“Cleaning? What’s cleaning? Do I know this? Show me.” The puppy cocks her head and glares at me, daring me to attempt this new adventure.
“Cleaning is something people do to make their homes more healthy and attractive. Free from all the piles of stuff in the corners and bits and pieces strewn across the floors.” Normal people do this. I have it on the best authority.
“Why haven’t we done this before? This place should be prettier.” She gives a puppy sniff of distain. “It could smell better too. You could put cheese around.”
“I believe you may have already done that. I’ve been too busy writing and painting and dealing with your classes to clean thoroughly. It’s long past time.” Many, many months past time. I grit my teeth against the enormity of it all.
“You mean you haven’t cleaned since I came here to live? No wonder it’s such a dump! Such a dump!” The puppy has been watching far too many old movies and scuttles around the littered floor mimicking Bette Davis. “Suuuuch aaaahhhhh duuuuummmmp!”
The actual quote is “What a dump” but the puppy has never been strong on accuracy. I sense now is not the time to correct her. Ignoring my darling for as long as possible, I consider a plan of attack.
January in Maine is far too cold to wash windows. Water freezes. Scientific fact. A chore for spring. Check it off the mental list. My telescoping cobweb-cleaning tool is safe within my storage building, the door inaccessible behind a couple feet of snow. Having just dug out the car, the gate and the cellar entrance, I lack enthusiasm for more snow removal. Let the cobwebs decorate my studio’s fourteen-foot ceilings. Again, they’ll keep until spring. Check. Oven? Door is kept closed, so who cares. Check. Refrigerator? Same. Check. This cleaning thing isn’t so bad after all! Then I look down.
Ah, but the floors. The floors. Like flotsam and jetsam washed up by the tides, my floors are a beachcombing delight of dog effluvia, much of it blissfully unidentifiable, but reminiscent of oddities buried in the sand, potentially deadly to the unwary unshod foot. Tiny sharp shards of plastic yoghurt containers decorate one corner of the dining room. The puppy has extricated these most deliberately from the recycling bin and in licking the miniscule remains of sour dairy has, as my grandmother used to say, “Gotten the good out of it.” The pieces are nicely camouflaged by the Oriental rug and I do a little dance when I stomp upon them barefoot. I accompany myself with the appropriate vocals. It is not a pretty sound. She-who-made-the-mess raises her eyebrows. “That’s an ugly noise. And those are very bad words. So I like yoghurt. So what. You would never have noticed if it wasn’t for this cleaning thing.” I slip on a pair of tattered sneakers and gingerly take inventory of the floor litter. I am overwhelmed by the carnage.
I decide to enlist the gods of late night infomercials to aid me. Looks like fun sucking up Cheerios on TV with bright-colored plastic magic appliances. I could use a little fun. The puppy and I trek to The Big Box Store to stock up. I fill the Volvo with cleaning paraphernalia. And ice cream for the soul. Lots of ice cream.
The Shark. The Swiffer. The Wet Jet. All the tools of cleaning voodoo. All just purchased. All scheduled for a return trip to customer service tomorrow. The handle broke. The charger doesn’t work. Suction? What suction? Plastic to clean MY house? Not gonna happen this time around. Knowing I can’t afford the Oreck or that British cool swivel thing, I ultimately resort to my antique heavy steel Electrolux, an art deco model featured in museum exhibits of classic design and secreted in the hall closet awaiting --- what? A visit from The Smithsonian? Still sucks like a hungry vampire (if vampires consumed the remnants of dog toys) and for a workout, it can’t be bested by a gym full of Ab-crunchers, Thigh-slappers, and Butt-clenchers. The exhaust is more than a little odiferous, wafting traces of long-ago German Shepherd hair, but that suction is first rate. Bits of dog toy pelts, cotton stuffing, plastic teddy-bear eyes, mangled parts that defy description, a cornucopia of goodies --- all food for the Art Deco cylinder. I empty the cloth bag numerous times, but when you’re done, you’re done. Every floor surface is finally as clean as I deem necessary for a Mara-house. I am satisfied with my labors.
“Ruuuulllllph. Ruuuulllllph.” The sounds of puppy barf echo down the hall. “Ruuuulllllph. Oh, iccccckkkkkk.” Obviously the steel monster isn’t the only one sucking up floor stuff. I fling the door wide and the puppy bursts outside, spewing forth her own brand of vacuumed crap. Mother’s little helper heaves up a Jackson Pollock abstract onto the fresh snow. Very impressive. I’m not overly concerned for her health. Easy in. Easy out.
“There. That’s better.” She boasts as she swaggers back into the house as if throwing-up is part of our grand cleaning plan. Her logic escapes me once again. Did she really think she was vacuuming? At least the vomit is outdoors.
At the finale of the cleaning frenzy, after the rugs and floors are all presentable enough for an army of Marthas, after stepping outside in the pristine snow for the above-mentioned interlude, I realize I have somehow managed to step in dog excrement and have subsequently managed to track same throughout the house on the newly-cleaned carpets. And so, it begins. Once again.
Causes Mara Buck Supports
Kennebec Valley Humane Society, Amnesty International