February 9, 2014


        I have spent the past two weeks worrying about housecleaning.  Not doing it, just worrying about it. 
You see, we are those “lower than whale poop” types of folks known to the surrounding homeowners as “renters.” 
I don’t know why renters are regarded this way.  Stij and I are kind, considerate people and have not received so much as a polite “your front yard sucks, it is a weed-ridden mess, clean it up or else” note from the HOA.
Perhaps it is the former renters of this house who we are paying the social price for.  From what I understand, before us, there were a group of Harley guys who would laugh out loud upon hearing the word, ‘muffler.’  They shouted when they spoke because they had no hearing left. They worked the graveyard shift, presumably at a home for the deaf, and would pull out of the driveway just as the entire neighborhood was drifting off to sleep. 
Or maybe it was the renters before them.  People still talk about the family who never went outside wearing anything but head-to-toe  Ewok costumes…at least everyone thought they were costumes.  Some people assumed that it was in protest of the ‘no dogs’ rule, but there is far from majority agreement on this.
We’ve been living here for nine years now.  Never missed a rent payment.  Quiet, keep to ourselves.  Maybe they think we’re serial killers.  And we did rebuild the house at our expense after the giant bread mishap and actually added improvements previously absent, so no harm, no foul there.
At any rate, I was discussing housecleaning, wasn’t I?
When one rents, you see, one is subject to a demeaning little visit every so often from the Property Manager (we have one of those, too, making us overseen by the owner, the HOA, and the PM.  San Quentin is less surveilled.).  They send someone out to do a walk-through to be sure you have the required safety features, and aren’t hiding any dogs on the premises.
So I figured I’d better start cleaning.  We are not slobs, but there is a bit of clutter around, and I really could rake the living room a bit more often than I do.
Stij entrusted the cleaning to me, since he had to spend time making a living.  He walked into the living room just as I was finishing up.
“You’ve been doing this for over an hour and it doesn’t look like you’ve picked up a single thing,” he remarked.
“I haven’t.  I drove to the store and bought this,” I said, indicating the brand new easel, canvas, tubes of paint and jar of brushes.
“I see.  You’re going to do a painting called ‘Still Life Among the Ruins’ are you?”
I smiled and shook my head sadly because he had completely missed the brilliance of my cunning plan.  “I can avoid cleaning this room entirely!  If people think you’re an artist, they forgive a mess!”
“And exactly how much did today’s scheming set us back, Lucy.  You have some ‘splainin’ to do.”
“$167.00.  But look how much time it saved!  I can do other things, now.”
“Such as?”
“Well, I bought some cactus plants to put in the den.  It will make the layer of dust look like part of the décor.”
“You’re going to have to do some cleaning, you know.”
“Oh, what for?  I like the house to have a ‘lived-in’ look, don’t you?”
“This one has a ‘no survivors’ look.”
“You’re very funny for someone with no teeth.”
“I have teeth.”
“Not for long.”
“I’m going back to my shop. The inspector is due at 4:00 today. You have six hours. Will you be ready with a house that will pass?”
“Of course.”
“Oh, and by the way, I think the refrigerator needs to be defrosted.”
“Because I don’t think there’s supposed to be frost on the outside.”
“And there is a bunch of stuff—I say ‘stuff’ because I can’t identify it—that needs to be thrown out in there.”
“Is it ripening green or rotting green?”
“Let’s put it this way:  When I say I am going to raid the refrigerator, I mean that that’s what I intend to spray it with.”
Stij glances around the living room, shudders, then goes back to making cabinets.
I went back to work.  I pulled out every souvenir from every place we’d ever traveled and festooned the bedroom with them.  This tells the viewer that we are world travelers and have little time to clean.
The kitchen was next.  I blowtorched the outside of the refrigerator to melt the frost, then blowtorched the floor to evaporate all the water.  It gave the linoleum a really interesting look, too.
While sorting through my pots and pans, I discovered a really filthy roasting pan that I absolutely couldn’t get clean, so I filled it up with fresh apples that I bought earlier in the day, and brought it over to my neighbors’ house.  Neighbors always return pots and pans sparkling clean, so that problem was now taken care of, since I wanted to make a roast later in the week.
I thought about cleaning all the light fixtures, but then decided to just opt for stronger bulbs.  Much to my delight, I discovered that it’s possible to buy 5000 watt light bulbs!  The fixtures looked great after all the dirt burned off.
As far as the bathrooms went, I just bought a huge piece of limburger cheese for each and closed the doors.  One sniff and no inspector in the world would want to venture in there—especially after I tell him that Stij has Irritable Bowel Syndrome and has been having bouts of explosive diarrhea.
So that was that, and it only took me a couple of hours.  I sat down and watched a movie.
At 4:00, the bell rang.  I dashed to the door and admitted the inspector, who seemed reticent to enter, but I chalked that up to shyness.
The tour was completed in record time, and the inspector left, giving us a passing grade.
Stij walked into a house that didn’t look much different from when he left it.  “I hesitate to ask, but did we pass?”
“Well, he didn’t buy a lot of my explanations, so I finally told him that  he had to keep it a secret, but that this house had been chosen for next month’s ‘Better Homes & Gardens’ layout on quick and effective cleaning methods, and they had to take the ‘Before’ pictures before I could do anything to the house.”
“He bought that?”
“After I told him he could be part of the photo shoot, he did.  Evidently, his mom is a big fan of that magazine.
“So what happens in a month?”
“Oh, I think we’ll have moved out by then.”

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