the fireplace and the rug underneath it.
When my father came home from work, my mother told him what happened, and he went over to check it out. He came back, completely grossed out, but grabbed his shop vac and headed back over. After vacuuming up maggots for twenty minutes, he started checking out the fireplace. There was definitely something foul going on up in there, and my father figured a bird had gotten in there and died. When he tried to open the flue, a rain of maggots fell down and the full stench was released into the room. This was no bird. It was something big, heavy, and very, very deceased. No, it wasn't Santa Claus.
This went way beyond what my father had signed up for, so he admitted defeat and called animal control, who referred him to a local pest control company. They came out and took the damper apart. As it turned out, the chimney ledge above the damper was the final resting place for a very large, very dead raccoon that had apparently been in there for weeks. It took a month for the stench to finally dissipate. The pest control guy installed a screen on the top of the chimney so it wouldn't happen again, and that was the end of that. I think everyone in the neighborhood got screens for their chimneys within the space of 2 days. I am pretty sure not having carpet maggots was a big purchase incentive there.
After that, my parents kept their distance. I think they decided that a friendly wave from across the street followed immediately by jumping in the car and driving away at high speed was the best course of action going forward. A couple of years later, Ahladita and her husband moved away, and the carpet worm story became one of my mom's favorites.
I only hope that wherever they moved to, Ahladita isn't walking slowly around the yard, waving a leaf blower that isn't turned on.
I'll bet you my paycheck they have a screen on their chimney though.