In Which I Tell A Very Gross Story

Remember Jeffrey’s math problem about the flies? So I figured out the answer:

(Preamble: I hate houseflies. Not just passive, annoying hate. Real, burning with the heat of a thousands suns, wish to immolate them with my vision HATE houseflies. If there is so much as one fly in my house, I’m not resting until the little bastard is dead. I really, really do not like houseflies.)

So back in August…  way back then (was that only last month?), a screen-less window was left open in our house by a friend while we were in California, and a few flies got in. I went on a killing spree, and got most of the them. Or so I thought. But flies are sneaky. And they live longer than I thought- 35-40 days (!) and I supposed more got in than I first suspected. Day after day, I continued to swat at the little buggers.

I broke my flyswatter. I got a new flyswatter.

I checked all the screens. I yelped at the kids to keep the doors shut. But still flies kept appearing. Just a few, here and there, and it annoyed the crap out of me, but I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Then, on a particularly warm day, there was a sour smell in the kitchen.  I thought it was my garbage disposal, so I threw a lemon and some soap down there, and ran the dishwasher.

The smell persisted. I dug under the sink, cleaned out the fridge,  took all the trash out, crawled around on my hands and knees sniffing. Go ahead and laugh. You know you’ve been there- what is that smell? and where is it coming from?? I could find nothing. It wasn’t super strong, but enough that I couldn’t ignore it- and I couldn’t find it.  It was localized to the kitchen, but from the laundry room right below the kitchen, I could see and smell nothing. I scrubbed the baseboards, emptied the recycle, looked for water leaks.

And still flies kept appearing.

(You suspect where this is going, don’t you? ha!)

Finally, all I can think is maybe a mouse or something died in the wall or under the kickboard. But I can’t figure out where! So now, I am patrolling the house each night, one flip-flop on my foot, one in my hand, because I’ve broken another flyswatter. (they’re easier to thwap at night) Some nights I would get one or two, one night I got 12, and that totally grossed me out.

I decided it must be the birds. Jeffrey and I take the birds out of their cage and pressure wash the cage, then give it a bleach rinse and leave it outside in the sunshine all day before I let him bring it back in the house. Made no difference.

I become the Mad Midnight Fly Thwapper, limping around the house each night with my shoe in hand, TWAP!! mumbling to myself as I count flies and sniffing around my kitchen.

This goes on all of September. By this time, I know the 35-40 days are up, and these buggers should be dead now. Where the heck are they getting in? Or why can’t I find the dang smell? Are they connected? I suspect they are, but I can’t figure it out! This is absurd- I’m a smart woman. But I am reduced to a crazed insect killer chasing an elusive icky smell.

Today, while Bean was working on his homework, I decided to pull the grill off the bottom of the fridge, wondering if maybe there was a deceased mouse or something under there. Lying on the floor in my kitchen, I jimmy the grill off, and the smell is strong, but under the fridge is dusty and dry, and there are certainly no flies. I vacuum the dust up, and decide since I’m down there, I should just pull the fridge out and vacuum behind it too.

As I stand up to shimmy the fridge out from its cubby, there is a thunk, and about a dozen flies come buzzing out from behind it. Oh. Crap. On NO. Oh damn, I cannot TELL YOU how much I wanted to run screaming from my house. I wanted so so so so so badly to have a  husband I could call to deal with whatever what happening… EVERY FIBER OF MY BEING wanted to run.

Screwing up my nose and trying to keep my skin from crawling off my back, I yanked the fridge out, and there behind it was a….


Yes. A bag of potatoes. Or- rather, what was once potatoes. Now they were purple mush, and they had fallen behind the fridge who knows how many weeks ago, and the flies that had gotten in back in August had been having a grand old time in them- or what remained of them.

Using barbeque tongs, plastic bags, insecticide and a wooden spoon and a roll of paper towels, a bottle of disinfectant, and two doubled-up trash bags, I am happy to report that my house is now stink-free and fly-free. And mercifully, garbage day is Thursday, and my garbage men are in for a real double-bagged treat. I’m really looking forward to putting away my flip-flops for the year. Also, the back of my refrigerator has never been so clean.

And now I have no shame. I cannot express how much this embarrassed me. I felt like a failure that the flies and the stink could not be conquered. But TODAY– TODAY I CONQUERED NATURE! At least in my own very small kitchen.

So the answer to Jeffrey’s math problem?  599 flies + 67 flies = POTATOES

13 thoughts on “In Which I Tell A Very Gross Story

  1. Ohhhh gross. Rotten potatoes are seriously one of the worstest things I have ever smelled. Yuck.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if, when I am cleaning out the car tomorrow, I find either an old dirty diaper or cat puke/poo/pee. Our car stinks like death. Heaven help me.

    (At least I know it’s not potatoes in there 😛 )

  2. Blech! Rotton potatoes have such a bad smell. I wonder what’s behind my fridge. . . .

    We have fruit flies galore and they are maddening. Just when I think I have them all they rise again in their great, festering power and drive me to insanity.

  3. I just have to say, it’s the middle of the night, and it is SO NICE to come in my kitchen and have it smell like soap and lemons and oranges and I’ve been prowling and there are NO FLIES anywhere! Hoooooray!

  4. YUCK! I hate flies too. We had the same thing happen to us in our house in Arkansas, and yup, it was a bag of hidden potatoes. They are the WORST!

    We also left some food in the garbage disposal once, you know, that wasn’t ground up, and we came back to MAGGOTS in the sink. YUUUUUUUUUCKKKKKK!!

    Nature is gross.

  5. Ohhh…while we lived in Japan I put a watermelon ON TOP of the fridge. The heat softened it, ripened it, until it exploded. Literally. And we had watermelon juice running down all sides of our fridge. The stink was unbearable. It took some serious washing to get the smell out.
    Congratulations on conquering!

  6. I seriously HATE the smell of rotten potatoes, just disgusting! Congratulations on conquering the smell and the flies. I hate them too and I will not even share my worst fly experience, it would be enough to send you into dry heaves!!!

  7. Couple years ago, we had the same problem with fruit flies – hundreds, possibly thousands of them. We tried everything. A month or more went by. Finally, I was cleaning under my son’s bed and found the culprit – a rotting nectarine. Yech. On the plus side, I now know a hundred and one ways to get rid of fruit flies!

    • Oh, please share effective secrets to getting rid of fruit flies. I hate them!!!! But the only option for keeping them out of my house seems to be not to have any fruit. I had to do that for a summer and it was miserable. A summer without fresh fruit is dreadful. How lovely it would be to have fresh fruit and NO FLIES.

  8. Thanks for sharing that, I had a good laugh and I feel better about my housekeeping because guess what happened to me three days ago…?

    During the hot days of summer I decided to stack zucchini like cord wood under the kitchen desk. (They’re squash, they keep forever, right?) My kids would bug me every now and then saying that the squash took up too much room, but I left ’em there.

    Two days ago I found a puddle of green under the kitchen table. It looked a big like cat vomit, but it was green!? As I continued cleaning the kitchen I found another puddle of green cat vomit on the other side of the table. What the…??

    After a bit of detective work (looking under the desk and seeing bites taken out of the rotted zucchini) I deduced that the cat, for some only-known-to-cats reason, had taken a few bites of rotten zucchini and then promptly refunded it.

    Yes, there was an odor but I associated it more with stinky feet than zucchini, and since we have so many shoes in our house I felt it was a battle I couldn’t win and kept lighting candles.

    I will not plant zucchini next year.

  9. I was going to guess potatoes; because that’s happened to me, but in the pantry….and because I can only see the first four shelves- it took me longer to find them!

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