Neat Freak, Part 2
Her mouth twisted downwards at the thought of diseases. One of the idiot neighbors once suggested she and Jeremy get a dog for the kids. She launched into a vehement lecture on what foul, dirty creatures they were, how they carried all manner of disease. She was so vehement, in fact, that the neighbor looked horrified. Peggy was sure it was because now he knew that the dog in his own home was a hazard, a bio-hazard, and he would certainly have to get rid of it, if not put it down for good. After all, the ignorant ass had children of his own. It was his duty as a father to protect them from infection!
After she scrubbed the entire counter (and the oven, the floor, the refrigerator and the kitchen table, too, for obvious reasons), she was dripping with the sweat of her efforts. With a satisfied sigh, she stepped into the living room. She stopped short and nearly shrieked with anger.
There were footprints on her white carpet.
Mind you, the footprints weren’t black with dirt, but the pristine pattern left by her vacuum cleaner was ruined. She conscientiously vacuumed every day (sometimes twice) to eradicate dust mites, knowing the tiny aliens were nothing but trouble. Snarling to herself, she stormed to the utility closet and brought out the vacuum. It was one of these cyclone models, with the clear bin so you didn’t have to touch the dirt. She would dump the dirt in the compost pile afterward, thereby making the dirt useful to her precious roses. As she vacuumed, frantic with the need to erase all traces of her family from the room, she made little noises of anger and frustration. Didn’t they understand how much effort it took to clean up after them? Didn’t they appreciate all her hard work?
She stopped, the metallic whine of the vacuum’s motor a comforting drone of cleanliness waiting to happen. No. It was obvious they didn’t, the ungrateful pigs. They were slobs, all of them, just living to make work for her so she couldn’t spend time with her roses. And Jeremy, husband and ringleader, mocking her to the children behind her back. She just knew he did.
She resumed her frantic vacuuming, anger making each pass more energetic.
After she had dumped the clear plastic bin into her compost pile several times (she had vacuumed the entire 2,550 square foot house just for good measure), as well as dumping out the kitchen waste into the vermicompost bins for her darling worms (so tidy, so efficient at cleaning up that nasty waste), she stole a quick moment with her roses. The sweat on her body cooled in the gentle breeze.
A tender smile spread across her face as she took in their sweet, heady scent, reminding her of her mother’s perfume. Her mother was neat and tidy, too. She was married to a military man who demanded his house be kept as neat as a military barracks, and by God, Mother did.
It had taken Peggy years to understand what an ungrateful little beast she had been growing up, leaving messes for her poor mother to clean. In fact, she couldn’t remember being so passionate about housework until she moved into this house, and had to manage her own two ungrateful little beasts.
She caressed a velvet rose petal. The children were clearly hard cases, and Jeremy was too easy on them. She must find a way to make them see the light. She spun on her heel and, regretful at leaving her roses, resolutely stalked back into the house to continue her routine.
Their rooms were a deplorable mess, as usual. She put everything away in their places (order. She must have order here), then moved through the house, picking up and dusting until the house looked just like a model home, like the house she grew up in. Looking like nobody lived there but her. She savored the thought for a sweet moment.
The front door banged open.
“Mom! We’re home!”
“Wipe your feet!” she shrieked as she came around the corner, “They’re dirty!”
Leave it to them to spoil a perfect, solitary moment.
Jeremy came in behind them (was he home already? Where had the day gone? She still had the bathrooms to clean), tracking in a leaf from the driveway and carelessly crushing it into her carpet. The kids had ignored her, as usual, and had run up to their rooms to destroy the perfection she had attained there. Her face hardened.
Jeremy tossed his keys on the kitchen counter (not in the special dish on the sideboard she had bought for that express purpose), and dropped his briefcase on the floor. He kicked off his shoes and left them where they fell in the middle of the kitchen, and went to mix himself a drink from the bar. A headache started behind her eyes, sharp at first, then settling down into steady pounding.
I will not scream, she thought. I will not. She was speechless with anger at his (their, face it, it was all of them) carelessness.
He took a swig of his drink and went to scrounge through her immaculate refrigerator, destroying the orderly rows of jars and food she had so painstakingly rearranged this morning, after emptying the entire thing and giving it a good scrubbing.
The phone rang. She answered. It was her neighbor. Peg smiled slightly, dreamily, listening to her voice praising her clean house and beautiful roses.
Jeremy turned to her. “What’s for dinner, Peg?” he asked. “I didn’t see that you took anything out for dinner.” It was just like him to demand her attention while she was on the phone with someone else.
The kids had come back downstairs, wearing their house clothes (she was sure threw their school clothes all over their rooms and just left them there).
“I saw them come home, Margaret.” The neighbor had always called her by her true name, not her nickname. “They’re making a mess of the house, aren’t they?”
“Yes,” she answered in a shaking whisper. Peg’s headache intensified.
She watched as Todd reached past his dad and grabbed the milk container, unscrewed the top and started to drink from it.
“Todd!” she screamed, holding the phone away from her ear, “Don’t you dare drink from that container! Do you have any idea how germy your mouth is? Do you?”
“C’mon Peg. Lighten up on him. He’s just being a kid,” Jeremy told her.
Peg schooled her face into a mask of calm. Jeremy never used her given name.
Tune in for Part Three tomorrow!