Chapter 5 Part 4
The older part of Sacramento is laid out on a grid of numbered and alphabetized streets, starting at the Sacramento River with Front Street. As one travelled east into the city from the river, the neighborhoods went from trendy downtown lofts in the teens, to trendy midtown funky converted Victorians in the 20 numbered blocks , to 1930’s style bungalows on tiny lots, and eventually to the Fab 40’s which were beautiful, elegant mansions with long lawns and covered porticos for all the cars. This was the neighborhood in which Dell hankered to live. It truly was beautiful.
Dell drove in front and Panda followed. She thought she would let Dell take her pick of what she wanted and she would then take whatever was next door. She knew that Dell had not yet assimilated to the extent that she had, the importance of them sticking together. If the lights went out, the city would be pitch black at night. If their cell phones stopped working, they would have no way to reach each other or find each other in this vast city.
Later they would have to move to a place better suited for long term sustainability. But for now it would be fun to just waltz in and take her pick of housing from the finest in the city!
Driving up a block, stopping, dashing through houses to open doors if there was a cat or any other pet inside, each taking a side of the street and meeting in the middle when done with that block, hopping back into cars and up to the next block, the girls were able to clear a good portion of the houses. Neither was happy about just releasing pets into the streets but both knew realistically they could not adopt or care for all of them. This was just the way it had to be.
Most of the houses were open, which was obvious on sight from the nearby pile of ash and the telltale pet placard or keys, shoes, purses or wallets. If they were really lucky there was a pet door installed and all they had to do was spot it and move on. But once in a while they had to hop a fence and go in the back yard to find an open door. It was amazing how many people left their back doors unlocked. Once again Dell wondered at the ease and accessibility of a life of crime. With each house she scoped out the interior layout and décor. These were beautiful houses but not quite what she had in mind.
At about 37th and L streets, Panda started to notice a distinct odor. It grew stronger as they went down 37th to K, J, and I streets. It smelled like death. Not rotting food or decay. Death. The stench became overwhelming. But what could it be? There weren’t any human remains, were there? Could a pig have died and be rotting nearby?
Dell came out of a house ahead of Panda with a jar of Vaseline jelly and a greasy streak above her lip. She looked quite pleased with herself as she offered the jar to Panda. “I saw this on CSI. The coroners use Vaseline smeared under their noses to kill the smell during an autopsy! But it doesn’t seem to be working all that hot, frankly.”
Panda could not help but dissolve into giggles. “Oh, Dell! “ she wailed. “They don’t use Vaseline! They use Vick’s! Vick’s Vapo-Rub!”
“Oh!” said the stunned Dell. “Well I guess that would work better than this!” She rubbed at the grease above her lip with the back of her hand looking embarrassed.
In a fit of pique she tossed the Vaseline jelly into the bushes where it would remain untouched and un-deteriorated for 200 years. “I guess I’ll go find us some Vick’s then!” she said.
Even with Vick’s in their nostrils the smell was palpable. It made Dell queasy and Panda utterly nauseous. After several more houses she was all for getting in their cars and getting out of the vicinity when she heard Dell give out a yelp and come running out of the next house. “In here!” she called.
Panda pulled her shirt neck up over her face to use as a filter but it barely made a dent. Inside the Spanish style house the air was thick and claggy with the smell of decaying flesh. Dell had tied a dish towel around her lower face but her eyes were watering and she was retching.