Bent Words

Bent Words

June 23, 2011

I don't like dead people.

Especially when they've taken up residence right down the hall from me.

For about a damn month.

"So how long have you been aware of the odor in the hallway?" asked the medical examiner, blue gloved hands on hips, with a skosh more than a smidgen of disgust blinking through her eyes.

(I can't believe that sentence made sense in my head...)

My neighbor and I just looked at each other as though we were in trouble. Like we had been caught in some sort of delinquent act and needed to refer to each other first in order to get our stories straight.

"Ummmmm, well..." I said, not bothering to finish.

My face was getting hot and all I could do was stare at the floor.

It's not that we had anything to do with Decomposing Barb. It's just that we rather felt guilty for mistaking decaying flesh for mere trash. Who knew dead people smelled like overflowing cat boxes mixed with dirty socks and rotten tomatoes?

Not I, said the fly.

And then, of course, nobody bothered to call the building manager about it. Instead we all just repeatedly passed Barb's door on way to and from work with our noses held, pointing our middle fingers at her locked door. Take out your trash, filthy woman!

"I suppose it's been, what?" asked Greg, looking over at me, "two weeks? Maybe three?"

In reality it had been longer than that. I based this on me and K-Dog's last weekend adventure which involved us having been out of town for the duration. I was worried (unnecessarily, as usual), when we returned to our third floor hallway, that perhaps the smell could have been coming from my own place. "Did I forget to clean the cat box or something?" "Maybe I left some food item in the garbage or a flying rat (morning dove) died on my window ledge."

That was about a month ago.

And once we were inside my apartment, the door closed behind us, there was no hint of foul odor. None.

That's what made it so easy to forget about the garbage-like smell that was actually Dead Lady odor.

By the time we had discussed contacting the management, we were well on our way to doing something completely different. Gearing up for pajama mode, washing the dishes, deciding on dinner, playing cards, watching the idiots downtown stumble across the street on a Saturday night, becoming one of the idiots stumbling across the street on a Saturday night, discussing the meaning of life... And all that jazz.

Barb quickly, and quite literally, disintigrated from our thoughts.

"Well I can tell you that it is a dead person," sighed the medical examiner.

Greg and I then both noticed the lethargic stray cat strolling the hallway, moving slowly along the wall.

We all assumed it had belonged to Barb and removed itself during its first open-door opportunity. And thus we inched away from the damned thing.

Later, when I related all this to K-Dog (as he was, at this time, still up north with his g'rents), he somehow felt it necessary to ponder what the cat had been eating this whole time, seeing as it was, for the most part, still alive.

"That cat's been eating the dead lady!"


"Well, what else was it going to eat after a month's time?"


"Flesh eating kitty."

I wasn't the first one to contact the Humane Society to extricate the carnivorous cat. Someone else beat me to it. We watched in horror as the lady with the cat cage netted the animal and deposited it into the wire box.

"Be careful," we said from a safe distance, "we don't know what that thing has been gnawing on..."

Then we discussed the liklihood of the cat being put down for fear of a Pet Cemetary type situation.

"Once you've had human, you can't go back."


The next morning, my other neighbor, Dee, knocked on my door to inquire about her missing cat.

"Is it grey?" I asked.


"With a little bell about it's neck?"

"Why yes!"

"And perhaps a little slow moving?"

"She's old."

Crap, I thought.

Sorry, Dee. Your cat's dead because we figured it had been munching on melting flesh the past month or so and assumed that the consumption of rotting meat, from any animal, would surely either result in death or mandate it as a result. You're cat has ceased to be. Or it's coming back to life in the form of a murderer... One of the two.

Luckily they had spared the feline and she has been returned to her quite lively, rightful owner.

"The story was way better, Laura, when there was a flesh eating cat in the mix."

"You can't always have what you want, K-Dog."

Such is death.

*** On a freaky aside, just as I was wrapping up this FAN-TAS-TIC story, Rich Frederick, a detective with the local police department, gave me a jingle to inquire about Barb. He asked if I had seen her, talked to her or heard any strange noises. I think I may have caught a glimpse of her, back in March, perhaps, entering her apartment but nothing more. Apparently she was something of a shut-in, not leaving her apartment much. As of yet, they're not positive about the cause of death but he did relate the fact that, after I mentioned my remorse for not calling management sooner, the garbage in her apartment was rather overwhelming. We spoke for a little over ten minutes and he inquired (not at all rudely) as to why I had moved here in February. I felt rather odd telling him about the North Street fire -- as though I somehow bring death destruction with me wherever I go -- but he was completely intimate with the fire and even knew, after I mentioned living on the third floor, that my apartment was a total loss. "Haven't seen a fire that bad since the church fire down the road years before." I remember that fire, too, as it was also in winter and the same icicles that littered my living room the day after the firemen squelched the flames, also glistened in the empty window frames of the church for days afterward. Part of me would have much rather discussed the fire, for hours, rather than the Dead Lady but, as I've already mentioned, you can't always have what you want. Such is life. ***

Written at 8:45 p.m.