The Smell.

As soon as I got off the bus the smell hit me. It was musky, heavy, foul; the sort of dense smell that seems like it weighs down the air. There’s a small wooded area I pass by on my walk home. It was there, near the out-of-control bamboo stand, that I previously found an egg–what turned out to be a real chicken egg, as strange as that seemed–and it was the first thing I thought of, but rotten eggs have a distinct smell that’s sharp, prickly. This smell was more earthy, more like rotten meat, which is what it turned out to be. I recognized the scaly, metallic shell: it was a possum on the half shell, a Texas speedbump, an armadillo, flattened by a car and shoved onto the side of the road.

Not far from where I live there’s a place that used to be overgrown farmland. It was a buffer between the interstate and the neighborhood, and it was also home to all sorts of flora and fauna. The whole thing was sold and turned into a big shopping center and now the fauna has found its way into the neighborhood: mostly deer but also skunks, coyotes, and foxen. But armadillos are a relatively new arrival to Tennessee. So far we haven’t had enough that they’ve become a problem since they carry leprosy and dig up the foundations of houses . They’ve been pushed northward by climate change, which reminded me that they used to have a much larger cousin, the glyptodon, that was probably wiped out by a combination of overhunting by prehistoric humans and climate change. It could be as big as a Volkswagen Beetle, which is why whichever prehistoric kid spotted one first got to punch his friend on the arm and say “Glyptodon brown!” although the game got kind of boring because that’s the only color they came in, but that’s another story. Prehistoric people may have even used the glyptodon shell as a shelter, but I can’t begin to imagine what the smell was like.

 

9 Comments

  1. Ann Koplow

    As usual, Chris, you end up smelling like a rose. Thanks for this fragrant post.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      The secret to life, I’ve realized, is to stop every once in a while and smell the roadkill.

      Reply
  2. mydangblog

    I didn’t know that armadillos carried leprosy. Another reason to avoid them, I suppose, but it’s still unpleasant to see something smushed by a car. Or to see a car smushed by a glyptodon:-)

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      They really seem like cute little critters to me, but the leprosy alone is more than enough reason for me to stay away. And they dig under the foundations of houses which can cause structural damage.
      And I think a glyptodon would be fun to ride, and would handle better than a Volkswagen beetle. Both have the engine in the trunk, too.

      Reply
  3. Allison Everett

    The armadillo is my favorite animal. Whenever I have mentioned that to a therapist. They get that dollar sign gleam in their eye.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      They are cute little animals so I can understand why it would be your favorite. It’s a little surprising that therapists would find that unusual. Surely they’ve heard much worse.

      Reply
      1. Ann Koplow

        I certainly have heard much worse.

        Reply
        1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

          Patient confidentiality is a wonderful thing because what you might have heard is best left to the imagination.

          Reply
        2. Allison

          In that it is an animal whose form of protection is a hard, impenetrable shell – the therapists I have told about my lifelong love of armadillos all seem to make a note on their legal pad… Just saying.

          Reply

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