Ifind that my slipshod housekeeping becomes even more suspect in the summer. Some of that has to do with the time it takes to tame the vegetation in my yard. I’ve actually seen the heads of giraffes sticking up ever-so-slightly above the un-mowed lawn. At that point, I don’t call it mowing. It’s a safari. 

Then, I put a garden in this year with its requisite demands of time and energy including a Vermeer baler to put up the ridiculous amount of lettuce I planted this year. And kale. Kale? I don’t even like kale. I planted it because India bought me the seeds. She loves kale. She’s also 1,500 miles away in West Virginia. I lot of people don’t know this because I just made it up, but West Virginia is the leading producer of kale. And banjos. That last part might be true.

Add to that more flower gardens than Georgia O’Keefe ever thought of painting, and I think that helps explain why I haven’t dusted since February. To be fair, February is a short month. 

And that pile of laundry? It’s been so long since I washed a load, there are bell-bottoms at the bottom of that mountain. “How often do you do laundry, Tony,” you may ask, in an accusatory manner, which, frankly, I resent. When I run out of underwear, that’s when, and frankly, with Amazon Prime to back me up, it may be a while.

My motivation for cleaning usually precedes visitors, but when my Mom and sister suggested a visit recently for one of my famous broiled trout meals, I had to beg off. The house was too far gone; the kitchen looked like a penicillin factory. I was also buried under a big workload at the office. I find gainful employment is cutting into my yard work. This isn’t the America I remember. 

So there’s my justification for a messy house. Justification is a much nicer word than excuse, don’t you think? I need to get into politics. I’ve got the verbiage, now I just need some guiding principles.

Thus ends the preamble to this story.

Everything changed last week when I came home from work and heard my refrigerator making groaning noises. I quickly ruled out seasickness. Then I discovered that four perfectly good ice cream bars had melted in the freezer. Clearly an emergency, so I called 9-1-1. My appliance repairman, Vince Meidinger, said he’d be there in an hour and a half. Oh-oh. I needed to bring this mess up to guy standards, admittedly a low bar, but still a formidable task.

Thusly motivated, I began clearing a path from the entry to the kitchen, picking up garden trowels, MiracleGro, and more shoes than any man should own. I found the vacuum cleaner under a pile of paisley leisure suits in the laundry room. There was enough pug and cat fur on the steps to build an entirely new species. Something right out of Jurassic Park, I imagine, if ever I’m so inclined. There were coffee splashes on the wood floor. Pro remodeling tip: Go with flooring that matches coffee and things cats regurgitate. 

By the time Vince arrived, I had dishes in the dishwasher and the overflow drying in the rack. The broiler pan, cookie sheets, and bread pans were hidden in the oven. I’m not saying it was sparkling. Let’s just say it looked lived in. If a biker gang of drunken raccoons lived here. Not up to Mom and sister standards, but enough to keep the Department of Health out of it. 

Vince dismantled the fridge and cleaned a cubic yard of gunk off the coils which will save me on potting soil next spring. But he was puzzled. The thermostat he’d installed last year was working just fine. He lifted the hood to his hazmat suit and asked kindly, as one does when talking to toddlers or me, if it was possible I’d left the freezer drawer open a crack on this especially hot, humid day? Uh. Well. Yeah. Entirely possible. In fact, that was it. So much for the cost-savings of keeping the air-conditioning off.

Operator error. Operator error! I’ve been working with refrigerators for my entire life. It’s been the site of some major scientific discoveries. Like what grows out of six-week-old jambalaya? I don’t know exactly, but it’s fuzzy and speaks with a Cajun accent. If they ever do a remake of “Little Shop of Horrors,” they should film it here. I’ve got salad dressing so old I could open a museum.

I haven’t gotten the bill yet, but I’ve already begun justifying it in my mind. See, it was like hiring someone to speed-clean my house, only I’m the one who benefited aerobically from the sweat-soaking workout. Winning. If you get right down to it, Vince Meidinger is a life coach. You should call him.

After giving the ice cream bars a proper burial (I wept), I proceeded to cook everything that had thawed. A menu of fish sticks, meatballs, blueberry waffles, hash browns, and something green. And what of that smoke wafting out of that preheating oven? Just what I needed. It motivated me to do the rest of the dishes.

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