do you smell that?

WordPress sent their daily prompt. Pick a random word, they said. Do a Google image search. Pick the 11th image. Write about it.

I opened the little dictionary and stabbed at a word. Then, the images. There’s only one story that this image brings to mind. If you’ve known me in real life for a while, you already know what this story is going to be…

Are you creeped out yet? Does this picture give you the screaming heebeejeebies? Well, not yet.

I spent the summer of 1989 working as a chambermaid in Wildwood, New Jersey. A crowd of us rented an apartment and did all the jobs needed to sustain a seaside economy- we had life guards, cooks, shop assistants, maids. Most of us did more than one job. We worked hard. We partied hard. Some people even got a tan.

While E and I were lounging about working in the heat, it was also a warm summer in Belfast. Our flatmates were sweatier than normal. Bins needed emptied more frequently. Still, somehow, that odd smell wouldn’t go away. Indeed, it got worse. And worse. Eventually they were able to pinpoint the smell to the middle flat. A great unsettlement began to descend upon them (I was thousands of miles away, I’m allowed to embroider).

The police were called. It was not good. A flatmate allowed her nose to take her into the middle flat after the policeman. A decision she regretted.

In the blink of an eye we had the crime scene people, the biohazard people and a hearse at the door. The middle tenant had been decomposing in there for a few weeks.

The ground floor tenant suddenly realised, through his druggy haze, why maggots had been falling through the ceiling. While our flat mates started looking for somewhere else to live, he got out the shake and vac to put the freshness back in the building.


The middle flat was still sealed up when E and I returned, weeks later. The smell had mostly gone, but our flatmates were gasping to leave.

They couldn’t eat fried rice for years after.




larva image from here

22 thoughts on “do you smell that?

  1. Oh Ming Ming minging! I don’t know which image is worse – the maggots on yer mans head or the fried rice!! I’m sure you were glad you were in sunny Wikdwood. Was doing the same thing myself on the Jersey shore just a few years later. We visited Wildwood and walking along the pier was like walking through the Union at Queens- everyone was there!

    1. I was so glad not to be there- the police were trkking about in biohazard suits for days- not remotely worrying…
      Wildwood was the oddest place- like an enormous Bundoran or Portrush, with every Irish student in the world! Beautiful beach, though. I wonder what’s it’s like post Sandy…

  2. Oh yes. I remember -ground floor tenant had decided to hold a wake with his equally druggy friend when the maggots oozed through the ceiling. And our flatmates had been redecorating that summer – all that work wasted!

    1. I’d forgotten that bit! I do remember us being quite blase ‘OK, so he died… why do we have to move?’, before we realised the full decomposition horror!

      1. I found my photo… It was 215 Young Avenue, I worked in a clothes shop, Moxie. I have photos of loads of people I can’t remember at various parties!!

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