The mystery of the mysterious noise (or Cadavers smell like cold cuts, I’m also told)


“So,” a friend asked me at the Christmas party I went to on Saturday night, “Got any new Toula stories?” I thought for a minute, and said that I did, sort of. And this is what I told her and the other folks who gathered around to listen:

You’ve heard of Toula, of course, and July, the new Korean girl. Bill is also one of my housemates, a nice old Greek man who’s a friend of Toula’s parents. When I got home one night last week, Bill was in a state of alarm.

The reason for this was that there was a loud, continuous noise coming from July’s room, which was locked. What this noise was, he didn’t know. He thought that it might be a malfunctioning computer fan, which sounded like it might be about to overheat and burst into flames. My own computer fan can get pretty loud, which is why I don’t keep my PC in my room or leave it on while I’m sleeping. So I didn’t think this was anything to worry about. But, as it was pointed out, if I went into the living room, you could hear the noise coming through the ceiling, and it actually was pretty loud, sounding not unlike a jet engine. July has a laptop, which shouldn’t generate that kind of decibel level, so the noise really was rather mysterious.

What really upset Bill was that the door was locked. He’d knocked, but there was no answer. Therefore, he’d concluded, not only was the house probably about to catch on fire and trap us all in the blaze, but July was probably inside her room, dead.

He pointed at two pairs of July’s shoes on the mat by the front door. With not one but two pairs of shoes present and accounted for, he reasoned, July couldn’t possibly be outside somewhere in the world, alive. She had to be in her room, dead. I thought that it would be probably valid logic if July were a man; as Bill and I both know, no man needs more than two pairs of shoes, one for attending weddings and one for mowing the lawn. But July is a woman. Therefore, she was probably alive.

Still, at Bill’s request, I called Toula’s parents, our landlords, to see if they could come unseal July’s room. (I don’t know why Bill, a family friend, doesn’t have their number.) But there was no answer and not even an answering machine. So, we had no choice but to wait for Toula to come home, which is to say that my girlfriend and I waited while Bill went out for the evening, partly in keeping with his usual schedule but I think partly also because he didn’t want to be there when the body was discovered.

My girlfriend and I didn’t think July was dead. Of course we hoped she wasn’t. She’d promised to make us Korean food sometime. But there was no way of knowing until either Toula came home or July’s decaying corpse started to stink.

Eventually Toula came home. “Oh, Bill wanted me to ask you if you could unlock July’s door and check on her,” I said, with my voice deadpan and my eyes rolling only slightly. “There’s a loud noise coming from her room, and he’s pretty sure she’s inside, dead.”

Toula’s eyes went wide. “Oh my god!” she gasped, and stormed upstairs, fumbling for her keys.

“That was kind of mean,” said my girlfriend. But if you want Toula to do anything, you really have to scare her to galvanize her into action. After all, when the oven broke, her response was to just buy microwavable food from then on. Then, when the upstairs bathtub started leaking through an ever-increasing hole in the kitchen ceiling, her response was to just have people throw a towel on the kitchen floor before showering from then on. This is how things work at my house. So, it was reasonable to assume that unless I put a little fright into Toula, she’d decide, “Oh well, I guess there’s just a bad smell and a persistent roar coming from that room from now on,” and just live with it.

When she came back downstairs, she had two things to report. First, July wasn’t dead or, indeed, even at home. And second, the mysterious noise was a hair dryer that had somehow been left on all day.

Of course this just raised more questions, the primary one being this: How could July just fail to notice that she’d left her hair dryer on and leave the house? But when July came home later, very much alive, I learned that the power had gone out while she’d been drying her hair (which is easy to believe, considering how rickety our local power grid is, although I’m not sure why none of the clocks needed to be reset), and she simply hadn’t switched her hair dryer into the “off” position. So, when the power came back on, so had the hair dryer.

So, as I told my friends at the party, though she’d actually created quite a fire hazard, she’d done it in a very accidental and understandable way, and happily, no one was dead, including July. Case closed.

With that, one of the other girls nodded and said she knew exactly what I meant. Then she went on to describe, in a very chipper and matter-of-fact way, this one time when her father died alone in his apartment and lay there decomposing for a week until she went to investigate and got firefighters to bust his door down. So my story kind of got upstaged in the end.

2 Responses to “The mystery of the mysterious noise (or Cadavers smell like cold cuts, I’m also told)”

  1. 1 hilly

    As compared to other times when her father died in less isolated and inconvenient places? “Oh, Dad’s always dying these days. He’s getting up there in years, you know!”

  2. Jesus. Talk about a Hitchcockian twist-ending to this post.

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