Who doesn’t experience strange, challenging, pain-in-the-butt days on the job? Not being wealthy or in possession of substantial material assets, I still have to earn a living while enduring cancer and its treatments. Not easy. Not fun, but, hey, this is real life.
At least I have a job with a boss, manager, and fellow employees who are understanding. My boss, despite her unease with alternative hair color (and tattoos I recently found out), is a decent human being. What matters is our mutual desire for our little shop, on the edge of a big wilderness, to be successful and loyal to our customers.
What we can’t control is our environment or events that happen around us.
“Why does it stink?” Neil asked as we made our way to the store at O-dark-thirty in the morning. The crickets played their symphony around us. Condensation, the sign of another intense, humid day, dribbled from the building’s roof.
“If I knew, it wouldn’t be stinky,” I said somewhat snippily, kidnapped by an early morning pre-coffee mood.
We didn’t know why the outside of our shop where we kept the bait tanks smelled like a zombie apocalypse, and it was too dark to find out. All we could determine was that the bait was fine and hadn’t died off. That’s what mattered. Neil and I opened shop, welcomed our first customers and prepared for the day. As the sun rose, the stench outside thickened and Neil still couldn’t locate a cause.
It was a slow off season day. We watched the nesting small birds dive bomb the crow, pecking him in the rear. Inside, we ambushed each other with a squirt gun. Still searching for the source of the terrible odor, Neil found a baby animal under one of the bait tanks. The little one was wobbly, but quite alive and not the source of the smell. Using a towel, we gently scooped him up and placed the helpless critter in a box with a shallow dish of water. It was a baby Opossum.
Neil called the animal rescue volunteers, a couple we were getting familiar with. “I think the mother ‘possum is the source of the smell,” Neil said with a frown. The creature must’ve been injured and, babies in tow, crawled under the water tanks to an unreachable spot and passed on. We called the manager to get her approval to dismantle the wooden enclosure around the bait tanks. Hammers and tools in hand, just as we were ready to contend with the stench, the store’s power failed.
Dumbstruck, Neil and I stood in the darkness and squinted at the numerous ceiling fans as they wound to a halt.
“Uhhhh…” Neil said.
I checked the calendar. “It’s not a full moon.” Sighing, I tossed my hands in the air. “Let’s check the breakers.” Flashlight in hand, we sought a cause for our power loss. The problem wasn’t local and everything was in place, all breakers on. During that time, only one customer drifted in. Freezing in place, he glanced about the darkened store and said, “Uhhhh…”
“If you have cash I can still ring you up,” I said cheerfully, abhorring the idea of losing a sale.
“Yup, I got cash,” he said, “Just want a couple of sodas.” The sunlight angling through the windows allowed him to see the cooler. “Hey, what’s that smell outside?” He asked while I punched his sale into a dusty calculator.
“We think it’s a dead ‘possum.”
“Bummer. There was a live one in my garbage can last night.”
I showed him the baby and he grinned. “They’re so cute when they’re little, but so ugly when they grow up.”
I didn’t think opossums were ugly, but that’s just me. A short while later, a buzzing sound alerted us to the return of our precious electricity. The ceiling fans slowly wound back to speed and the lights flickered on to full brightness. The register awoke with a whirr. Neil and I celebrated by attacking each other with the squirt gun.
The manager’s husband arrived to lend a hand and the enclosure around the tanks was slowly peeled away. The resulting cloud of noxious fumes was a physical blow. Neil backed away, gasping and swiping sweat from his forehead. The poor opossum mom had been dead for a few days and was rapidly decomposing in the Florida heat. A second live baby was found, clinging to his mother’s bloated body. A third baby was nearby, curled up and as dead as his mom.
We’d been noticing an odor for a few days but assumed it was just bait that had somehow fallen out of the water tanks. Dry heaving, Neil managed to bag the ‘possum without touching it. Like his sibling, the second baby was placed in a box with a dish of water.
Neil washed and reassembled the area under the water tanks. The dead animal stench was soon replaced with the more reasonable stink of bait. By day’s end, the two orphan babies were safe in the hands of animal lovers at the local wildlife rehabilitation center. At least two small, furry lives were saved.
A crappy day turned out to be good after all.