On the very worst nights the bag’s odour permeates even my dreams.
The smell builds in steady waves until I am pulled violently from my sleep, where I find myself thrashing about the bed struggling for breath, gagging on the knowledge that the bag is still hanging in our shed, stewing in the summer heat, its intestines squirming about in a frantic bid for fresh air.
My husband opens one eye, flings a reassuring arm in my direction and mumbles, “I keep telling you not to worry about it. It’s only been in there a few weeks. I’ll get to it.”
I push his arm away and stare at the ceiling. I am not sure how much longer I can stand it. Yet as hopeless as the situation seems, I refuse to be the one who does something about it.
I cook, I clean, and yes, I even do laundry. However, I draw the line at exploring the contents of that bodysized bag for washables. Especially without benefit of a gas mask and rubber gloves. Even if so equipped, I still wouldn’t do it.
I mean, it’s not as if the man doesn’t know how to run a washing machine.
It’s an odd phenomena, indeed, that grown men who take the time to shave and slap on deodorant, men who like their hair combed just so, men who wax and buff their vehicles to within an inch of their lives can open a hockey bag in front of an audience of their peers and have no shame whatsoever at the foul stench that permeates the air.
In fact, they take an almost perverse pride in the matter. The more their bench mate chokes, gasps, clutches at his throat and wipes tears from his eyes the prouder they are. Or so I gather, not having spent a great deal of time in men’s locker rooms.
It wouldn’t have been so bad if things had been periodically washed during last season. Or even once. I desperately search my memory, but I can recall no such event.
So it is that as the hockey rink gives way to grad ceremonies and circus performances, my husband simply ends the hockey season by stuffing his bag of jerseys, socks, cup holders and equipment into the space left vacant by his golf clubs. As I watch him practising his golf swing on the front lawn, he appears blissfully unruffled by the inevitable outcome of leaving an entire season’s worth of sweat to stew in a hot shed.
Weeks pass, summer draws to a close and the newest hockey season swishes forward on its sharp, silver blades.
As luck would have it, I happen to be looking out the window just as he emerges from the shed with the hockey bag and its horrible contents slung carelessly over his shoulder, not even so much as cracking a zipper.
I close my eyes and turn away until I have heard his newly washed truck pull out of the drive.
“How was hockey practice?” I ask, upon his arrival home.
“There was a mouse nest in my knee pads,” he replies.
“A mouse nest in your knee pads? For the love of God, please tell me no one saw it.”
“Well, sure, they all saw it. I emptied it out in the garbage can. You didn’t think I’d just leave it in the bag did you?” he snorts at this preposterous notion, before adding, “The smell is getting to be a bit overwhelming though. I might have to wash a few things.”
I just stare at him as all of this sinks in. What a truly dark and shameful day it is for the McKinnon family. A hockey bag inhabited by a courageous summer mouse, one with a tiny gas mask I assume. A bag that has reached such horrific heights in the olfactory sense that even its hockey-playing owner has uttered the heretofore unheard of words: “I might have to wash a few things.”
Then, before I can think of what to say or do next, he adds, “Ken had a live mouse in his bag.”
A live mouse! I am not certain, but I think he sounds envious. Could it be that a live mouse is considered better than a mere mouse nest? In a men’s change room just what is where on the hierarchy of hockey bag contents? I start to ask, then think better of it. Some things are better left unknown.
Shannon McKinnon will be away until the week of Oct. 10. In the meantime we hope you enjoy these previously published columns.