Weekend Wanderer: Cleaning Led to a Terrible Discovery

weekend wanderer

I made a gruesome discovery last week.

It was Friday. The day yawned beautifully before me.

Nothing hinted at the evil lurking in the hours to come.

Rather, it was — to quote Bill Withers — a lovely day. Temperate. Gentle breezes. Puffy clouds floating through the sky.

And I was alone.

I am finding myself home alone more often these days. The kids off working, my husband off doing his little outdoorsy things.

I dig that, that alone time. For introverts, it is what stops us from, you know, leaving.

It is also when introverts watch plane crash documentaries that we really shouldn’t be watching because we’re flying in four weeks. But who cares? Four weeks away is four weeks away and there’s a whole bag of cookies with a certain introvert’s name on it and those cookies love plane crash documentaries.

But on this particular Friday, no. No plane crash documentaries.

I had some serious cleaning to do.

My house suffered critical damage during the pandemic, what with everyone constantly home like that. By the time the pandemic eased, Indy was heading for Marion’s bar in Nepal. Then Uncle Ron decided to join him and by then I didn’t care anymore.

But it’s been a month and as it turns out, houses, teens, and outdoors-loving husbands are not self-cleaning ovens no matter how hot you get about the food splatters appearing daily on the side of the fridge facing the dishwasher.

So on Friday, I cleaned.

I had my bucket of soapy water. I had my sponges and paper towels. I had my ripped clothes and those raggedy sneakers I just can’t part with because I ran the Marine Corps Half Marathon in them, and I can still see Indy dropping me off at the starting line and cheering me on at mile twelve.

I opened all the windows, letting the spring air replace the years of pent-up ick. I turned the music up. Way up, until my Apple Watch dinged with a loud noise warning.

Then I turned it up some more.

I scrubbed and sang. I dusted and danced. I mopped and refused to mope over the last four months.

Until I got to the part I really hate.

Vacuuming behind the sofa.

It’s not the dust and stale Cheerios I object to. On the contrary, sucking up that detritus is satisfying enough to make Mick Jagger change his tune.

No. The problem is the crawl space behind our sofa.

Let’s be honest. Amongst the hoard of things I fear, the crawl space is possibly the most reasonable. Crawl spaces are inherently creepy.

I’ve never been in our crawl space. I don’t know how far it stretches beneath the second floor of our split level. I’m not interested in finding the dead bodies, remnants of occultism, or subterranean caverns lurking in its depths. If anything needs to be done in that crawl space — well, that’s what I have a husband for, isn’t it?

The crawl space is covered by a tightly latticed wood screen that long ago ceased to anchor into its track. Meaning when the sofa is pulled away from the wall by, say, an alone me jauntily singing along to Billie Joe Armstrong’s rendition of Kids in America — well. That’s when that screen just falls open, isn’t it?

The screen fell open that Friday and, as per usual, I reacted like I do to horror movies because that crawl space is its own horror movie.

Which is to say I looked. I looked at the area of crawl space I could see because an awful, morbid part of me always hopes for that dead body. Remnant of occultism. Subterranean cavern.

Can you imagine what a triumphant day that would be? To have one of my fears validated?

I would be vindicated after years of mockery. Mockery over my fear of reptiles. My fear of swimming over large objects. My fear of scuba diving. Also flying, mildew, sharks, portable toilets, the basement of my father-in-law’s hunting club, getting buried alive, submarines, and getting buried alive in submarines.

Just, you know, to name a few.

It would also be the most terrible of days. First of all, someone’s possibly dead in my crawl space. Secondly, can you imagine living with me after one of my phobias proves all too real? I’d never stop crowing I was right.

And fear would forever moor me to my sofa.

Well, fear would forever moor me to the other sofa. The one that doesn’t sit against the crawl space.

I looked in the crawl space. And there — right there in its ghastly maw — was a mouse, dead in a mouse trap.

Oh, this was bad in so very many ways.

I had, at that moment, no husband around to dispose of the carcass. Worse, I had six hours to endure before he got home. How could I consider that room — no, the entire house — clean when a decaying mouse lurked in its innards?

And the last problem, well, only Doc Brown and his DeLorean could undo that. Because the last problem gnaws at my brain like that mouse gnawed at the peanut butter in the trap.

How long, exactly, was that mouse dead in the trap? How many nights had I reclined on my sofa, happily munching on cookies, sipping wine, watching Stranger Things — and all the while a mouse corpse was decomposing mere feet from my body?

“Hey,” my husband said when I voiced this thought, “at least you know we don’t have a snake in the house. If we did, there’d be no mouse in the trap.”

Was that — was that supposed to make me feel better? Erase that thought from my head? Because if so, he is just the worst Doc Brown ever.

And he’s given me something else to fear.

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