Sisyphus with a mop

A friend of Judith's is coming to stay for a few days, and whenever there's a guest I'm hired as clean-up boy. It's nice to have the money, so I shouldn't complain about the work, but I just spent two days cleaning up the house and I'm going to complain.

First off, "cleaning up" seems like the wrong phrase. What I do is more like mess management. I pick up the mess, put away what I can, but most of it doesn't really 'belong' anywhere that I could guess, so it either gets trashed or put into boxes. Lots of trash, and lots of boxes.

Every time I'm clean-up boy, I bundle up another twenty boxes of stuff — board games and baseball mitts, knickknacks and dog toys, unclaimed shoes and neckties, unidentifiable pieces of metal, sunglasses, everything you can imagine — and carry the boxes of stuff into a room that's already filled and overflowing with boxes from the last clean-up. I stack the new boxes on top of the old boxes, which I guess I'll keep doing until the boxes reach the ceiling. They're halfway there.

Among the discoveries this time, there was a walking cane and a set of dentures, but nobody in the house uses false teeth or a cane. Where does this stuff come from?

Lugosi the giant dog is too vicious to be let outside unattended, but inside he's fascinated with everything I pick up. Everywhere I go, every step I take, the dog is in the way, usually with a tennis ball in his mouth, his huge tail knocking things over, and his big eyes wondering why you'd want to do anything but play fetch every minute of every hour.

Even something as simple as changing the sheets in the guest room took 40 minutes. I started by peeling dried cat shit off the bedding, and when the dog saw that something was in my hand he wanted to catch it or eat it. Instead I maneuvered past him, down the hallway, and flushed the turd down the toilet, and the dog's feelings were hurt so I scratched his neck for a minute to apologize.

Then I gathered the dirty bedding in my arms, but there's no hamper in this house, and the laundry room is overflowing with dirty and clean clothes in no discernible order. So I ended up sniffing linen, trying to decide which pile was clean and which was dirty so's I could add the cat-shat sheets to the correct four foot stack of clothes and linen.

Then I came back with sheets that smelled acceptable, but spreading them out on the bed I noticed that one of them was blood-stained, so I went back to the laundry room to sniff more sheets, and found a second sheet that smelled okay, but it wasn't the right size.

Found a third non-stinky set of sheets, but scraped my shins on the way, against something sharp jutting from a box of junk in the hall, and then tripped over the dog on my way back to the guest room. Had to bandage my ankle where it was sliced, but after that the guest bed finally looked OK, with no offensive aroma, nothing disgusting about it at all.

And then I almost forgot to close the door behind me, and that's the most important part. If I don't close the door, the cat will go into the guest room and poop and pee on the bed again.

Oy. By the time the toilet had been scrubbed and the bathroom mopped, the day was done, but the work wasn't half finished.

The next day I worked on the kitchen, washed the dishes, and washed mysterious sticky stuff off the walls.

Cleaning or even walking the hallways is especially difficult, because of the combination of clutter and my fatness. With so many boxes all along the way, I can't traverse the hallways without walking sideways.

And the floors are always covered with a shag carpet's worth of dog hairs, so I swept, but there's no dustpan so I used a pooper scooper, and dumped all the hair into the trash.

It feels like futility, but it pays $5 an hour.

Walk sideways to the john to take a pee, and trip over the dog on the way out. Carry everyone else's clothes from the bathroom to the laundry piles. Pick up dishes full of aging SpaghettiOs, and carry them to the kitchen. Pick up empty microwave meal packaging off the kitchen floor. Flush away moldy half-finished Snapples and put the glass in the recycling...

And Lugosi thinks it's all grand, so he barks barks barks some more.

After two days of work, the house is now somewhat presentable for whoever's coming, but I feel like that Greek guy who's condemned to forever roll a rock up a hill, only my rock is this messy house.

Most frustrating of all, is that a week after the guest has gone, nobody will know the difference. The house will be as messy as before I cleaned it.

♦ ♦ ♦    

Of course, I'm the last person with any right to complain about other people's mess. I'm the diary's titular fat slob, and my room is a mess of my own.

At least my catastrophe, though, is behind a door. It's not for everyone in the house to stumble through.

And I know my litter and clutter well enough to know where to stand and step without breaking glass under my feet.

In the rest of the house, every footstep is a risk. I've stepped on other people's discarded shoes, bottle caps, books, magazines, marbles, thumbtacks, a hundred tennis balls, dog bones, the dog's tail, and onto dried cat poop.

OK, now I've complained. 

This is my home, and maybe it's where I belong. The mess is always good for a few days' paid labor, and now that it's 'clean' I'm going to toss tennis balls for the dog.

♦ ♦ ♦

[Beep.] "Hi, Doug, this is Andrea. I wanted to tell you thanks for everything. You've been wonderful as Shannon's backup babysitter, and we think the world of you, but we're leaving tomorrow, moving to Philadelphia, where my fiance lives. Yes, Ed has asked me to marry him, and I just couldn't be happier! So, Shannon says goodbye, and I wanted to say goodbye, too. We wish you the best, and thanks again for everything. You've been such a pal to both of us."

I've been such a pal.

I've been such a putz.

Goodbye, Shannon. You're a great kid, and you were always up front with me.

And goodbye, Andrea. You're a normal adult, so you were never up front about anything.

I mean, who the hell is Ed? Andrea and I were never close, or close to close, but we probably talked for a couple of hours tallied up over the months, and I've never heard of an Ed.

Every night I was Shannon's sitter, it was because Andrea was going on a date, and it was always a first date or a second date. There was never any mention of anyone named Ed, or any man she'd be ready to marry.

From Pathetic Life #22
Tuesday & Wednesday,
March 19-20, 1996

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.


  1. I was thumbing through some of my old music favorites today, and I came across a couple of Sir Douglas Quintet albums. The SDQ was formed in 1964 in San Antonio and played mostly along the Texas gulf coast. They were formed in response to the British invasion -- the intention was to use a band name that sounded British. Their first single, She's About a Mover, became a hit and they played under various names for the next 40 years.

    The leader, Doug Sahm, was a Texas musician and singer from birth, and the entire band was either Texan or Tex/Mex. They looked a little odd in their Carnaby Street suits and cowboy hats, but they sounded great. Mr Sahm was a lifelong musician, and had played with Hank Williams at Mr. Williams last show (Mr Sahm was 11 at the time).

    The Quintet was recorded by slightly crazy Houston music producer Huey P. Meaux. One of their early recordings was a cover of The Rains Came by Big Sambo and the Housewreckers.

    Everyone in this story is at least slightly crazy.

    Here's Big Sambo and the Housewreckers' version of The Rains Came. . .


    And here's Sir Douglas Quintet's version of the same song . . .


    Nice music all around.


    1. Wow, I really like both versions, but they're so different I might not have noticed they're the same song.

      You really class up this joint, man.


🚨🚨 Click here if you have problems posting a comment. 🚨🚨