My cheerful sister’s name pops up on the TV screen—I’m still getting used to this technological breakthrough—and I jog to the phone. I have a cordless one that hangs on the wall, and holding the receiver between my left ear and shoulder for countless hours over the years is probably the root of all my evils. So I say hello and tuck the phone in the crook of my neck on the right side instead. This feels awkward, but my plan is that in a year or so, I should be bent back into the correct position.
She asks me how it’s been going since I got back from Minnesota, and I tell her pretty good. My cats have ended the second battle in the War for Domestic Dominance, and it didn’t involve SUD missiles this time (Submissive Urination and Defecation). No pee sprays across the kitchen floor, no twists of perfectly formed poo pinched off into the space between the carpet and the lowest glass shelf on my entertainment center, like a specimen on display.
“You sound happy,” she says.
“Well, my house is a wreck because I’m rearranging my furniture, I still haven’t been to the store for fresh food, I haven’t been to the gym in two months, and normally I would be beating myself up for all of that,” I say as I use my new carpet rake to fluff up the flattened sections that have been smashed down for seven years. “But last year I said to myself, ‘I can’t do all of this anymore,’ so I cut back, but still I was sooo busy, so I decided something else had to go, and you know what it was?”
“What?” she says.
“Regular dusting.” I imagine her face going into the “Whoa, wasn’t expecting that answer” mode, because if anybody knows me, they know that when I’m in my right mind, I’m a clean and orderly person. I might kick my shoes off, but I line them up at the end of my bed later. I’m just that way. I sat on a chair and watched my mom floss her teeth every night for a jillion years, therefore I floss my teeth most nights. Simple equation.
“Wow Katie, good for you,” my sister says. “So you’ve decided it’s okay to be the eccentric professor.”
“Yes,” I say, realizing just then that I have been the eccentric professor; I’ve just felt guilty about it. I would have denied it to anyone. I would have denied a lot of things. I guess I’m not into denying things anymore. Good for me.
My sister is talking about her kid being sick, but somebody’s ringing the doorbell, so I peek out there. It’s Rene, the pest control guy. I say goodbye to my sister and hang the phone back up on the wall and open the door to Rene. He has been such a vast improvement over Edmo.
“Did you forget I was coming today?” he asks, knowing that I have. I’m glad to be wearing a t-shirt that doesn’t have holes in the armpits, though Rene has seen me in worse.
“No,” I say, lying. Rene is shy and I’m sure he never lies. We talk about making sure to sweep for black widows, and he assures me that he will. Letting him back in and paying him are tasks wrapped up in this busy almost-back-to-school day, but one task that sticks out is removing all of the sticky-pad traps that Rene put down on the floor of my garage. They’re for roaches and scorpions, but they often attract geckoes and bald eagles, the “better” animals.
I dislike these traps so much that that I begin to dislike Rene. I know it’s faulty reasoning—Rene was just doing his job, and he doesn’t know I hate sticky traps—but in my mind Rene is no longer shy but ignorant and closed-minded, a twisted young man. His sticky traps are an affront to all that I know is right. Rene hates animals, and I would never be friends with him if he wasn’t a family member.
Hold on, I’m still stuck on Christmas.