Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sub Notes: When Garbage Pales

It was the smell of death. And it was in the classroom. So I discretely looked around so as not to frighten the children—teenagers, they were. The scariest part was that it was so close to them, somewhere around the trash can. The closer I got, the more disgusting it became. It was a horrifying, gangrenous smell—the smell of rot and decay. I figured a mouse must have gotten in there and died.

I glanced in. Wrappers. Plastic drink bottles. And nothing else. Nothing. Was I missing it somehow? It was a little hard to see in the trash, because there was a kid who had his feet resting on the trash can.

That was the first time it occurred to me. Sure, I’ve smelled stinky shoes before. Heck, I’ve even had a teenaged son. I remember discussing horrible smells that came out of our teenaged boys’ rooms with a friend who has three of her own. I would never forget her very serious warning. “Whatever you do,” she had said, “don’t ever smell the shoes.”

But this. This wasn’t human. It wasn’t alive. It was sickening, horrifying, vile.

Could it be…? And then the bell rang, and the smell walked out the door. No wonder so many teachers keep air fresheners in the classroom. I hope that boy’s mother knows about my friend’s warning.

Now scientists call this disease bromidrosis
(that's right!)
And well they should
Even napoleon knows that
But us regular folks
Who might wear a tennis shoe
Or an occasional python boot
Know this exquisite little inconvenience by the name of:
Stink foot
~lyrics from Frank Zappa, “Stink Foot”


  1. Tammy--With teenaged boys, there are so many funk factors. Their feet. Their armpits. Their head when they get hot and sweaty. Their belches. Their flatulence. The list goes on and on...

    (And you had me with the "Pale" in the title...)

  2. Yes, wonderful title, Tammy. Common problem. Funny thing, when my brothers grew up, they didn't smell the same as they did when teenagers. You'd think it would get worse, wouldn't you?

  3. Stink foot is a common topic at the teacher lunch table. It's like a severe weather warning. So we know to take the necessary precautions in the afternoon. Stringent thermostat surveillance prevents us from cracking open windows. Febreze is hard to use without drawing attention. Those hot pot candle melters are all the rage, since supposedly they are not a fire hazard like an open flame.

  4. Oh my son had the stinkiest feet/shoes when he was little. He outgrew his shoes and the odor. I can only imagine the grand funk that permeated your space.

  5. Haha! When my son was about 12 he and four of his pals were holed up in his room for an afternoon playing video games. I walked in to collect his clothes hamper and---this is no exaggeration---the smell was so bad my eyes watered. And they were oblivious!

  6. So funny - I wonder if it has something to do with growing boys... although my son is in his 20s now and gawd oh gawd he has some of the smelliest feet ever, but then he doesn't always wear socks - and I think that's a big culprit. Stink foot for sure.

  7. Oh, those stinky shoes! I guess that's one of those things your best friends won't tell you.

    Critter Alley

  8. Funny post! I can remember a particular visit to chicago (back home - where family lived) when I was a kid, my grandma sprayed
    my brother's feet with lysol. Ha!

  9. Cute title. Teenage boys and stinky shoes go hand-in-hand, err make that foot-in-foot.

  10. I CAN imagine! My step-son played roller blade hockey and was a goalie. He never washed his padding/uniform ... just stuffed it into his gear bag. It was the grossest smell that I have ever smelled, and he donned it week after week. Gross.

    I loved how you wrote this post.

    Kathy M.


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