I used to be a prep
cook of sorts. Every second Thursday, Manya rang my bell to announce that she
had arrived to scrub my toilet and scour my kitchen sink. The problem was that
I had to tidy the house before she cleaned it.
Hubby laughed at me,
freely pointing out that it was silly for me to give up my early morning
writing time to wipe, sluice, and lave so our charwoman was comfortable
working, and that it was silly for me to pay good money for someone to dust,
sponge, and disinfect surfaces Id already polished. Husbands dont
understand everything; especially they dont understand the needs of
Id answer by:
pouring him a second cuppa, wishing him well on debugging his source code, and
telling him to lift his feet so that I could swab beneath them. Usually, he
sniggered as I guided the mop back and forth under his chair, kissed the top of
my head, and then returned to fumigating his software.
Hubbys opinion, Child One and Child Twos disproportionate
contributions to our homes disorder, and Quellas fleet,
four-footed, weekly disappearances, Manya continued to be part of our
homemaking rituals for years. In fact, until the incident with
Quella, I welcomed the squat Russian lady, who never bothered rubbing her
shoes on my doormat, who always poured herself a cuppa without asking, who sat
with Hubby to drink it while I kept cleaning, and who wouldnt get near
anything that was actually covered with grime.
sensitive disposition, I had to forego mentioning to her: one of our
childrens puke stains in the toilet, the discoloration Quella left on the
carpet, and our many streaked windows. Manya was far better at talking about
cleaning than at actual engaging in housework.
Nevertheless, as long
as I stayed focused on why Manya was part of my life, I was okay with taking
part in weekly bouts of scurryfunge. Truly, if the event involving Quella
hadnt occurred, Manya would still be visiting us regularly.
As it were, one warm
October day, when: Hubby was eradicating software bugs in Zürich operating
systems, the twins were in school, and I was busy wrestling with a manuscript
in my home office, Manya rang the bell. After I let her in, she helped herself
to a cuppa and watched while insisting I remove the baked on grease on our
range top. Every few minutes, she pointed out a missed splatter.
That task done, I left
Many and her cuppa in the kitchen and returned to my office to my new draft of
an old story. I meant to rescue a villain from the jaws of a particularly
hungry two-headed, gelatinous wildebeest. Since: Manyas to do list was
sitting on the table next to her, since I had already reminded her to leave her
empty mug in the sink, not on one of the kitchen counters, and since I had
already pretreated the range top, I felt it was safe to return to
Somewhere between a
beauty contest held for intelligent, Jupiter crustaceans and a human
protagonists wedding to a space bandit, I heard noises that emulated
neither vacuum cleaner nor garbage disposal. However, the sounds stopped just
as quickly as they had begun, so I once more attended to how many suitors the
contest winner enjoyed, and to the nature of reward any intergalactic bounty
hunter could glean for rescuing the chosen bridegroom.
Sometimes later, I
smelled something smoldering. We lack a burn barrel and have no compost pile,
so I figured the odor was related neither to my family nor to Manyas yard
chores. Besides, the large oak tree in our back yard had only begun to shed; it
was unseasonably warm.
Finally, the kids came
home from school. Up until that day, they adored my helper. Theyd linger
with her before giving me hello kisses and would insist that their homework
could wait until her shift ended.
afternoon, when our front door opened and shut, instead of happy squeals, I
heard screams. I pressed save and left my protagonists lover
in the clutches of the Horseshoe Galaxys best fugitive tracker. Moments
later, I wished Id hung back with him in outer space.
Quellas body lay
splayed on our living room carpet, seeping with the sorts of fluids that even I
couldnt remove. Her tail was burnt. Her body reeked of that ozone smell
that follows sticking ones finger into an electric socket. As well, our
dear critters blood was splashed everywhere.
The twins, who were
huddled together, were crying on the sofa. Manya was kneeling by our pet. She
looked up at me, then down at the dead animal, and then at our hysterical
twins. Immediately, she left our home. She didnt even bother taking her
coffee cup off of our counter.
A trauma scene cleaner
took care of the mess. The vet took care of poor Quellas remains. Hubby
insisted on returning home from Zürich three days earlier than planned and
I did nothing to dissuade him.
Subsequently, the twins
spent a year in play therapy, I scheduled a year of monthly spa days, and
Hubby, for a year, drank two cuppas in the morning, instead of one. On the
anniversary of the affair, we adopted Violet and said nothing more about it.
These days, dust
bunnies roam in packs beneath our furniture. Cups, bowls, and spoons breed on
our kitchen counters. The stains left behind by Violet have forever become part
of our floorings design.
The grandchildren, who
inherited from my original space opera heroine and her spouse, conquer new
worlds and eat day-old bologna. Im up to my tenth title in that
At present, Im
fairly devoted to speculative fiction, having given up on more mainstream fare,
especially having forsaken novels about immigrants trying to acculturate to
North American culture. Whereas live models are useful for drawing classes,
theyre disastrous when left unsupervised in writers homes.