Cleaning House

CleaningA little after noon, my real estate agent called. His tone said I was not the person he wanted to speak to.

He asked if I had talked to my wife.

I told him no. She was on the road and hadn’t phoned or text-ed for a few days. I suspected she was enjoying a break from me.

“Is this about an offer?” I asked.

I don’t know why I thought that, we only had one showing in two months – which I blame on the weather. We were getting a blizzard a week and snow drifted right up to the window ledges. Who wants to shop for a house in weather like that?

“No,” he said, before falling silent.  He did that when he wanted to avoid an unpleasant topic.

I let the silence grow because I wanted to avoid unpleasantness too.

I was having a great day.  Why ruin it? With my wife away, I could eat what I like.  So I spent the morning cleaning the house and cooking gumbo – the way I like it; hotter than a volcano.

“Uh,” he said at last, “I scheduled a showing at three this afternoon.”

“No problem,” I told him. “I’ll be out by two.”

It failed to put him at ease. He explained that these buyers were very picky and he wanted to give them a good first impression, so the house had to be clean.

I resented his implication. “I have been cleaning all morning,” I told him.

Seriously, why did he think the place would be a mess?

“Great!” he said, but he sounded a bit suspicious. “These are very thorough buyers,” he explained, “They’ve rejected a couple of places, so it wouldn’t hurt to go over everything once again.”

“The house is spotless,” I assured him.

“Wonderful!!” he said, and hung up.

I lied.

I did clean. I was honest about that but I also spent the morning making a mess. Bits of vegetables littered the counter; onion husks chased shrimp tails across the linoleum and spicy brown juice oozed across the stove top. In short, the kitchen was a disaster.

It is not hard to guess why I lied. He felt he had to go over my head to my wife about cleaning – but not to worry; there was plenty of time for that.

But first… I was going to enjoy the meal I had been waiting for all morning.

I filled a big stone bowl with steaming gumbo, cracked open a beer and turned on the TV. I had hours to clean the kitchen.

***

I don’t know what woke me. Perhaps it was the crunch of car tires on the frozen driveway – but whatever it was; it was the sound of deep trouble. Typically, real estate agents do not want the sellers around during a showing – and I had promised a clean empty house.

I grabbed my coat, pulled on my boots and headed for the back door but what to do about the mess?

I whirled back into the kitchen, wiping down the stove with my right sleeve and swiping the counter-top clean with my left. Next I swept everything I just knock onto the floor – out the back door.

But what about the dirty pots and bowls?

The dishwasher was full of clean plates and I didn’t have time to put them away, plus I had been warned about leaving dirty dishes in the machine during showings.

There was no time; the Realtor was fumbling with the key-box at the front door. So I opened the kitchen window and chucked everything: dishes, bowls, pots and strainers out into a snowbank.

Just as the key turned in the front door lock, I bolted out the back door, taking a few moments to kick fresh snow over the sweepings and dishes.  Then I dodged off into the woods to take refuge at a neighbor’s.

We were watching NASCAR on the big screen TV in my neighbor’s shed when the Realtor called. The man was not happy.

“Why did you throw your dishes into a snow drift?” he wanted to know.

“How the hell did you find them?” I asked.

“I told you, these buyers were very, very thorough. It didn’t take them long.”

“Sorry,” I said. I really was. I hadn’t meant to lie and I fully expected the place to be clean.

“Uh,” I added, “we don’t have to tell my wife about this, do we?”

“She already knows,” he said.

My neighbor, who from my side of the conversation, knew I was in trouble with my wife. “Do you want to stay in my shed until things blow over?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said.

“Only one thing,” he said.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Don’t make a mess. You got quite a reputation, you know.”