Of course, we should have known something was wrong.
The nice thing about living in our new condo is that we don’t have the responsibilities of a stand-alone home. There is no yard to rake, no snow to shovel. There is someone at the front desk who will take in our mail and even water our plants. We were so pleased that we could leave for an extended trip to Mexico without these worries. But then, we got a notice from our electric company that indicated our electric bill was very low. In fact, it was almost nonexistent.
“Well, we’re not using any electricity!” I said to my husband, Peter, as he read the notice.
“The refrigerator would still use some,” Peter said.
“There must be something wrong with the meter.” I try not to invite unnecessary worries. Sometimes this leads to problems. This time, it did.
We were gone a total of 10 weeks. We don’t know exactly when the power went out to the refrigerator, but our best guess is that is happened shortly after we left.
We arrived home late at night. “Something smells funny,” I told Peter.
“I don’t smell anything.”
I did. There was a very bad smell. That’s when Peter opened the fridge.
A giant, noxious wave of smell rolled out of the refrigerator. It was strong enough to make me ill, strong enough to make my eyes water, strong enough to make me run out of the kitchen in a panic.
We had frozen salmon and chicken and shrimp in that freezer. We had bags of corn and squash from the farmers’ market, boxes of butter now covered in furry mold, bags of leaking liquid that had exploded from fermentation and poured from the freezer into the refrigerator. Sitting forlornly in the middle of this wasteland were several dozen ginger cookies that Peter had spent hours baking.
Peter closed the refrigerator door. I don’t think either of us slept much that night. All night, I dreamed I was being chased by a malevolent refrigerator filled with unidentified horrors. Everywhere I went, the refrigerator was waiting for me.
In the morning, my dreams came true. Peter told the building engineer, Jacob, what had happened, and he gave us a trash barrel on wheels and several heavy-duty trash bags. I put cotton up my nose and a mask over my face, donned gloves, and set to work. We filled the bags, tied them tightly, and Peter brought them downstairs to poor Jacob, who caught a whiff and wheeled the barrel out of the building as fast as he could run.
“He was like a halfback running to the end zone!” Peter said and I got my first good laugh since leaving Mexico.
Four hours later, after detergent and bleach and what felt like endless scrubbing, the fridge looked spotless. I took off my mask and removed the cotton from my nose.
The stench was terrible.
We ran a fan all night. We bought some spray that smelled like lime and sprayed it everywhere. We kept the windows open. That evening, Peter put some beans in water to soak, and we went to bed—thankfully, at the far end of the apartment.
In the morning, Peter got up and started cooking beans and, when I rounded the corner to the kitchen, finally, I smelled something that wasn’t terrible.
“It smells like beans!” I told Peter.
I wasn’t even sure I liked the smell of beans cooking. But this morning, they smelled terrific. In fact, I think beans are my new favorite smell.
Till next time,