Bonjour from sunny St Cyr-sur-Mer. I am unable to post photos today (more about that, below), and so will get right to today's useful French word: le bon sens. I'll use the definition as the title to the following story...
I am typing this post on my tablet, which is propped up on a stack of bright checkered dish towels here on our dining room table. My desk is unavailable, there being a painter in my office, aka, our bedroom. For an office-bedroom the space is surprisingly zen--in case your mind was conjuring up some sort of feng-shui disaster. No, this week's disaster took place elsewhere....
It was a quiet disaster, as disasters go, and quite a smelly one. I first caught whiff of it as our friends were leaving, after an overnight stay....
Standing beside the couch, Philippe, Laurence and 10-year-old Paul-Louis were saying goodbye when a hair-curling odor rose amongst us. As happens in these delicate situations, everyone pretended the offensive (gas? stench? ) didn't exist. And for once I didn't explain things away....
Waving goodbye to our old friends, who disappeared down the gravel driveway, I began working sporadically in the garden, punctuating each burst of effort with a short pause on the couch, located just beyond the front door (propped open before a great blue sky). I love sitting there, facing the Mediterranean pines on the hill between here and Bandol. The forest view is framed by vines hanging from the pergola over our front porch. Smokey is in the frame too, peacefully dozing--or looking longingly toward the woman who just sat down on the couch.
But each time I rested, that Saturday morning, I became aware of a sickening scent. Why is it that when guests come over our brand new septic tank acts up? I thought I'd solved the mystery, when I remembered how I always cleaned the toilets just before visitors arrive. It seems the action of plunging the brush into the toilet bowl has some sort of reflux effect. So I've learned not to pump the brush. Just scour, then flush.
Saturday continued with many advancements in the garden, each followed by a stinky couch break, and yet it never occurred to me the odor could be coming from anywhere but the toilet, in the next room (it also never occurred to me to take my intermittent breaks in another room, which proves I'm slow).
By dinnertime I swore I wouldn't have one more snack on the couch beside the reeking powder room! Anyways, I was beginning to feel nauseous.
When Jean-Marc returned from work late Saturday night, he noticed the stench right away.
"It's the fosse septique," I informed him, before tucking myself into bed, feeling ill by now.
A little while later my husband came into the room. "It wasn't the septic tank, and the odor was not coming from the toilet. It was coming from beneath the couch! I have found the mouse that ate our rubber kitchen pipe!"
Nausea turned to horror as I pictured a pair of legs dangling in front of the skirtless couch, inches away from A ROTTING RAT! All those breaks I'd taken, right over a dead rodent!
"It wasn't a rat. It was a big mulot," Jean-Marc said, playing things down as he does, but I could already picture its wirey tail, its wide open eyes... and its little mouth slowly sucking one last breath (did I feel it on my ankle? tickling my skin?).
In the end, the horror shifted to pity, at the image of a dying creature--all alone but for an audience of zombie dust bunnies. Even Smokey, in his bed--eye-level with the doomed creature--didn't react.
There is no way to sum up this story. But it made me realize a few things, one being the value of common sense. Next time I'll do as Jean-Marc did, and instead of jumping to conclusions, use my God-given senses to get to the bottom of the problem --sniff around a little, and dare to look under the couch!
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety