Monday, August 22, 2011

Some Research is Stinky

I strive for accuracy, even when writing fiction. Research is as essential as water is to mud.

Sometimes research doesn't work out.

I wrote a children's novel about a young boy's encounter with fairies. To make sure I got it right, I purchased a book online-My Life as a Fairy. The postage stamp size book was too small to read. I couldn't turn the tiny little pages with my mortal person fingers.

I placed an ad in the local paper asking for anyone who had seen or talked with a fairy to come forward for an interview. I received three responses.

The first was a woman who wore a long dress and seemed to glide when she walked. She didn't make a sound walking across a wooden floor. I'm not sure her feet touched the ground. Maybe she wore roller skates. She has conversations with fairies in her fairy garden every night. She invited me to spend the night with her drinking the fairy juice she makes in her basement and talking to the fairies. I graciously declined.

The second interview was with a big man, probably three hundred pounds. His arms were hairy and hair stuck out the top of the undershirt he wore. Colorful tattoes were plastered over his body. He had a soft, tiny angelic voice.

He claimed fairies had saved his life when he crashed his motorcycle into a tree. The little ones had come with their little wash clothes and bandages and magic medicines and had healed him. The medicine changed his voice into a fairy voice. With tears in his eyes, he said in his tiny angry voice that shortly afterwards he was asked to leave the Hellion Bikers Club.

The last interview was with a young woman who had been a fairy in a previous life. In fact, she was the queen fairy. I think this may have been true because she was bossy. She kept telling me where to sit which annoyed the other patrons of the coffee shop. "Sit, over there, no..."

My latest attempt at research came from my book Address Unknown. The protagonist in Address Unknown creates an experiment for a science fair that causes havoc due to its smell. I needed to know whether or not his experiment really would cause such a stench. So I duplicated it in my back yard.

I placed leftovers from meals in small plastic containers like those for individual servings of yogurt. Then I poured in milk to fill each one and sealed them. I trembled at the potential for stink inside each of these innocent looking vessels. Then I placed them in the sun to bake and rot and ferment.

Ten days later I peeled off the first lid. The stench hit me like a bolt of electricity. I dropped the container and took rapid steps backwards. My eyes burned and I held my breath. I tried breathing by sipping air in through little openings I made with my lips.

With stinging eyes and scorched lungs, I trembled from excitement at opening the other five. I wrapped a wet towel around my face and held my breath. I reached for the second, keeping it at arms length. I ripped off the lid. The putrid smell penetrated the towel, my clothes, my pores. I fought the urge to run far, far away. I was elated.

I pulled off the third lid and thought surely I will die.

I continued taking little short whimpy breathes. Each breath was as painful as pulling a tooth. I forced myself to sip in the stinky air. Ouch...ouch...ouch

Quickly, without thinking, I yanked off the three remaining lids. I didn't know you could see smell. A yellow, ugly, wavy cloud rose and spread through the neighborhood.

Dog lovers know that dogs love foul smells and will roll, squirming with delight, on a dead rotted fish if they should be so lucky to come upon one.

Every dog within a three block radius lifted his muzzle to the heavens and howled. It was reported later that all dogs in the smell zone flopped on his back and wriggled in ecstacy.

I couldn't see out of my red swollon eyes and I had been weakened by the lack of life-sustaining air. I felt my way to the back door and quickly slipped into my house and into good air.

A few minutes later a white van pulled up. Two men in astronaut suits and holding some kind of smell meter walked slowly to my back yard-the meter pointing their way. I watched them pick up each container with three foot tongs and place them in hi-tech impervious urns. They drove off with never a word to me.

I was proud and filled with my own scientific prowess. I had triumphed.

Some day, I feel sure, the neighbors will speak to me again.