One gossipy person has already instituted the term "reality check," just so you know. But we already weighed in on that one a few years back. Some of us are more stuck with our "reality" than others. I have some stake in keeping decorum with my visitors, beyond what may widely be understood. Part of that decorum includes discretion, so I have not explained who my guests were, or where they came from, other than to describe them as "family."
Since I had agreed to host, and since I live in a barn, I thought it would be wise to clean the barn and hide the kinds of items children could use to kill themselves or one another. I began in the far back room, which someone intended as a laundry room, where my dear kitteh had spent her last few months. There were weevils that had fed on crumbs of dry cat food, dust from ages of clay cat litter which had settled over everything, blotches of unknown matter of cat origin on the linoleum, tools of various descriptions which could all be used by a creative child as torture devices, and the unmistakable stench of final misery in that room. I did a damn fine job of cleaning it.
I believe I then proceeded to my own bedroom and vacuumed a lot. There was a simultaneous concern about fleas, which I had detected earlier, but it was not an overwhelming population of fleas as I have seen in the past. Still, I reasoned that an appropriate treatment with some preventative chemicals would be better than having annoyed guests complaining of flea bites, so I proceeded, and likewise in the living room. I had also located some appropriate chemicals for the lawn, which I used sparingly on two different days. I had made semi-advances in the kitchen and bathroom when my guests arrived.
What happened for the next two weeks did not violate the terms of service that I had expressed earlier, nor can I explain the sequence in which things came unraveled. I was immediately occupied by the children in the group, while one of the adults began fiddling with the wires behind the two screens. I trusted that they knew what they were doing and began a cycle of cooking, dishwashing, and babysitting that only found relief in the slumbers between midnight and the cool early mornings when I brewed coffee and surveyed the landscape.
One early mishap centered around a laptop computer I had lent to one of the adults, some months ago. The original story was that it worked in the airport, but had ceased to function once it arrived here. A much later rendition of the same story was that the adult had attempted to connect the SVGA monitor cable from my home computer to the monitor output on the laptop, resulting in sparks followed by silence. In any case, I should suspect a blown fuse, if only I can figure out where it hides inside the laptop.
My shed has been in a progressive state of decay since I took possession of it some 20 years ago. The roofing material is gone and the sun shines freely through knotholes in the boards. I broke some plywood panels out of one side of it to make light, and the entire back section has collapsed on an evaporative cooler, the services of which were no longer required. The original shed was a wood frame on a small concrete foundation, stuccoed on the outside, with a frail paneled door that I could only secure with a padlock. The bottom panels of the door had long since vanished, making it easy for anyone’s dog, skunk, possum, or cat to wander in.
Ah, but the little people believed the shed would make a wonderful playhouse, with all its fuels, pesticides, fertilizers, and black widow spiders. They merrily broke out the center panels of the door so they could gain access without having to bend over, oblivious to the intent of my padlock. But certainly this is fixable if I can locate a solid door of the same size and use the same rusty hinges that have weathered there since 1960 or so.
Meanwhile, the adults were appalled at my half-cleaning of the kitchen and bathroom, and took up where I left off. I can’t express enough gratitude to anyone who would lift a finger to help me, since no one ever does; however, I am curious about where they put the windshield wiper motor that was in the middle of the recycling island on the kitchen floor. The motor worked, not that anyone in California needs windshield wipers.
I hereby confess that for 20 years I have hung a piece of fence wire across the entrance to the bedrooms, to keep the cats out. It works. It hangs on (usually) four nails, pounded into vertical beams and bent upward. At the time I devised this frustrating obstacle, I had learned from the original six feline inhabitants that bedroom carpets are not good places to allow free access. Moreover, upon filling my old waterbed back there, both Scuba and I had discovered there were bubbles in the mattress in one corner. I was going to burp them out, but Scuba had a better idea. He pounced on them with his claws and punctured the mattress beyond repair. I slept on a leaky waterbed for a few months and gave up. Hence, the hasty construction with the fence wire across the hallway.
It is now obvious after my guests had a few tantrums with the fence wire that I need to install an actual gate, like a security door, on hinges with a doorknob on the left that is more comprehensible to humans and still impenetrable to cats. While I’m at it, I may as well replace the hallway carpet and secure it to the floor a little better than the rag that’s laying there now. I just happen to have some new carpet rolled up and some new pad that’s never been used. See? I’m halfway there already.
Ah, but the bathtub. Cleaning the bathtub has always been a pain in the ass. That’s why I don’t do it. The fixtures are old, the caulk was done hastily years ago by myself, smeared into the crack with my thumb to keep errant moisture out of the wall. After a bout of cleaning by a guest, I noticed a wad of caulk laying in a corner, so I pulled on it. It was extremely loose. And then the guest persuaded me that there was something horribly wrong inside the wall, behind the faucets and spout.
Sure enough, as I sat there pushing against the tile, I noticed that the four square tiles around the faucets and spout were not solidly mounted. The wall behind them was squishy. I could have gone another 20 years without knowing this, but my guest encouraged me to investigate further. The result is now a four-tile-square hole in the wall from which the faucets and spout stick out. However, it should be said that the timbers in the wall are as solid as they were when the bathroom was constructed in 1952. My task, when I get to it, will be to find some elegant ceramic-handled spigots and a shiny chrome spout to replace the grody and corroded ones, assuming that the appropriate fittings exist, and then cover the entire hole with a single piece of miracle-board, perhaps 24 inches by 24 inches, and use lots of adhesive and caulk to seal the entire abomination forever from the eyes of humanity.
As I pondered this toward the end of my guests’ stay, I noticed the clock on the microwave oven had ceased to function. This annoyed me because I rely on that clock, setting it at least twice a year by the precision of the internet, so I began to investigate. Fortunately there is a wall clock opposite the microwave, and AA batteries in various stages of discharge are plentiful here. But the oven seems to be inoperative. No lights, no beeps, no radiation to heat my chicken enchiladas from the deli. Suspicously a clean empty bowl was on the cutting board across the kitchen, and a sealed can of pumpkin was on the counter, right next to the microwave oven.
Amigos. Por favor. All this time I thought I might actually return to the Great Wall, the never-ending fence project, happily swinging away at the old concrete footing that no longer pleases me, after my visitors had departed. Now I can’t really tell you which thing I’m going to try to fix first. The laptop? The door on the shed? Certainly not the windshield wipers. The microwave? The bathtub? The gate in the hallway and the carpet? I already know what I’ve done with things that needed to be repaired in the past. I just work around them. I know where Fry’s is.
The inescapable truth is that I hate work, even though you can learn a lot from doing it. I already had things to do and fix that haven’t been done or fixed yet. The inescapable truth is that I often use "work" as an excuse for not doing anything else that I don’t want to do. While it’s true that things did not turn out as badly as they could have, things have been brought to my attention that were previously tolerable. I have to decide what to do about them. If history is any indication, there’s a strong possibility that I might do nothing. And that worries me. About this much.