The other day I showed a house to my very sweet client Brenna, who is one of my favorite people because she is a stay-at-home mom and can therefore see houses during the day, rather than continually dragging me out during the after-work hours. She usually views property accompanied by her mother and her two-year old son Joseph, who is fascinated by people's vacuum cleaners. We've been looking for four months now and have yet to find the right house, but persistence pays off, so we haven't yet lost hope.
We were quite optimistic about the house we were going to see, because it was advertised as having been remodeled and was owned by a real estate broker; brokers usually do excellent remodels on their own homes, because they know what sells. Upon opening the front door, we were treated to a vista of softly-shimmering pale-gold oak floors, and walls painted in therapeutically-restful soft Southwest colors. Exclamations of approval followed. We were also greeted by a stick of incense that had obviously been left burning by the owner, whom we had seen leaving the house directly before our arrival. It was very lively incense, of the variety useful for covering marijuana and other indiscretions, though I didn't think that was its intended purpose in this case. I don't do very well with strong fragrances, so I decided to wander into the dining room, a little further away from the incense. Every outlet in the dining room was equipped with a Glade Room Plug-In, so that wasn't much better. The kitchen smelled noticeably of Pine-Sol, though it had very attractive slab granite countertops and maple cabinetry. Brenna and her mother were following me, hoping for my usual completely unsalesmanlike running commentary, but I was too distracted by my need for fresh air.
"David, does this house smell a little funny?" Brenna wanted to know.
"Yes -- yes, it does," I agreed, passing into the strangely airplane-aisle-like hall, which couldn't have been more than three feet wide, and had four doors leading off it to Unknown Chambers. Each door we opened provided us with the olfactory equivalent of a hard right to the jaw -- the office was redolent of something resembling lemon-scented furniture polish; the bathroom was a horrible combination of recent bleach and roses; the two bedrooms were, respectively, patchouli and Eau de Wild Forest.
"Do you think they've got bodies buried in the crawl space, or something?" Brenna's mother wondered. I stifled a sneeze and gave it as my eye-watering and sniffling opinion that they were certainly trying to cover something up, though what it was, I couldn't begin to guess.
"I'm kind of hating this place -- it's creepy," Brenna said, "but let's see what's upstairs before we go."
"Of course," I said, surreptitiously stealing a handful of Kleenex from the bleached-rose-garden bathroom.
Our ascent up the staircase gave us the idea that we would soon discover what the owners were trying to cover up; the higher we got, the more the air was filled with a stench that I can only describe as ten years' worth of sweaty, mildewed athletic socks, combined with manure, with an underlying keynote of ammonia. Opening the very tightly-shut door to the master bedroom, we discovered two kennels of a height and breadth so extraordinary that I was sure they must have been custom-built. They were empty, but their former inhabitants had left their unbelievable redolence behind in a pea-soup green fog.
"What kind of pets do you suppose they have?" Brenna wondered. Her son started to cry, and I didn't blame him.
"I can't imagine," I said, "but whatever they are, I don't think they were meant to be domesticated."
We fled the house forthwith, with much relief on all sides. Later that same day, the owner/broker called me to ask what my clients and I had thought of the house.
"Um," I said. "Nice redecorating job."
"So, are they interested?" he asked.
"Ummm. I'm not quite sure how to tell you this, Bob, but the house is rather . . . unusually fragrant."
"Yes . . . yes, it is. Very, very unusually fragrant. We were somewhat anxious to leave, in fact."
"I guess I got carried away with the incense," he admitted.
"Well, yes -- but it was more particularly the upstairs, I think, that might be the problem."
"Wow, I don't know what was causing that," Bob claimed, ingenuously.
Of course, what I wanted to say was: "Gosh, maybe it's the Giant Stink-Ass Crap-Creatures you apparently keep as pets," but instead, I just shrugged to myself, and hung up the phone.