Just Buggy: a Nudge of Sloth (not for the faint of heart)
The doorbell rings again. “Just a minute,” Clara calls scrambling around her house with armfuls of magazines and laundry. Nevertheless, the doorbell continues to ring, sounding even louder and more urgent than before. Out of sheer frustration, she parts the drapes and looks out to the porch to see who her uninvited, yet persistent guest is. Her arms open up and the mound of clutter grasped in them falls into a heap in the rocking chair.
“Come in,” Clara sounds as courteous as she always does, which is a trade that good housecleaners with repeat customers, always have. Her brother enters and does a once-over as he passes his kid sister, taking in his surroundings of her disgustingly cluttered front room.
“My God,” he stammers, half-laughing while he shakes his head in disbelief, “I thought you cleaned houses for a living! Changed jobs, have you? Pray tell, what is it now, dare I ask?”
“Okay, Parker, cut the crap and tell me why you’re here for crying out loud.” After growing up in the nit-picky household she had grown up in with a mother who complained that her socks were on the wrong feet, she didn’t need it from her brother too.
He gingerly walks to the fireplace and drags his index finger across the mantel before wiping it on his pants. A few towels and slacks tangle around his feet as he strolls to the rocking chair and removes the items she recently placed there in order to have a seat. “You may be happy to know your mother has passed, Clara. Of course she’ll roll in her grave if she could see you now.”
Taking a seat across from him, on the sofa, she removes some bedclothes so she can sit evenly. “You know, I’ve lived clean all my life for everyone else, and I even clean for others now. By the time I get home my hands are bleached white, dry and cracking to the point sometimes they bleed. My back feels like I’m ninety and God help me when I finally am! I certainly don’t need to hear from my brother, who never comes by to say squat, telling me I’m not doing my fair share.” She takes a deep breath and continues, “So, she’s dead, huh?”
Parker shifts before removing a hairbrush from behind his back, “Yes, she’s passed. I thought you might want to pay your respects as the funeral and viewing are going to be…”
“Would you care for some coffee?” she squints, giving her head a small shake, “I can make some. It’s no problem, really.”
“No,” he takes a deep breath before continuing, “As I was saying, the viewing is going to be…”
“Let’s cut the bull and I’ll save you the time by just saying it, okay?” her eyes drift to the pile of clothes in the corner of the living room, positioned behind the rocker. “I really don’t give a rat’s gnat about someone as overbearing and obsessively clean as she was. She judged everyone, simply by whether or not they were clean by her standards. That’s not the type of mother I care to claim. Besides, she hasn’t spoken to me in over eight years and it’s been longer since she’s seen me.”
Planting his feet squarely on the floor, he shuffles to the door and opens it before turning around to address her. “I’ll be back tomorrow to talk to you about it some more. Do yourself a favor and think about it tonight. I’d hate for you to regret your decision later.” Opening the door himself, he exits and quietly closes it behind him.
Not knowing whether to laugh because her mother was finally dead, or cry because she was never able to make it right before she did, Clara sits down on a pile of filthy laundry and cries until she laughs. “You bitch,” she murmurs in between delirious giggles, “You got your way, anyhow, didn’t you? Guilt galore!”
When she finally feels like she got her wits back about her, she went into the kitchen to make a meal. On the counter, she sees the coffee maker under a cookie sheet, old coffee stains coating the inside of the pot. It seems like forever since she’s been able to sit and enjoy a cup, so she removes the pan and opens the lid to remove the filter. Coating the inside of the cavity is mold covered coffee grounds and she winces as she pulls back from the pot. After contemplating, she decides to rinse it out and make some fresh coffee anyway.
The garbage is overflowing and there are paper bags circling the trash can, each with its share of refuse in it, and then some. Carefully, she tiptoes to the one she feels has the least litter in it to empty the filter and while she dumps it, she notices something. Leaning in to get a closer look, she sees maggots in the old coffee grounds in the grocery bag. Tilting the filter up to have a look in it as well, she sees she has interrupted their home as they squirm to cling to the bottom. “Ah,” she screams before dropping the basket on the floor and stepping back to grab the broom and dustpan.
Quickly, she sweeps up the entire basket and tries to determine where to put it. There are no receptacles empty enough to hold it, so she takes it out behind her house. The screen door squeaks shut as she sees the garbage can there is full also, and she realizes she can’t even recall what day of the week garbage day falls on. “This is crazy!” she sighs aloud, “Plum crazy!” Setting the dustpan down, she returns to the house and goes inside.
“Clean your room, it looks like a pig pen!” she could hear her mother’s voice echo. “You’re never going to get a man if you can’t care for him. Make no mistake, there are plenty of good-looking women who can keep a man happy and clean his castle.” Spinning around to where the voice is coming from, she sees no one.
“Leave me alone!” she shrieks, covering her ears, “Go away and leave me alone!”
The voice chuckles, “You are alone, you worthless crumb. Go figure.”
The voice and the heat is daunting as her head begins to spin and she catches herself with one hand on the back of the couch. Stabilizing herself, she sits down, pushing the clothes in the other direction when she notices a shirt beginning to crawl away. Her brows pull together as she hesitates before snatching the shirt in one hand and tossing it to the floor. A huge rat whips around and snarls at her, its hair standing on end like a perturbed cat before it scampers away, dragging its long tail behind it.
Her head is whirling as she tries to make a decision of what to do when she feels something pinching the back of her heels. The house slippers she is wearing don’t have backs on them, and she wonders what is scratching them as she looks down to see her slippers inundated by a colony of red ants. They rise and fall, moving as a small tide as her feet begin to disappear beneath them. Swatting at her heels with both hands and shaking them in an effort to remove them, she falls backwards and lands in a bedspread. Still, she feels an occasional ant bite and swats to kill it before sinking into the bedspread exhausted.
Growing tired and weary from working so hard and having so much stress is finally getting the better of her, she has to admit. Her eyes grow heavy and her eyelids begin to droop before she feels the surface she’s lying on begin to tremble, ever so slightly. Her eyes pop open as the trembling grows and the whole bedspread seems to be alive until the edges fold upward, revealing an overabundant intrusion of cockroaches, like a miniature red sea closing in on her. Screaming hysterically, she swats and smacks at them until she can no longer fight and they invade her hair and her face, climbing into her throat and up her nostrils, climbing over each other’s heads. The fighting ceases and she lies motionless–lifeless except for the insects feasting on her flesh.
The following morning there’s a knock at the door before the doorbell rings several times. The knob rattles before the door slowly pushes open to reveal a bewildered Parker. His chest rises and falls as a smile spreads across his face and he witnesses the inside of his sister’s house. Everything is in its place and no one would ever believe how much its appearance had altered. “Clara!” he calls, certain she’s changed her mind about visiting their deceased mother. The house is immaculate.
Sitting at the table with her back to him, he can see the coffee pot steaming on the table, and a cup of hot coffee in front of her. There’s another on the far side of the table, as if she is expecting him. Parker says, “I have to admit, I’m pleasantly surprised, but I knew you had it in you!” Placing his hand on her shoulder, he gives her a pat. Her body wobbles and tumbles onto the floor in a heap.
“Clara?” he stoops to turn her over as her lips part and a roach escapes to scamper across the spotless floor, into a hole beneath the counter.