“Houston” & The Five Senses

DP: Write down the first sight, sound, smell, and sensation you experienced on waking up today. Pick the one you’re most drawn to, and write. (For a bigger challenge, pick the one you’re least drawn to.)

Coming awake to Elby That Cat!’s heartsong, his developing purr and tapping tail on the sheet next to my ear, the soft feel of the sheets on my skin, stretching in luxory, out and further in the king-size bed – a new sensation since Claire’s passing, as she and the cat always trapped me into a space just the width of my hips while they took up the rest of the bed in blissful certainty that this was a good thing… Opening my eyes, finding my glasses and, once on, my gaze taking in the chaos of the room. Shuddering at the sight, flipping onto my stomach and stretching to find the lamp cord to plug it into the wall, triggering Elby’s instant participation and favorite delight of chomping on said wiring. Now, that the light was on… it was clear I still had to be careful getting out of bed….

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(ALWAYS CLICK FOR THE BIG PICTURE!)

Mind you, that’s after I tidied up… From there, it was to the bathroom, again flinching as I hit the lights:

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That black trash bag is covering up holes torn into the walls where the mirror used to be… and I asked that it be done – that the trash bag be taped to cover up the holes – why? WHY? Have you never had the joy of a young cat who thinks, “Hmm, what is this? Oh, my… Wonder what’s in there…? Hmm… I think I can fit, if I just squeeze a bit here and ——oops!”

Can you imagine what life would be like with a cat trapped inside the walls? A Siamese-Lynx, mind you – they have no problem caterwauling for help after the fact. That is where the word comes from. Should be spelled cat-er-walling, in my opinion.

From there, stumbling down the hall to the living room and kitchen, carefully keeping my gaze on the floor because the holes in the ceilings and walls, exposing wiring and insulation offend both my eyes and my capacity for breathing.

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What happened?

The joy of living in an apartment is that when things go wrong, you simply pick up the phone and call for help – much like Elby, now that I think about it… You never have to worry about sudden expenses or keeping a credit card available for that pesky hot water heater failing after 10 faithful years or sudden floods from a busted pipe (twice) ~ just pick up the phone and lo and behold, help arrives – pretty damn quick too, I’ll give ’em credit for that. On the minus side, you have no input on management decisions, so when they decide in their infinite wisdom to put the trash bins on the other side of the property so that you now must drive to toss out your trash or when they announce they will be redoing the piping building by building and state on the notice that they will give 7-10 days notice with a follow up of 48 hours before the crew hits the building – adding a diagram of what areas must be cleared of ALL ITEMS under every sink, involving the kitchen, the living room, the bathroom, the laundry room/area. Turns out, I was lucky in having only a one bedroom. The two and three bedrooms had to clear their closets… yeah, right.

Got the 7-10 days notice sure enough – that was during Claire’s sudden illness and I read it, nodded, and assured myself that the 48 hours notice would be sufficient to take care of it. After all, I’ve moved 45 times, no big deal. Except. Except they forgot the 48 hours notice, so last Thursday, there was a loud male voice calling from the hall by the front door that “MAINTENANCE!” was here. Even my subconscious wasn’t willing to ignore that – I came awake, having apparently ignored the knocking for 15 minutes (well, my neighbor had too – he’d gone to bed at 5:00 a.m. and I had gone at 3:00 a.m. – we compared notes later). “Hang on!” I yelled. I pole-vaulted out of bed, scrambling for sweats – nothing like sleeping in the nude and hearing voices in your house to get you out of bed – beats an alarm clock any day of the week.

Very bright and cheery, the head guy greets me, “Hi, Ms. HuntMode! It’s the day!” He points helpfully to the front of my front door upon which are two taped notices. There is a blur of bodies – the work crew ready to go, but my brain can’t take it in. “Huh? What? Today? No, no, no, you didn’t give the 48 hour notice.” He points at the door, “Yes, yes, we did.” I may be less than fully conscious, but I know my facts. “Oh, no, you didn’t. I checked that door several times a day every day – and it wasn’t there yesterday.” “Well, we’re here – and I’m sorry you didn’t see this, but…” “It wasn’t there.” I insisted. “HuntMode, it’s happening and it’s happening now. You are all ready, right?” I shook my head, unable to deny what was clearly evident. “Ok, we can give you about 15 minutes to get it done.” He came in and showed me the areas that needed to be cleared. I nodded like I was awake and understanding everything he was saying, but it wasn’t true. “Now, don’t worry about clearing the furniture, the crew will help with that. Just get it done. You’ve got 15 minutes, HuntMode.” He had dropped the Ms. off my name. He left with his handy-dandy clipboard, rousting the rest of the building.

I stood there, blinking, still trying hard to come awake and believe what was happening – not even the coffee’s alarm had gone off – that’s how early this was. “Houston, we have a problem.” All I could think was I desperately needed coffee and cloning – however, I rallied. I was in Emergency Management and I trained for things like this. I grabbed my notebook, the coffee pot, a coffee cup, the cat’s bowl, filled it, and set it up in the bedroom. Grabbed a box and started clearing the bathroom – the stuff under the bathroom sink was already in handy storage containers you can just grab and lift out – threw it all into the bedroom. Grabbed the thick carpets for Claire in the living room and hallway – same destination. The crew hit the front door – and I froze like a dodo at the moment of extinction. Head guy takes control. “Okay, HuntMode – you can go back to bed – the guys will clear and tape off all the areas as much as possible.” They came in – five or six of them and moved furniture and took paintings off the wall, cleared out cabinets stacking stuff on other counters – cleared the laundry room by piling it up on the rest of the floor space in the bedroom. Elby had wisely fled to underneath the bed. It was a crew fluent in Spanish and I distinctly heard some comments that I found wiser to pretend I did not understand, though without the clarity of coffee, I said sharply, “Hey, I heard that!” in response to a very unflattering word about five letters and beginning with the letter p. I also sympathized with his feelings – I would have felt the same in his position.

I retreated to the bedroom, closing the door. The nectar of the gods had finished brewing and I thankfully poured a cup, picking my way carefully through the stuff higgidly-piggidly stacked, and climbed up on the king-size bed – an island of semi-clear space inasmuch as much of the stuff had gravitated to it as well. I gratefully drank the coffee and realized I would be breaking the cardinal rule of not smoking in the bedroom. Yes, yes, yes, I know all about smoking – save it – this was not the week to quit smoking. Calling softly to Elby, who refused repeated entreaties to come on out, not believing my assurances that we were safe. Can’t blame him – the sounds echoing from outside the door consisted of drilling, sledge hammers and great teamwork. Over the next eight hours, I discovered a lot about that crew. They come all the way from Nevada, where they all live together and travel as a team and have done so for years. The laughter and camaraderie were actually the highlight of the day.

Once the coffee began taking effect, I assessed the situation. Outside my bedroom door, the sound of falling plaster and non-stop real work was going on. There would be no access to a bathroom and the coffee was bound to kick in at some point. I found a bucket and two plastic bags – one for the bucket and one for the toilet paper – set up the latrine with a bath pillow acting as a discrete cover when not in use. Recaptured Elby’s dish filled with his breakfast; arranged his cat box in a discrete corner so he had some privacy, cleared a path to the window so I could open it in self-defense and climbed back onto the bed. After a particular loud crash, my mind flashed to Claire and I thanked God she was gone – as she would have totally freaked out under these circumstances. Elby surfaced, his face seriously reflecting his opinion – ready to flee at a microsecond’s notice, which he did frequently – finding a very cool niche between the bed and the wall – seemingly hanging suspended in space before dropping down. It was so weird, I actually checked out how he was pulling it off. He’d found toeholds between the pillowtop and mattress and like cave spelunking he became a master diver.

Realizing I owed my neighbor an apology for making light of her earlier concern, putting it down to her being 77 years of glorious wisdom and anxiety, I called her. She was just moving her cats back in. “Oh, Huntie. It’s not as bad as you think. It’s worse.”

Sticking to my habit of finding the good in every sucking situation (an irritating habit to other people), I realized my day was shot to smithereens, all my daily routines uprooted. I chose not to listen to talk radio in deference to the crew as Immigration was a big topic and I thought it would be outright stupid to inflame people tearing holes in my walls. I realized I would be completely unplugged and it was a great time to simply write and read a book, drink coffee and maybe think about what’s next for my life’s plotting. Not plodding, plotting – planning is for people who don’t wait for 48 hour notices.

That lovely woman, who is, I repeat, 77 years old, called in the afternoon and offered to go on a cheeseburger and fries and chocolate milkshake run. We ate outside in the gorgeous sunlight, sitting on the curb, dipping fries in ketchup. Her makeup was perfect, while I looked like something Elby had played with.

The end result was the crew vacuumned up torn plaster, took down all the sheeting – my neighbor said they had taped him inside his office area – and left the holes, putting back the insulation into the ceiling but leaving it exposed for the inspection, which was to take place the next morning, and then remain like that until Monday, when they would return to redo the holes and paint only those portions they’d worked on…. meaning, I will have two-tone ceilings and walls, since it hasn’t been painted in nine years… I did have the good sense on inspection to strong arm them into covering some of the holes so that Elby would not easily go adventuring. So, this is what I saw this a.m., when I reluctantly raised my eyes from the floor:

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On the bright side, I now understand why I kept ignoring that voice in my head telling me to do spring cleaning – I would have been seriously put out to have to do it twice!

13 thoughts on ““Houston” & The Five Senses

  1. Pingback: Daily Prompt: Feed Your Senses | writinglikeastoner

  2. Pingback: Feed Your Senses – Kids, Coffee & Pancakes | Khana's Web

  3. Pingback: Daily Prompt: Early Morning Smells and Sounds | My Daily Prompt Blog

    • Glad it was funny – there’s that part of me that stands off to the side observing and it was laughing throughout the day in anticipation of writing this up. It was actually a very nice, LOUD day and the resulting mess worthy of finally doing some spring cleaning. 🙂

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    • Yes! Woke at 4:30 a.m., having set the alarm for 6:30 a.m. Got the bedroom set up for the day’s camp-out. I am steadfastly ignoring Elby’s contribution of dumping a large planter over into and onto all the stuff carefully stacked underneath… Not enough coffee yet. 🙂

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  4. Pingback: Poem / Poetry – A Poetic Duet With Fortyoneteen – “Sensual Senses” | toofulltowrite (I've started so I'll finish)

  5. I feel for you and hope the mess is cleaned up fast. That would drive me BUG-NUTS. You handled it with more patience then I. I have had multiple plumming emergencies which required ceiling and wall repair (and once a whole re-do of a finished basement). My last adventure was when my son filled up his sink and forgot to turn off the faucet. WHO FORGETS TO TURN OFF THE FAUCETT? I heard the sound of a waterfall and wandered into the kitchen to every light showering water all over my wood floor. The ceiling was bowing. Needless to say, lots of crew to fix it. If you want a teenager just apply, you can have him for free. 🙂

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  6. Pingback: Daily Prompt: Feed Your Senses | On My Front Porch

  7. Hunt, This is a wonderful story of shock therapy, I can imagine why you would miss a notice taped to your door for 2 days, but I can also imagine the guy taping it moments before he started pounding on the door. It is all said and done, and you survived without a scratch, And your post was a joyful learning experience for me. I would have never guessed there were roving bands of pipe fixers, and other little things. It was a great post, and thank you for sharing it with me. Take care — Bill

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