Friday, September 08, 2006

The Man Whose Breath Stood Still

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Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others. ---Robert Louis Stevenson

    A man walked into the Arco the other day. He was dressed all in black like a wild west circuit judge or country preacher. Nice, grand fatherly-looking man. Silver-haired. Almost stately-looking.
    This old man walked up to the counter and purchased some gas. I was standing over by the Arco ATM, hefting eight-paks of 2 liter cokes onto a too high stack of other 2 liter sodas. He barely spoke two sentences at the counter. He handed the clerk a twenty and got his change for $10 worth of gas. Then he walked out of the store.

    I needed to ask the clerk behind the counter something, I've forgotten what, and walked over to where the man had been standing. The foulest, boiling sewage stench I have ever smelled (and I have smelled death) hit me square in the nose.

    "JESUS, MARY, MOTHER OF GOD!!!" I screamed and jumped back a foot or two, "WHAT INA UNHOLY HELL IS THAT?!"

    I waved both my hands in front of my face, fanning the air as if I was trying to put out a fire on my face. Tears rolled down my eyes as if I had just eaten a jalepeno. I spun 360 degrees clockwise and 360 degrees counterclockwise, trying to spin the stink off me like a man trying to stave off a swarm of killer bees.

    The clerk was busy doing her shift change report and didn't notice me. You could drive a truck through the Arco while they're doing their shift change report and they wouldn't notice it.

    Much to my relief, the stink was off me. I stood there, frozen for a moment, wondering if the stink was just playing possum. In fact, I took one more step backwards, just in case. I sniffed tentatively at the air. Tentatively first, then taking a bolder sniff. Nope. It was gone.

    Now, I don't want you to think that I am exaggerating here. This was no garden variety stench. This was no common household pew. I have slept comfortably in abandoned warehouses full of toxic fumes. I have walked among the open-topped 'honey buckets' full of fresh human excrement overseas without so much as a twitch of my nose. I have eaten Kimchee and kissed women had just eaten Kimchee. My nose is no pristine virgin. Generally speaking, my nose is fearless, but this . . .THIS was a whole new ballgame, a paradigm shift in what is possible in the field of stink!

    I walked back to the spot in front of the counter where I'd had the encounter, where every neuron of my olfactory system had been so grossly offended.

    "JESUS!" I said at the stink attacked again like a slap in the face. Again I made a hasty retreat. This was no pansy pungency that wilted away with the air currents with which I was now dealing. No. This was a potent smell that wasn't going to fade easily!

    I stood over by the stacks of 2 liter sodas contemplating my next move. I would have never suspected this kindly old customer in black of having such a foul thing in him. Just goes to show you, you can't judge a reek by its cover.

    I decided to go in low. That would be my tac. I determined to investigate the source of cabbagy smell. Don't ask me why. That's just the kind of a guy I am. I investigate ALL paranormal phenomenon.

    The malevolent stink had hit me square at the five and a half foot level. If it had been flatulence, I reasoned, then traces of it should still remain around the three foot level. Cautiously, I crouched and approached the area where I calculated the old man's ass to have been and sniffed at the air. Nothing.

    Thinking the danger had passed, I stood up and was immediately overpowered by the stench. It had been his breath! His breath! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this poor bastard's breath was SOOOOO bad . . .that it stayed at the Arco counter long after he had walked out. It stayed there in a little frozen puff, right there at the five and a half foot area for at least ten minutes!

    I went into the sanctuary of the Arco cooler, deciding to leave the problem to someone else. Yes, sometimes flight is the better part of valor.

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