Definition no. 8
Definition No. 8
Happiness is a stench.
At 4am in the morning when I woke up, I put on some clothes, still half asleep and not exactly knowing what I would be doing in the next following minutes. The old man had knocked discreetly at the window of the guest house. I had promised the night before that I would help him do the yard chores. I was now standing in front of the fence separating the main house from the garden of the main house, wearing an old sweater, 3 sizes bigger than I needed, a pair of old torn out jeans, gum boots and red nail polish. There was no time for make up, neither for a fancy hair styling. I had a pony tail. There was no mirror in the 1 by 1 square meter toilet cabin with no current water. The animals would not notice the difference anyway.
I pushed the screeching gate aside startled by the sharp noise.
Grandpa Ion was already busy in the barn. I could see his head showing briefly in the frame of the entrance in the dim light of the only lamp that was clearing the inner space. I stepped firmly into the world of the mortals and rolled my sleeves up the arms. My clothes were hanging down as ragged curtains.
“Come girl, I could have bet that you would never show up! A city princess like you! Let’s see the face of the old witch when I tell her”. He made me a sign to follow him inside the barn. “This is Lola and this is Flower. They are my sweet ones! My special ladies, aren’t you?” He slapped the back of the cows affectionately. “Here, we have company this morning. Say ‘hi’ to my new assistant”, he continued amused. He turned on his feet and added on a serious tone on a low voice: “You can still save yourself, you know. I understand if you change your mind. After all, you fit in here like a nut on the wall. So before I start wasting my precious breath on teaching you what to do, I need to know what it will be? Are you in or out?”
I dropped my head down when I hit the top beam when entering completely the cows’ refuge. I was nodding and rubbing my pain away. My feet were sinking in a warm mix of straws and droppings and pee. And there was this stink of animal breath, freshly chewed corn and the warmth of the night closed tightly between the walls of the animals’ home. Two goats approached me. I could barely make a move. I raised my hands and almost jumped back when one of them hit her head against my leg.
“Easy, easy on her!” uttered the old man. “She’s a princess, we have to treat her with respect.” He was laughing wholeheartedly. “She’s precious, but you two are my beloved ones”, he continued talking to the goats and caresses them with love between the horns. “And given that all the beauties were introduced to each other, I suggest that we get busy. Lola is about to lose her patience”.
I followed his steps inside the room. “Careful, don’t leave your boots behind!” he added from the corner of his mouth exactly when my right foot landed on the stinking muddy floor. “Too late”, he observed. “Don’t mind, they say it’s good for the complexion, though I would not spread it on my face if I were you! But what do I know, I am only a fool old man.” His good mood was cheering me up and appeared to have a positive effect on the beasts.
“Here, you take the broom! Before we milk them, we have to give them their special treatment: we clean their mess, we wash their breasts. Then you rub down their backs. That is their reward. Then we thank them for being such nice cows and goats.”
He showed me what I had to do and insisted on the speed I needed to complete my tasks on. My pay would be a nice cup of fresh milk. He also wanted me to repeat after him that I would not ask him for money for ruining my expensive manicure.
I started to sweep the floor with determination. My nose was still wrinkling when at times stinking clouds were lifted with the broom strokes. I could hear Lola and Flower stepping hard on the ground when I was coming close to them. The goats were just running around indifferent to the new presence in their home. I would wipe my nose and my stingy eyes with the back of my hand and continue working as if this were a duty of honor. The old man would keep an eye on me as he was saloon making conversation with his beauties.
I heard a rooster outside. Then footsteps on the path to the barn. Grandma Maria was standing in front of the cottage, arms crossed on her chest: “You fool old man, you didn’t dare! Get her out of there, right now!” She shouted angrily. “She’s not used to this! And she’ll stink like hell the whole day long!” She then asked me to stop whatever I was doing and to forgive an old man who was losing his head.
I exchanged glances with Grandpa Ion. I understood that Grandma Maria would not come inside. She would not do it, unless Grandpa was in the city, once a year before Christmas. Ion’s expression changed. He regretted playing the joke of the cows on me. He felt sorry but he had so much enjoyed it. And he could not help himself smiling at his prank. I winked at him and made him understand I would not go outside. I wanted to finish my job first. Maria would eventually attend her extremely important activities and leave her husband to his.
At 6 am I was drinking fresh milk from a tin can under the proud and satisfied look of Grandpa Ion. I could not tell him that I hated milk in any form. It was the cows that I was in love with. I was reeking cow droppings and enjoying the feeling of having achieved a great experience of life.
I am driving through the meadows of my new neighborhood. It’s 7 am. The cows from the farm graze quietly. It smells like droppings, straws and freshly cut grass. I still find milk disgusting. I open the window. I feel happy.
Happiness is a stench!