DAY OF THE CABBAGE by Sara Mossman Duncan and Birke Duncan
Some home. The cement-with-pebbles-smooshed-into-it building where I lived had originally housed nuns who worked at the nearby hospital in Olympia, Washington. Now it consisted of studio apartments for low-income shut-ins, parolees, and the mentally ill. I was one of the latter. The building reeked of methane gas, which came up through everyone’s toilets and sinks.
I suffered from a bad reaction to prescribed Geodone, so my dislikes intensified. That went double for hating marijuana odour. With every passing day, it seemed more and more neighbours smogged up the hallways with ganja smoke and bong vapours. I didn’t care one hoot that the drug was, basically, the neighbours’ anaesthesia for loneliness, disabilities, and unemployment. I just wanted the noxious smell to go away. So I called my Aunt Joanie, who can always be counted on for a diabolical idea.
“Boil up a cabbage,” she suggested gleefully, “That’ll get ’em!”
Count on my percolating mania to take a bad idea and make it worse. I tried to sleep on it, but couldn’t. Instead, I cackled all night long. I felt and saw (when I closed my eyes) lightning bolts in my head. Mania was an improvement over anger, frustration, and depression. It was the first time I had laughed in months. My stomach ached but I couldn’t stop. “I’ve got it!” I said aloud to myself, “I’ll use my crock pot! This needs to be properly done! Fight fire with fire, and pot with crock pot!”
I tried to quit shrieking while cackling. My innards felt rearranged.
Climbing out of bed at six am, I got ready quickly—a cursory splash in the shower, and then I jumped into tights, a black skirt, a turtle neck, and a long sweater. I packed my tote bag and set it at the front door. It took me one minute to plug in the crock pot, and locate the rubbery, yellowed cabbage from the back of the fridge. I ripped up the leaves and tossed them in the pot. I added water, put on the lid, grabbed my bag, and ran for the bus stop.
Then I forgot all about that cabbage.
First, I went to a fast-food restaurant, and ordered a tiny, one-dollar breakfast, and a one-dollar coffee. I did my best to look like an older grad student as I wrote in my journal for two hours and looked at no one. Then, I took in two old movies in a theatre, redolent of patchouli oil. I couldn’t recall what I was supposed to remember at home, so I took my time.
Sauntering back to my apartment building a bit after six pm, I opened the heavy glass doors and headed to the elevator. Nobody loafed around in the hallways. A strange fog clung to the windows. The building now seemed murky, and the whole place had a pungency that clogged the lungs and roiled the stomach. I made my way to my second-floor apartment, let myself in, closed my door quickly, and froze when I heard a raised voice in the hallway.
It was Lia, my direct neighbour, and biggest doobie queen in the building. She shouted that the fumes came from my apartment. Lia railed at the manager, a fifty-five-year-old ex-marine. I remembered his usual unlit stogie, blue Valentine tattoos on his shoulders, and industrial type suspenders. His amassment of keys formed a giant hanging cluster which whanged back and forth from his belt as he double-timed down the hall to listen to Lia.
My heart whirled, and I set about getting rid of the cabbage evidence. Lucky for me, my garbage disposal still worked. I dumped the remaining two inches of brown slush into the sink, turned on the water, and watched the evidence disappear down the drain. I slid the empty crock pot under the sink. Then I wrenched open my sliding glass door, and proceeded to spray my teeny apartment with half a bottle of lavender air freshener intermixed with a heavy dose of disinfectant. That was simply all one could do. My apartment now smelled like a gas station ladies’ room. I waited. Nobody knocked on my door. Lia and the manager debated in the hallway.
“The bad steam was shooting out of her bathroom vent—right into my apartment!” exclaimed Lia.
The ex-marine manager said in a halting manner, “Maybe it was just a cooking accident.”
“It smells so rotten it could make a garbage man throw up! This had to be deliberate! I heard her laughing last night.”
“I’ve never had trouble with her before.”
Indeed, I had drawn no previous attention to myself. No issues, no gripes, not even any tattling on other residents.
That’s what Lia gets for blasting me with Mazzy Star rock music at six am on Sundays! I thought to myself. Then I clamped both hands over my mouth to keep from laughing out loud again. My stomach muscles couldn’t take it. No more daredevil shenanigans for me, I vowed.
After that momentous achievement, I came up with a better plan for revenge on those pot smoking neighbours. I moved away, and landed a job. It’s great to work in a department store at the perfume counter.