Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Neat Freak, Part 1

About a year ago, I wrote a short story for Hauntcast Magazine, and I thought I'd share it with you. If you like it, please feel free to share the link to my blog so others can read it. I only ask that out of courtesy and common decency, you observe copyright laws, o.k.?

So here goes!

Neat Freak


The front door slammed, the noise symbolizing a few hours of peace for her. The kids, Jamie and Todd, were off to school and her husband, Jeremy, would be on his way to work after dropping them off. Peggy sighed with relief and went about her routine of restoring order to her home.

She started in the kitchen, with the dishes. She scraped the usable waste into an airtight container for her compost pile, and then started washing up. She stood at the sink; her hands were encased in thick, heavy-duty blue latex gloves. She was up to her elbows in scalding water and soap bubbles, looking out the window into the back yard. Her prize roses were in riotous bloom, reminding her of the first time she saw them, back when they first looked at the house with their realtor.

She had wandered, alone, into the garden, and noticed the roses right away. They were neglected back then, wilting slightly and covered with aphids. Her heart went out to them. Roses were her favorite flower.

“Those roses used to be lovely,” a voice commented. She thought the voice was coming from behind the fence to her right. She glanced over, trying to see between the slats, but couldn’t catch a glimpse of whomever was talking to her.

“I’m sure they haven’t been fed in at least a year, since the house was last occupied,” the neighbor (she was sure it was a neighbor) continued.

Peggy shook her head sadly. “What a shame. They could be so beautiful!”

“Well, dear, they will when you move in and feed them what they need to grow and be beautiful again.”

And just like that, she decided she would convince Jeremy to buy the house.

As she stood at the sink, washing her dishes and gazing through the window, it occurred to her she hadn’t yet met that neighbor, though the neighbor called from time to time on the phone to discuss—what, exactly? She couldn’t precisely remember, but she seemed to recall an overall sense of approval from the neighbor for her attention to her household cleaning routine and of course, the feeding and care of the roses. Anyway, Peggy was much too busy cleaning right now to go over for a visit.

Her mind whispered, It’s been four months since you’ve moved in. Surely you can leave the house, now?

She ignored it and looked out her window again, her gloved hands viciously scrubbing.

The children’s toys were everywhere, as usual. It seemed that no matter how many times she told them to put things away, to clean up after themselves, try to be neat for the good Lord’s sake, they never did. Jamie was 10, and should be able to clean up after herself by now, but she would not. Worse, she encouraged Todd, who was 7, to follow in her footsteps. Peggy’s jaw tightened. Was it too much to ask for them to tidy up? To stop making so much work for her?

In the corner of the yard was Peggy’s compost bin, the one she used for dead leaves and grass. Next to it sat the bins she used for vermicomposting, or composting using worms to break down the waste. People who knew Peggy were surprised that she would be interested in composting at all, since she was a notorious neat freak. But Peggy liked the idea of trash and waste being broken down into the nutrients she could use for her prize roses. She liked the idea so much she had Jeremy buy her a wood chipper with a “fine” setting to get her branches and larger garden waste to neat and tidy little piles to put in her bins. The smaller the pieces, the faster the compost, and the bigger the blooms on her roses. She idly wondered if it was time to add some new waste material to her piles.

She finished the dishes and stacked them neatly in the dishwasher. Jeremy always teased her about washing the dishes (with soap and burning hot water!) before putting them in her brand new dishwasher, but she wouldn’t listen to his remarks. After all, who knew how many germs were left if you just put the dishes in the dishwasher?

She looked up and noticed the counter had a few crumbs on it. Her jaw tightened again and she made a disgusted noise. Under the sink was her can of cleanser (With Bleach and Other Whitening Agents! the label screamed). She pulled it and a new scrub pad out, removed the wrapping on the pad and carefully disposed of it in the new trash compactor. As she did, she noticed she was running low on scrub pads. Jeremy complained that she didn’t need to use a new one every day, that it was wasteful, but she knew better. Hadn’t she seen the news show the other day about how many nasty germs lived in them? They were filthy breeding grounds for who knew how many as-yet undiscovered diseases.
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That's part one, kids! Tune in for part two tomorrow!

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