Friday, August 15, 2008

Banal Thoughts On Domestic Engineering

“No way are you getting away from me, you dirty rotten bastard!” I yelled like a screaming banshee as I tore after the spider. He made a mad dash for the crevice between the wall and the floorboards, and I imagined him sticking his little spider tongue out at me as he fled.

He was fast. I was faster and headed him off at the pass. Like a successful gunslinger, I sucked him and his six legs into the vacuous caverns of my Hoover, blowing on the end of my smoking hose like Sheriff John - except he’d never killed anything. It had been a fair fight - my desire to clean house was far inferior to his desire to live and spin webs another day. Today luck was on my side, and it became a victory for the two-legged creatures of my household. The six legged creatures had been put on notice and would have to reside elsewhere.

Normally, their living quarters aren’t much an issue. On any given day the spiders and dust bunnies rule my roost, throwing lavish garden parties while inviting any and all to open up condos in my fireplace or windowsills. However, their increasing brazenness has finally caught my attention and I’ve been forced to become the Toxic Avenger, armed mightily with a vacuum cleaner, dust rag and Agent Orange.

Taking a temporary break from my usual job as a writer is much more difficult than one would think. It’s far easier to blend in with the dining room furniture that serves as my office and allow the words to flow through the filters of my brain to my fingers to my keyboard. Forced into this submissive role of playing housewife is demeaning, and I consider taking another look at my marriage contract. I quickly abandon the idea. After nearly thirty years of marriage, I’m hardly in a position to re-negotiate with a wonderful man who puts up with my lack of culinary skills.

My husband and I settled these issues years ago. He would cut the grass and stomp around the attic in search of all the Christmas stuff and I would clean the house and occasionally iron. I nearly went on strike one year when he insisted on buying larger houses. This was never a part of the deal, I remember complaining bitterly. At the time we lived in a one bedroom hole that I could clean by opening the front door when there was a stiff breeze outside.

Opening the door to this house merely invites all the leaves to join whatever flotsam and jetsam already occupy the corners of all the rooms. So, today as I sat and tried to write with brilliance, the only thing that I could concentrate on was how dusty my monitor had become. Giving it a quick dust gave me a wonderful sense of accomplishment. I should have known I was toast after taking a gander at the floors and coffee table. Spying the layer of grime, the words wouldn’t flow, and the filter between my brain and fingers shut down. ‘Clean before Write’ seemed to be the only thing on the menu. Having no choice, I decided to reacquaint myself with the aged vacuum cleaner that sucks up more than my sixteen-year old daughter does when begging for a new prom outfit.

Two hours later the floors are finished and I’m thrilled. Gone are the chunks of blond dog hair that Mae West sheds like tiny bird nests every five minutes. I spy some dust on the walls and I wonder at the physics that allows dust to land vertically on a wall. Is this some freakish twist of the Space/Time continuum whereby dust doesn’t need a flat surface to create angst to the poor slob holding the business end of a vacuum? I change attachments and begin to go down the wall toward the front door, vaguely aware that I’m testing the yardage of the electrical cord. The vacuum finally dies of its own accord. The cord has stretched beyond its limits and pulls out from the plug. That’s good enough for me, I think gaily and roll the beast back to its nesting area.

Now, I admit I could have merely found a closer plug and continued vacuuming my walls, but I was overtaken with humiliation. What if someone came by and asked me what I was doing? I’d have to admit I was vacuuming the walls, and I just don’t think I can take that kind of rejection. To say that I actually need to vacuum my walls is to acknowledge that I’m a complete failure at Domestic Engineering. My friends all have lovely homes. Clean and tidy. So tidy you could eat off their floorboards. Mine are only good for creating a hiding place for spiders that are occasionally faster than I.

Screw this…I’m getting a maid.

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