Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dead Bodies Under the House by Tony Burton

Hey, I’m a crime fiction writer, but I don’t expect to have dead bodies under my house. However, it does sometimes happen. No, I not some ghoul, but I live out in the country, where field mice and gophers and woodchucks and possums and all sorts of critters wander around, so it's bound to happen more often with me. This time, it’s a rodent of some sort.

Well, in case you haven't had the olfactory experience, let me tell you—a decomposing rodent has a unique scent. I don't know why, I don't know how, but it does. Maybe it's just me. My wife is a health nut, and she read an article once about people who are called "supertasters". These are people who, by the grace of God, have more than their share of taste and olfactory sensitivity.

My wife says my sense of smell is uncanny. For example, one day she walked into the bedroom. She's standing 10 feet away from me. I looked up and sniffed. "Decided to have a banana before bed, honey?" I inquired. Her jaw dropped, and she stood there quizzing me for at least ten minutes on how I could smell bananas on her breath at ten paces.

Anyway, back to the dead rodent issue. Well, for about three or four days, a strange odor has been wafting into the house from somewhere. It's definitely dead rodent. The scent is strongest in our “library.” (That’s what we call the room where we keep most of our 3,500-plus books.) So, since we have a delightful, generous little dog named Buddy who loves to share his "finds" with us, I thought that perhaps he had stashed a dead rodent somewhere in there. Thus far this winter he has found two discarded deer legs from a hunter’s field-dressed kill, and a couple of rabbits. (No, he didn’t bring them into the house. Just the front yard. Chew toys.)

So, I move things around. Moved and replaced stacks of books. Shifted bookcases. Un-piled boxes. Nada. I've checked elsewhere, too. Behind the television, under the refrigerator and the armoire. Behind the sofa. No traces of rodent genetic material to be found. A CSI investigator, I'm not.

But, when I leave the house for a while and then return, I can still sense that presence—haunting me, laughing at me, thumbing its pointed, whiskered nose at me from the Great Rodent Beyond. So, I've made up my mind. I know what I must do.

Tomorrow I plan to don my "nasty work" coveralls and slither under the house, into the crawl space. There, I hope I can find and easily dispose of the little beggar. Unless, of course, he has snitched on Big Jimmy the Rat, and is wearing small, mouse-sized cement overshoes. Then, I might have to just look the other way.

Tony Burton


Anonymous said...

Dead rodents.
Been there, done that. which is why we switched back to the old fashioned way from poisons. The little buggers die where you can get at 'em. Have fun.

Morgan Mandel said...

I swear we had a skunk in the yard the other night. I let the dog out, then made sure she didn't go too far to the back, and made her come in right away. The next morning the smell was gone, so it must have jut been stopping off on the way to somewhere else.

Morgan Mandel

Anonymous said...

I'm the one with super-aware-nose in our house, so I know what you mean. Sometimes, when I smell smoke, my husband has to help me check inside and outside until we decide it must be someone's woodstove. (We live in a forest where many of our neighbors are new to the country and haven't a clue about fire dangers, so we are VERY aware of smoke smell. Forest fires have been set near us by folks putting a heated chain saw down in leaves, burning trash, dropping cigarettes that weren't field-stripped, and too many other non-thinking human activities.)

Dead mice? Aw, they'll dry up --eventually. With all those other critters, how come you haven't hosted a skunk yet?

Anonymous said...


We haven't had one under the house, but they do swing by the neighborhood. But my dog, Buddy, annoyed one almost two years ago while we were visiting my parents. So, I had to ride the twelve miles home with a skunked dog in the vehicle with me... neither of us was happy.


Anonymous said...


We don't use poisons, either. I figure this one died from natural causes somehow. Or maybe he DID offend Big Jimmy the Rat. Whatever killed him, he still has an influence. His presence is felt, as it were.

Tony Burton

Anonymous said...


We called in the exterminators after foolishly removing an old dryer from our new house and failing to barricade the hole. Being in the house was hell for several weeks.

Theresa de Valence
Authors need Better Software To Write

Anonymous said...

Tony, what an olfactory assault; I don't even want to recall that odor of odors. If someone could bottle that or can it, the US would have its most potent weapon in its arsenal - decayed rodent attack. I lived for four years in the North Country of Upstate New York and we had these uglier than ugly mice called Voles - blind and bald things. They stunk just as badly when they went off someplace and died, usually my damn attic.
But when the odors weren't in that cabin in the lovely wood, I got a lotta lotta writing done. Great to have you with us at ACME, my friend.


Kim Smith said...

Oh I feel ya Tony, I really do. At my job, mice eat poison and go down into the walls to die. WE are the ones dying for MONTHS until the smell subsides.

Larry W. Chavis said...


Had a similar problem once that turned out to be a dead 'possum (that's "opossum" if you're outside the South). Quite messy ....

Anonymous said...

Tony, you appear to havee raised quite a stink.

Margot Justes said...

Ewwww...sorry I can't be more eloquent.