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The Foul House

There are some people in this world who have no sense of shame or disgust. They make their environments as disordered as their minds. They live in wretchedness and squalor and think nothing of it. They see rats and roaches as friends. They enjoy the stench of decay. They are lower than animals, because even animals know better than to defecate where they eat. I have been inside a house which was once owned by such people.

A few blocks to the northwest of me, in a rather quiet part of town, there is a small, two-story beige house which was once owned by a man named Bernie Gordon. His ancestors came from Germany and his father proudly served in the American military. He himself had no interest in fighting abroad, but he still had a reverence for authority, which motivated him to become a police officer. After several years, he became the warden of the local jail. He served in that position for several decades before retiring at the age of 65. He had a wife named Mae Bentley, who once worked as a nurse at the local hospital. They got married when they were both 20 and spent many happy decades together. They had only two children: Bernie Gordon Jr. and Sally Gordon. Both of them moved out of the house as soon as they reached adulthood, and as far as I know, neither of them went on to have any children of their own. After they had retired, Bernie spent his time fishing and reading books on military history while Mae tended to her garden. She grew onions on the eastern side, and at the front of the house she had a metal trough in which she grew splendid flowers. They also went to church every Sunday, and everyone who knew them said they were a lovely couple.

Unfortunately, all good things must eventually come to an end. At the age of 80, Mae died of cancer. After she was buried, Bernie fell into a deep, dark depression. He stopped fishing, stopped going to church, and rarely left the house. The garden withered and died, and weeds quickly took over the yard. A neighbor once went into the house in an attempt to pull him out of his rut, but he failed. The man later told me that there was no light in Bernie’s eyes. It was like he had lost the will to live. It was also mentioned that he no longer bothered cleaning the house, for dirt and dust had built up considerably.

Five years after the death of his wife, his two children moved back in with him. Jr. had become bald just like his father, but he was much fatter and his skin much greasier. Sally was just as fat and her hair was as messy as a rat’s nest. Those who knew them back when they were children said they were quite unruly at school, always causing some sort of trouble or another. The most infamous incident was when they rolled around in a dirty puddle and threw mud at other children. It quickly became clear that they moved back in just so they could live off the life insurance that was left behind after Mae’s death. Bernie Jr. brought back a new box of alcohol every day, and Sally brought home bags of random consumer goods from the supermarket. She also ordered many things online. Their father had grown too old, weak, and depressed to do anything, so their profligate behavior only got worse.

Bernie Sr. died of old age three years after his children moved back in with him. The paramedics who carried him out described the interior as a pigsty. Trash was piled high and insects were scurrying about. Things only got worse from there. Sally started buying cats and dogs from the local pound. Those poor dogs let out miserable howls the whole time they were there, for they never got any outdoor time. Jr. also started bringing prostitutes home. At some point, the life insurance money started to run out. They stopped paying for garbage pick-up and started putting all their trash in the garage. Their neighbors complained about the smell, but they didn’t care. A few months later, their power got cut off, but still they stayed. Like slothful swine, they would not budge.

Then they stopped paying their property tax. It was then that the city had finally had enough. Another neighbor of mine was part of the police squad that evicted them. The officers began by standing outside and commanding the occupants to vacate the dwelling. They refused. After two fruitless hours, they decided to go in and grab them. As soon as they opened the door, they were assaulted by the sickening stench of stale cat urine and dog diarrhea. After donning gas masks, they went back inside, grabbed Jr. and Sally, and pulled them out of there. They also took all the cats and dogs and put them up for adoption. Luckily, those animals went on to live in more sanitary homes. One of the officers went back into the house and was appalled by the sheer number of mice scurrying on the floor and insects buzzing around in the air. He got his hands on a poison bomb, deployed it in the house, and left. The next day, all the vermin inside were dead. The repo men never dared to venture in there, so the bank decided to auction off the property with all the possessions inside and have it be someone else’s problem.

My older brother was the one who bought it. He was a rich and savvy businessman, but also very impulsive. As soon as he got any sort of wild idea in his head, he immediately pursued it, much to the annoyance of the rest of the family. Whereas any normal person saw a biohazard, he saw a money-making opportunity. He planned to clean up the house, auction off the items, and then sell the property back to the bank for a profit. I didn’t like the idea of going inside a den of filth, but I also wanted the money, so my family and I decided to aid in his endeavor.

The first thing we did was mow down the tall weeds and cut down the overgrown bushes. The onion patch was still there after all these years. I can assure anyone reading this that after everything I had been through, I would rather be smelling onions. Once the yard was taken care of, we donned gas masks and hazmat suits and went inside the house. I cannot even begin to describe the vile mess. Dried cat turds covered every floor. It was clear that they were allowed to roam free while the poor dogs were forced to stay in cramped cages. There were also mouse droppings, as well as strange white flakes, which I later learned were insect egg casings.

The first thing I noticed upon entering, aside from the absurd amount of feces, was a taxidermied turtle with googly eyes glued to its head. I found it quite amusing, but my mother was repulsed by the thing, so I had to get rid of it. A taxidermied duck hung above the fireplace. My mother considered keeping it, but then she decided against it because she was afraid that it was filled with roaches, so we disposed of that. I learned that Sally was obsessed with mushrooms. She had little figurines of gnomes with mushroom hats, mushroom-shaped salt and pepper shakers, and many other similar knick-knacks. I was then disgusted to discover that she also owned a mushroom man dildo. I threw that in the trash as fast as I could.

Amidst the piles of trash and turds, I found a shoebox full of family photos. They showed happier times: children laughing and playing in the yard, Mae tending her garden, Bernie Sr. showing off the latest fish he caught. They appeared to be a quintessential American family. Jr. and Sally were fat even in childhood, but at least they were smiling. What, then, caused their dysfunction? Did they harbor hatred for their parents? Did they suffer beatings or emotional abuse? I thought about asking them personally, but they left town immediately after being released from jail. A few moments later, I found a yellow Freemason Bible with a pentagram on the cover. I always knew that organization was weird, but were they truly Satanists? If so, did Bernie Sr. participate in any of their unholy rituals? What sort of nefarious things occurred in that house? Unfortunately, I never uncovered the answers to any of those questions.

In the living room, there were two sofas, both of which were covered in cat droppings. They were too large to fit through any of the doors, so we had to cut them into pieces. In what used to be the dining room, there was a shelf filled with various trinkets, and next to that was a medicine rack. We saved the trinkets and got rid of both the rack and the shelf. While my older brother and I were doing that, my mother was cleaning out the kitchen cabinets. Many of the spices in there were decades old. As she did so, she complained of a wretched odor in the room. After finishing the dining room, we helped her in the kitchen. Next to the oven was a cardboard box that was almost as large as the oven itself. My brother and I grabbed it and carried it out to the dumpster. He wanted to lift it up and over the side. I pointed out that it was awfully heavy. He said we would be fine. And so we lifted it up, but then it slipped out of my hand. It broke upon the pavement, and out of it poured a pile of rotten food. My brother audibly expressed his disgust. I sighed, grabbed a shovel, and slowly put it all in the dumpster. I could not believe the previous owners of the house just put all their food into that cardboard box after the power was cut.

Right next to the dining room was a hallway. Both ends led to bedrooms, and in the middle was a door leading to the bathroom. We tackled the north bedroom first, which we learned belonged to Sally. We pulled out many boxes full of trashy romance books, all of which looked untouched. She never read any of the books she purchased. She bought them just to buy them. I had no interest in that garbage, so into the dumpster they went. The only thing of value I found in there was a copy of The Lord of the Rings, also unread. After a bit of work, we got rid of all the trash in there. We also threw out an old dresser due to its dilapidated state. When we pulled out the shag carpet and the padding, we discovered an exquisite stained and varnished wood floor underneath. I distinctly remember saying, "Why would you ever cover that up?"

Once that was done, we went down the hall to the southern bedroom. I learned later that both siblings just threw all their trash in there, so cleaning it out took more time than expected. We slowly made our way through it and started cleaning out the dresser that was in there. It was covered in stickers of various cartoon characters that were popular when I was a child. This made me wonder if Jr. and Sally had arrested development. If so, what caused it? Dead mice awaited us in every drawer. Considering the amount of cats Sally adopted, one would assume they would have the mouse problem under control, but it seems they were of the lazy sort. No one else wanted to touch mummified mice, so it was up to me to get rid of them. I must have disposed of at least three dozen mouse corpses during my time in that house. Once the dresser was taken care of, we also got rid of the shelf full of VHS tapes which was situated against the room’s southern wall. That shelf was full of cartoon movies, many of which I watched when I was little. It would have taken too much time and effort to clean off the feces that was smeared all over them, so we had to throw them out.

We rented out an 8 foot tall dumpster and managed to fill it to the brim with nothing but trash we found on the first floor. Though my parents were disgusted by the work, they were glad we were doing it ourselves because it would have costed a fortune to hire a professional cleaning crew. One month later, my brother wanted to start cleaning out the second floor. My parents weren’t interested, so it was just me and him this time. There was no guard rail at the top of the stairwell, so we had to watch our step. Up there we found even more boxes of trashy romance books that we sent straight to the trash. We also found stacks upon stacks of cookbooks, which presumably belonged to Mae. Some of them were in decent condition, so we kept them for later resale.

After two hours of work, we cleared out the hallway at the top of the stairs and reached the bedroom on the north side. Bernie Jr. took it over after the death of his father. The mattress was covered in countless stains. Once that was disposed of, I went through the shelf that was in the northeast corner. It contained a few old family photo albums, stuck to the covers of which were several used condoms. It seemed that after every time he did the deed with whatever prostitute would tolerate his putrid odor and squalid living conditions, he took off the rubber and tossed it towards the shelf almost out of spite. Again I wondered what transpired between father and son. Even while wearing a hazmat suit, gas mask, and double pairs of gloves, I still felt a profound sense of disgust when I peeled off the condoms and dropped them into a nearby trash bag.

After pulling a stubborn air conditioner out of its window, we finished the day by ripping out the blue shag carpet. Winter came and went. Once things warmed back up, we returned to clean up the basement. I’ve always thought basements were creepy. In the basement of my childhood home, there was this unfinished room that was pitch black. I never went in there because I always thought some vicious monster was lurking in the darkness. In the Victorian house I lived in previously, the basement had a furnace room that was a breeding ground for brown recluse spiders. This basement, on the other hand, wasn’t really creepy so much as it was a shrine to filth.

The stairs leading down to it were covered in beige shag carpet that had been matted down from years of foot traffic and bodily waste. Two large mattresses were down there, both of which were completely covered in cat feces. On the cheaply paneled walls were several shelves of homemade canned goods, some of which looked decades old. The jams and jellies had decayed into vile sludge, and the canned vegetables had become what could best be described as science experiments gone wrong. Three freezers were down there as well. The first was full of medicine and alcohol. While my father and brother were throwing those contents away, the freezer along the western wall grabbed my attention. Upon opening it, I discovered a strange black material covering the inner walls. I thought it was black mold at first, but I later discovered that it consisted of thousands of dead insects.

Next to that appalling appliance, against the southern wall, was a short and wide freezer. Despite being smaller, it was heavier than the others. I figured I could make it easier to carry out by removing its contents beforehand, so I grabbed a trash bag and opened the lid. More dead bugs lined the rim. Various frozen (now very thawed) food items were partially submerged in what I initially assumed was dirty water. I pulled out the remains of an ice cream cake and jokingly asked my brother if he wanted some. Then it hit me. It was the smell of rotting flesh. It managed to leak into my gas mask. The stale cat urine and piles of excrement were bad enough, but even they paled in comparison to the abominable odor of that freezer. I coughed and gagged as I continued to put packets of decomposing meat into the bag. I quickly realized that the black liquid at the bottom wasn’t dirty water, it was blood. Eventually, the trash bag had become so heavy that I could barely lift it. I took it out, threw it in the dumpster, stood away from the house, took off my mask, and got some fresh air. To say that I was mortified by what I had smelled would be an understatement.

After I had regained my composure, I went back down there and helped with getting those freezers out of the house. Helping out was my younger brother, who was actually taller and stronger than me. He was even less thrilled to be there than I was. We strapped the tallest freezer to a dolly and started taking it up the stairs. My younger brother was pulling the dolly from the top while I was pushing it up from the bottom. The whole time I was doing so, I was afraid the appliance would fall and crush me. My father helped pull it the rest of the way. I knew I wasn’t cut out for that heavy lifting work, so I helped my mother get the garbage out of the garage. As I was doing that, my father and younger brother removed the second freezer without much trouble. My mother then suggested I head back down to the basement and see if I could help them with anything else.

I could not help them with anything else because they said they could handle it. The short freezer was the only major item they had left to carry out. The inside was filled with so much rotted blood that it seeped into the motor, so when they strapped it to the dolly, it started leaking out the grill in the back. Then they began the work of carrying it up the stairs, and with every ascending step, blood gushed from the gap between the lid and the main body. My older brother loudly expressed his disgust while I stood there in silence.

The back door immediately led to a small and square concrete landing, which had a few steps on its east side. When they took out the first two freezers, they were able to turn and descend without trouble. The short freezer, on the other hand, was too wide to make the turn. They unhooked it from the dolly and considered several solutions before deciding on the simplest and most brutish: lifting it over the railing. It worked, but the end result was very messy, for once it landed on the ground, more blood splashed out of it. Once that was accomplished, we put the appliances in the garage. Because those machines had freon in them, we could not dispose of them normally, so we had to hire a company to do the work for us.

After we took out the largest pieces of junk and tore out the cabinets, we proceeded with the tedious task of mopping the floors and scrubbing the walls and ceilings. It was about as boring and uneventful as one would expect. I have many years of janitorial experience, so this job wasn’t too difficult for me, but it was time consuming. The industrial strength cleaners we bought didn’t quite do the trick, but what did work was plain old dish soap. When all was said and done, we got the house looking somewhat presentable. My older brother was then able to sell it for slightly more than he originally paid for it.

I have cleaned up many disgusting messes in my life, but I never again wish to clean a house which was once owned by people who act in defiance of the very notion of cleanliness. Though I do admit that I managed to squeeze some semblance of fun from the situation and found a few treasures, it was not worth being around such utter filth. Let my story serve as a warning to all those who read it. Keep your house clean, for cleanliness is one of the things that elevates humanity above the animals and closer to God.


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