As I recall, when my wife, Marianne, and I exchanged wedding vows all those years ago, she promised to “love, honor and clean up any rotted duck eggs that exploded in the egg incubator.” Marianne says she doesn’t recall that last part, but it was many moons ago, so who can blame her if she has a few mental lapses over the years?

Also, in her defense, when we were discussing the topic, both of us were pre-occupied with trying to keep our knees from buckling, so she might have been a bit distracted. If you don’t believe an odor alone can cause you to collapse to the floor, you never smelled a rotted duck egg that exploded in the warm, wet environment of an egg incubator.

If evil had a smell, this would be it. It is a mean-spirited type of smell designed to do maximum damage to your olfactory organs and your psyche alike. It is the kind of smell that eats through a hazmat suit and reduces the occupant to jelly. It is a smell that lets you know in no uncertain terms that, if you were under interrogation and they used this smell on you, you would give up the secret rocket formula in no time flat.

It is more than just a smell. It is a physical presence. There is a thickness to the odor. It actually changes the density of the atmosphere. The best way I can describe the actual odor is, if the creature from the black lagoon broke wind, it would smell like that, provided he ate a wet dog, a lot of cabbage and a heaping helping of nuclear sludge beforehand.

It didn’t help that we kept our incubator in our house.

We were away from home when the egg exploded. The minute we stepped through the front door Marianne shot me the age-old wife to husband “was that you?” look. We soon realized whatever it was exceeded even my capabilities. The culprit was something inside the incubator.

I peered in. The top of an egg was missing. A grey, chalky-looking ooze was splattered all over the insides of the incubator. Being novices to this kind of situation, we didn’t know the standard protocol is to lug the incubator unopened to the farthest corner of your property and leave it there for eternity. If the location you choose happens to be upwind from that neighbor whose kid drives his unmufflered four-wheeler around night and day, all the better.

Anyway, we chose option two which is to clean the mess up. The problem was deciding who does what. I was assigned the task of taking the incubator outside. Of course, the minute I tried to move it, all the water in the bottom of it came leaking out. The dogs, ever of service, immediately got underfoot and got dripped on. Now they smelled like rotted duck egg.

The floor smelled like it, too and the throw rug by the door smelled like it.

Once outside, I was assigned egg removal detail. Bomb squad members handle unexploded grenades with reckless indifference compared to the way I handled that egg. When I lifted it, it cracked again and more grey stuff spilled everywhere. I was once charged by a large, angry mother boar and I did not utter so much as a peep. I muffled a scream when that egg cracked. If any small child was awake and listening within a three-mile radius of our place, I am sure I peppered their little ears with all sorts of new words and phrases that would cause their grandmothers to seize up when that language was repeated through their tender lips.

Marianne handled garden hose detail. Then there was mop detail, which we both handled. Then there was shipping the dogs off to North Korea detail (just kidding).

We scrubbed. We poured disinfectant. We prayed aerosols. We threw open windows and brought in fans. Eventually, the smell dissipated, but not before several yards of paint and wallpaper peeled off our walls.

We checked the remaining eggs carefully and removed one more that had clearly rotted. I took it to the corner of our property and placed it on a fence pole just upwind from that neighbor whose kid drives his four-wheeler around night and day.