What’s That Smell?: A Parental Detective Story.

Last week the living room smelled like poop, and so of course I stretched out the back of each of my children’s pants and took a big whiff—which think about if you did that to an adult, and then ask yourself if kids have any sense of privacy or decency—and to my horror, both asses smelled like freshly washed cotton.

I asked my son and daughter, “Who smells like poop?”  Neither of them moved, blinked, or breathed.

I paused Netflix and tried again. “Okay, c’mon guys. Where’s the poop?” I asked sternly this time, inciting as much fear as I felt comfortable with in our post-spanking era household.

This time it only got a shrug from my son, and an imprecise, confused look from my daughter. “Show?” was all she said.

Maybe it was the trash. How many rotting meats or open diapers had Georgie and I, insomnia-weary and carb-loaded, tossed into the trash without a thought of wrapping it?

I opened the lid and a green breeze hit me with force. My usual slack posture stiffened. Mystery solved.

Is it possible to feel smell? I’ve heard of synesthetics, who can see numbers and taste colors, but I’ve always heard of it as a pleasant experience. I think I’m synesthetic but only with fecal odors. I have to shuck and jive like a welterweight in a title bout when I change diapers, just hoping I don’t get clocked in the head.

At any rate, the trash is out and I think the story is over. But fifteen minutes later Georgie comes in and asks “Who’s poopy??” and even sort of concealed-sniffs me, which I pretend not to notice.

Diaper check, diaper check. This time I notice something strange. My three-year-old daughter is wearing my five-year-old son’s nighttime pull ups.

“Did you put a pull up on Eliza?” I ask Georgie.

“She’s wearing a Pull Up?” she replies.

Suddenly, Eliza’s focus breaks from the show. Her favorite show. And she gives me this “I know where the candy is” look, except she isn’t thinking about candy right now.


I power walk to the bathroom.

No no no.

The door opens with a rickety creek. I see it lying there, the full saturated weight of it heaved against the corner of the toilet. It’s splayed out like a ruined toad, Velcro waste bands in a tattered pile, bodily waste falling out of where little legs used to be. A deep brown smears the toilet face, and incriminating finger prints are all over the nose of the faucet.

The rank air hits me in a wave and physically removes me from the bathroom. I am pale, aghast, weary of the corruption that lies in the heart and bowels of every toddler.

Georgie hears me hit the hallway wall and rushes over. “What is it?” she asks.

I shake my head and slump to the floor, involuntarily muttering a single word. Shit, I say. Shit. Shit. Shit.

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