or, About That Fire I Started at Your House
have never been so surprised. You shower every day, I
think. You show up for work on time. But my first visit to
your home left me speechless. From cheese puffs on speckled stairs
to yogurt on the ceiling (the ceiling??) to the malodorous cat litter
box conveniently placed outside the guest bedroom door, I become afraid
to look anywhere, for fear of witnessing some other succulent (to
But averting my eyes to the floor
is ever so much worse. I wonder if you've ever used a vacuum cleaner in
the four years you've lived here. Yet there the vacuum sits next
to the fireplace, bag innards spewing from a split abdomen.
I stumble over a syrupy plate, sending a sticky fork across the
linoleum. "Whoops!" I say and scramble to pick it up, but you stop me
with a laugh and say "I'll clean it up later." Perhaps you are waiting
for just the right time. Perhaps there will come a day when everything
in the house is completely covered, soaked, sprayed and
cluttered. A day where every cupboard is bare, every closet
emptied, every food bag spilled and there are no forks left (not even
the plastic ones from Kentucky Fried). Perhaps that day will be called
'later'. I watch the children rolling on the floor,
peanut-buttered and jellied faces slowly being wiped clean. I try
focusing on conversation while eyeing a chocolate-covered peanut in a
fur coat, swaying near a bookcase.
I know immediately that I must not stay too long, for if a glass of
water is offered I would feel inclined to accept because perhaps I
might be a bit over-the-edge nice. But I agree to a cigarette.
When I move to light it, you say, "Oh, we NEVER smoke in the house. The
kids, you know." I nod, but I don't know. You strain to open the slider
door, and out on the deck we go. You sit in your chair and I stand,
touching as little as possible, wedged between a large green bag of
buzzing trash and a rusty, knob-less gas grill.
And despite the pink pollacked ceiling, the chocolate milk stucco, the
macaroni and cheese doorknobs, the sticky linoleum; despite the
high-chair sinking into cookie-battered carpet and potatoes, so many
potatoes, all cuts and sizes of the fried, fast-food variety.
Despite this obvious need or lack, depending how one looks at it, I,
over-the-edge-nice, fail (when setting the fire) to do it inside the
house. Instead I manage to destroy half your deck: several deck boards,
a child's lawn chair (oops.here, have a French fry, make it all
better), a Rubbermaid container filled with pool swimmies and a Loch
Ness Monster blow-up that was left sealed inside when wet, and a
cornflower blue plastic Dollar Store bucket with one thousand, nine
hundred fifty-eight cigarette butts, floating in a sea of
Perhaps if I had stayed longer, I might've become less over-the-edge nice.