Stinking Rugs and Failed Salvations

I have this old rug. Well, not really that old. It’s a Pottery Barn rug, 10’x 13’, maroon, purple, brown squares resembling a patchwork quilt. It is thick, soft wool and it stinks.

I didn’t notice it at first. It was such a steal. Hundreds of dollars less than one bought in a Pottery Barn store. The colors, so rich and lush, pulled me into its comforting spell. I just had to use it in my new office…Even though the walls of that office are done in pale, peach-colored grasscloth from the 70s.

Peach wallpaper, maroon rug, teal blue carpet underneath that. It was a design nightmare but with enough stuff on the wall, you don’t really see the peach color and the rug completely covered the teal, industrial carpet…Which made opening the door a bit of a challenge as it wasn’t cut to accommodate a thick, wool rug…but I made it work, sort of.

That’s when the odor became noticeable.

Contained in that small 10 x 13 foot office, unrolled and exposed to the air, my sweet, dear rug exuded an unmistakable smell.

I watch CSI. I read. Hell, I write mystery novels. I’ve attended lots of forensic conferences and ridden with police officers all over the country. And while I have never actually, first-hand visited the infamous Body Farm, I know the smell of decomposition and this rug had it in spades.

I stood in my office, looked down at my e-bay prize and envisioned the only thing I could- A dead body.

Oh, the thing had been cleaned afterward. I knew this because there was also the strong odor of chemicals, but the dead body scent still lingered.

I did the only thing I could.

I called the Unnamed Ones, loaded it up onto the back of a pickup and drove it home.

We dragged it onto the sunroom, unfurled it and I worked on it with the carpet cleaner and every anti-stink product known to man. It worked. My beautiful rug became the touchable, work of art I’d known it could be. We pulled it into the family room and there it stayed, lush and welcoming throughout the winter.

Someone said, “Don’t you think it makes the room look too dark?”

No, I did not- anymore than I thought the maroon clashed with the peach wallpaper and teal carpet in my office.

But then came the Spring and the April Showers and once again my dear carpet began to emit a familiar smell. This time it was not dead body. It was Dogs Too Prissified To Pee Outside When It’s Raining.

I have a very low tolerance for this behavior.

The rug had much less of a tolerance.

The little bastards were crafty. They switched favorite spots on the rug- peeing indiscriminately everywhere they could find a squat-able square.

We chased after them. We spot cleaned, de-odorized, scrubbed, chemicalized and in general, did everything the killer did to get the dead body stink out of that rug, but it wasn’t working. No matter how much we scrubbed- there was still a faint whiff of urine…and dead body.

The Unnamed People I reside with began to complain. I countered if they were more firm in their handling of the Unnamed Dogs, we wouldn’t have this issue.

Finally though, I had to concede defeat. We rolled and folded the massive rug up into what resembled a bent-in-half hotdog and shoved it in a corner of the sunroom where it awaited either the brawn to carry it up into the attic or the Miracle of Destinkification.

Periodically someone would say, “You know, it stinks like dog pee on the back porch,” and I would give an injured sniff and say, “Well, one of them peed out there.” I would mop the porch with buckets of Pinesol and then they’d complain about that smell!

Spring turned into summer. Dad got sick and I spent almost six months in New Bern praying for a bigger miracle and then I came home to the life I had left behind and the Unnamed Ones who loved me.

But Friday I could ignore The Damned Rug no longer.

I spent the afternoon hauling the sunroom furniture out onto the patio, scrubbing the terrazzo tile floor, and then rolling “It” out onto the clean, slick surface. I vacuumed it first with a Kirby, the nearest thing to a tornado ever invented. I brought the carpet cleaner down from the attic, (which was no small feat when you consider that I had to fight my way through Christmas, Easter and Halloween decorations with a damned machete.)

I loaded up the machine with the approved and appropriate cleaner and then I pulled out my Secret Weapon. When I was with Dad in the assisted living facility I made friends with Mona the Wonder/Cleaning Woman. She turned me on to her never fail carpet cleaner and deodorizer.

“You know what happens on these carpets,” she’d said. “This never fails.”

Okay, so it didn’t work on the carpet in my rental unit- but that carpet had been in place for hundreds of years and dirty, drunken construction workers had wrought untold amounts of desecration to it- so that carpet didn’t count.

For added insurance, I sprayed every other deodorizing and carpet cleaning product I own, and with four dogs and one cat, trust me, I have ‘em all.

I went over it with the heavy machine. I detached the hand tools and used them. I put muscle and sweat into my labors. And then the carpet machine blew up.

I mean white-smoke-fire-and-the-smell-of-melting-components blew up. This added a new aroma to the mix.

When the Unnamed Others arrived home they wrinkled up their noses. “It smells worse than it did before!” They touched the rug. “It’s not even wet! Are you sure you did it the right way?”

After three hours of solid, back-breaking labor this was not what I wanted to hear. Things like: “You poor thing! You must be exhausted!” came to mind.

We carried it out onto the patio and draped it over the wrought iron patio chairs. I settled for waxing the terrazzo tile floor and fantasizing about committing multiple homicides then disposing of bodies in stinking, maroon wool.

My joints and muscles ached. I was frustrated and my feelings were hurt. Worse, I couldn’t quite figure out how and why I had become so invested in this hunk of noxious rug.

My friend, Marti, called and I explained about the rug. I said, “I don’t know what it is but I don’t want to give up on it. I mean, it’s mine. It just feels like it’s something of mine that I don’t want to lose.”

Marti was very matter of fact about the rug.

“Bring it out here,” she said. “We’ll use the power washer on it.”

“The power washer? On a wool rug?”

“Sure,” she said. “I clean all my carpets with the power washer. I figure, fuck it, they aren’t going to get any worse and I drag ‘em out in the driveway and turn the power washer on ‘em.”

“And it doesn’t ruin them?”

“Nope. You’ve seen my rugs. They’re fine.”

And they are, too. Every square inch of Marti’s house is pristine and odor-free. She has met the enemy and they are hers. Dirt runs when it sees Marti approaching.

A feeling of relief washes over me. Marti, somehow, intuitively “gets” me. She may not know why the rug is important- she only cares that it is- therefore, saving my rug is important to her- without question, attitude or hesitation.

She also gets that calling in a carpet cleaner is not an option. For some reason the salvation of this carpet is a personal, hands-on mission not to be left to the ministrations of strangers.

That night, as I lie in bed, I try and sort out my feelings about the rug. Why does it mean so much to me?

I mean, I am a trained psychotherapist. I do know that pouring this much energy into the salvation of an inanimate object is irrational. I should haul the thing to the curb and be done with it. But I just couldn’t give up on it. I, personally, had to save that rug.

Which is when, of course, I realized what that rug symbolized.


In my battle with the maroon carpet I had the tools, the chemicals, the know-how and still…once again, I was failing to save something or someone I loved.

One day there will be a “power washer” for Pulmonary Fibrosis.


Melanie said...

Your rug sounds cool. My mum used to take her Bokara wool rugs outside and wash them with soap and water, turning on the hose to get the soap off. This is the way the carpet sellers told her to wash them.

Helen said...

I'm your DAD'S Age and I have pulmonary fibrosis. Wish they would hurry up with that power washer.

Anonymous said...
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Nancy said...

Oh, Helen, I am so sorry! It's a nasty, nasty disease and I wish they would pour more money into research! Keep in touch, ok? I'll be sending energy your way, or prayers, or power washing wishes!

pixie said...

Very much enjoyed this post and how you worked your way to insight. Googling landed here - I picked up a PB rug from Craig's List last night ...