homepage logo


By Staff | Sep 13, 2013

It was one of those summertime head colds that hits you with all the daintiness of a wrecking ball.

I was watching TV when the first symptoms appeared. My nose suddenly itched; minutes later, I heard tiny creaking noises as my sinuses slammed shut. For the next two days, my main goal in life was regaining the ability to breathe through my nose.

The sense of smell deserted me. I decided to test my olfactory faculties by walking into our chicken coop, where a skunk had recently left his calling card.

Nothing. As far as my nose was concerned, I could have been in a French perfume factory.

Losing the sense of smell also robs you of your ability to taste. Food became this flavorless gunk that I had to consume to eliminate hunger pangs. I tried to bust things open with some super-spicy victuals, but all I got for my trouble was nuclear heartburn.

With the loss of two major senses, I was beginning to consider filing for disability. I was also exploring the possibility of obtaining some dynamite to unblock my stubborn sinuses.

But just as suddenly as it left, my sense of smell returned. I came home at the end of that day in a jubilant mood.

As I stepped into the house, my wife said, “Can you smell that?”

I took a deep whiff. “Yeah, I can. It smells just like No. Not that again.”

The “that” in question involved a mess in the basement. Specifically, our septic system had conducted yet another preemptive strike.

My nose told me that it had had left a really gross deposit around the basement drain.

For the past three decades we have been engaged in a running battle with our septic system. Every couple of years or so, it will randomly stop working just to show us who is boss.

We have enlisted the services of an army of plumbers and drain experts, but every victory has proven temporary.

My wife and I went outside to escape the odor and discuss our options.

“Enough is enough,” I said. “I’m in favor of showing the sewer who’s really in charge with some dynamite.

“It might not be a long-term solution, but it sure would be satisfying to watch.”

“No, you can’t use dynamite to repair our septic system.”

“Well, I could always fix up the old privy. It doesn’t have any moving parts except for the door. There isn’t much that can go wrong.”

My wife’s heated reply involved such phrases as “must be crazy” and “gonna go live in a hotel” and “grounds for divorce.”

As she spoke, a thought occurred to me.

“I just realized something. The septic system has made a huge strategic blunder. It usually backs up on us in the middle of the winter when the ground is hard as iron and the snow is up to the eaves. But the ground isn’t frozen now.”

“What are you saying?” she asked warily.

“I know this guy. He’s a Special Forces-type professional when it comes to such matters. I say we give him a mission to take out the old sewer and replace it with one that will be more friendly.

“A septic system that will work for us instead of against us.”

My wife’s eyes brimmed with tears. “Could we actually do that?” she asked, her voice trembling. “Don’t toy with me.”

I took her into my arms and murmured, “Let me make a phone call.”

The next day a man named Mark Madsen pulled onto our farmstead. Behind his pickup was a trailer that bristled with high-tech septic assassination equipment.

Mark and I discussed weapons and tactics. At length he asked, “You going to watch? I would understand if you can’t.”

I considered the putative pal who had morphed into an evil enemy as it lay beneath our lawn.

“I don’t really want to,” I replied, “But I can’t help myself. I have to see this!”

Mark worked swiftly and quietly, with surgical precision. It wasn’t long before the bones of our ancient frenemy were laid bare. Mark paused from his grim task and indicated a spot in the earth.

“There’s your problem,” he said, a war-weary veteran pointing out the obvious to a greenhorn.

My jaw dropped. Who knew that the heart of our erstwhile ally was filled with hard black sludge?

I went into the house and told my wife that the deed was nearly done.

“I’m so glad you called Mark,” she said, giving me a hug.

“Because you can take a shower and use the toilet again?”

“Yeah. But also because I go back to blaming all the funky smells on you.”

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

Please Enter Your Facebook App ID. Required for FB Comments. Click here for FB Comments Settings page