or, About That Fire I Started at Your House


I 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 Templeton) morsel.

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 (, 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 summer-induced kindling.

Perhaps if I had stayed longer, I might've become less over-the-edge nice.