Advertisements

Clown Appreciation Day

 

sigh. It seems I have underestimated the clown crew. I know. The world has stopped spinning on its axis. Normally, you mention the guys at our hotel who come to the house to fix the plumbing or anything else, and I will keel over laughing. They travel in herds, piling into and tumbling out of their miniature pickup trucks (the clown cars), and stand around scratching their heads and banging on things with monkey wrenches. Today, I tried walking a mile in their clown shoes. For weeks, we have been dealing with a front screen door that flies off the handle. Actually, the handle flies off the door. The whole assembly came kind of loose, the handle fell off, and the simple solution of duct tape wouldn’t work because it needs to rotate. So, the Treppenhauer solution was to pick it up off the floor, stick it in the hole, and yell at the kids for slamming the door. The furry man hates to ask for help from staff that is overloaded with work in the hotel rooms, and is the first to admit that he is very good some things, but fixing door handles is not one of them; so the door handle stayed broken. At least he changes light bulbs, washes dishes, and assembles book cases and bicycles. I have a very distinct memory, when I was a child, of glaring at my dad while my mom changed the lightbulbs in the kitchen. I said, “Normal dads help their wives with changing lightbulbs and other things around the house.” His first sentence was always the same response when I complained about our weird family, “First of all, Sue-Sue, we have never been normal and we never will be; get used to it.” But THEN he said, “Your mother and I have an agreement. I work outside the house and bring home the pay check; she handles everything inside the house. Light bulb changing falls within the house.” This was after we spent an entire year of living off of the income from my mom’s art gallery and painting lessons, while he was on sabbatical earning his Master’s degree (so the “agreement” worked when it was convenient for him). One of my earliest resolutions in life was to NEVER make that kind of agreement with anybody. Oh, also to never marry a rude person who doesn’t love me enough to lend a helping hand without my asking.

But I digress; back to my Clown Appreciation story! This morning was the last straw. I was shivering out by the the car, waiting to drive the kids to school on a freezing wet fall morning. The kids were yelling at each other about something as they were leaving the house, and Hanna slammed the screen door. Clunk, the inside handle fell off, and the outside handle stopped functioning. Of course, the actual front door is wide open, blowing in ice-cold air to the house that we can no longer enter. Both kids turn to me, mouths open, eyes bugging out. They glance at each other with, “Mom’s going to kill us” expressions, and immediately launch into each other, bickering about whose fault it was. Ever the practical pioneer woman, I smack the backs of their heads, shoo them into the car, wrestle with the guilt of overworking the furnace in the house while we drove to school, and accept that I will have to punch in the screen of the screen door and crawl into the house very awkwardly, upon my return.

Kids kicked to the school curb, I returned home with great resolve. Today will be the day that I stop relying on others. Today will be the day I am completely self-sufficient. WE don’t need no steenking clowns! I will take that door apart and I will put it back together as good as new. When I was in 1st grade, my big sister had a calculator. My memory is a bit rusty, but I may have been playing with it and I mayyyyy have broken it. There was much yelling, I think I got a spanking, and the calculator was discarded. I snuck to the garbage can, pulled out the calculator, and proceeded to completely take it apart. Then, curiosity satisfied, I put it all back together again. Much to my surprise, the calculator powered on and functioned perfectly. I ran to my sister and crowed, “LOOK LOOK! I fixed it! You threw it away, so now it’s MINE!” Of course, that’s not how things work in the Hess house. She sat on me, wrestled it away, and repo’d the calculator. I think that event may have been my initiation into the decades-long policy I had in childhood, of “Lie First, Be Sneaky, and Try Not to Get Caught.” This also gave me false confidence in myself, and I spent my entire life telling myself that I was good at fixing things. This confidence has led to many repairs, but who is to know whether those things were truly broken, or just needed screws to be tightened or batteries to be changed…

First obstacle: entry into the cottage through a screen door whose handle is no longer functioning. My life is full of good things to be grateful for. Let me take this moment to be thankful for living in the middle of nowhere with no neighbours to observe the total humiliation of me lifting my leg into the screen that I punched out (thinking that I could step into the door in a dignified way), realizing when I’m on my tippy-toes and in much crotch pain that dignity doesn’t exist in my world, then hopping the extra inches needed for the rest of my obese self to tip over and fall sideways into my house, onto my 2 happy golden retrievers. This all took place with the soundtrack of me yelling, “AAAAAAHHHHHHHOWWWWAAAAHHH!” Lying on my back, dogs licking my face, I wondered, “Would this ever happen to a hotel engineer?” Somehow, I thought not. They probably have special clown tools to make the handle-less door open without undue humiliation. sniff. The dogs agreed. They had never seen a hotel engineer fall through the front door, before. Mama, on the other hand, seemed to be a very fun klutz, indeed.

Later, after a game of Candy Crush to make myself feel like even more of a failure, I looked at the door and thought, “This can’t be harder than taking apart a calculator.” Second obstacle: tools. Apparently, we have 8 screwdrivers in our home, and not a one is a Phillips head screwdriver. 30 minutes later, frustrated from digging through the garage, fuelled only by an espresso consumed hours prior, I resorted to breaking into my son’s treasure box and stealing his jackknife. He’s a mini-survivalist, and his jackknife has all the tools to go hunting, including a saw to cut down trees to build a campfire after his prey has been gutted and skinned. Sure enough, there was a gadgety thing that had a tip like a Phillips head, so I unscrewed the door handle. Victory! Expecting the assembly to open up for me like a picture book, it was a very unhappy surprise to have a jumble of metal bits fall into my hand. It was like having a handful of puzzle pieces, and no box to show me the picture of what the puzzle was about. There was much swearing. Much swearing and slamming of the door with the flappy screen and a hole where the handle used to be.

5 more games of Candy Crush failure (what the Hell, Level 134, why you hate me so bad?) and my resolve returned. After all, a door handle has a finite number of parts, they can only fit into each other a certain number of ways, and like a multiple choice test, I KNOW the answer is right there in front of me. I can fix it and make the handle work, right?Another half hour of my life on the toilet, and I managed to reassemble the parts and figured out how to insert them into the door to make the little thingy on the side of the door squish in and out. Highly technical terms, I know. Also, my legs fell asleep; “on the toilet” was not a figure of speech. 5 minutes of hopping up and down to get out the pins and needles, while explaining the handle mechanics to the dogs (they are a very appreciative audience; the Mama Show is their #1 form of entertainment), and I was ready for my door-handle home run.

Word of advice to all DIYers: take pictures; lots of pictures. This way, when you go to, say, put a door handle back on a door, you don’t tighten the screws and discover that you’ve put it on backwards and can no longer shut the door all the way. All puffed up and full of myself, I swung the screen door shut, expecting a satisfying, “click” as the latch closed. “THUD.” The handle stuck out so far it banged into the door frame. Aha. Thank God I have dogs, not parrots. By now, they’d have learned enough new vocabulary words to be cursing like pirates.

The whole time I was struggling with the door, it was wide open, inviting the dogs to forage in the front yard, gathering as much mud as their coats and paws could carry. They then snuck all of that into the house behind my back, while I was cursing and threatening the spring mechanism inside the door handle. As I screwed the handle on backwards, then kicked the door a few times, my furry fiends were quietly doing doggy finger-painting on my white kitchen floor. Let me stop right here and ask the former tenants of this cottage: what kind of a bozo installs white tiled floors in a mud room and a kitchen? Perhaps they were the same dumbasses who thought rhubarb would be a lovely ornamental plant to have growing all around the flower garden. My dad used to play the guitar when I was little. One of my favourite songs was called The Cat Came Back. It was about this poor old thing whose owner went to drown it in the river, and it just kept coming back and following him around. Zombie cat. Rhubarb is that cat. I dug it all up from my flower garden; roots like orange baby parts – tendrils shaped like arms and legs. But no matter how thorough I thought I was, I kept having rhubarb shoots sprout up in the flower beds, all summer long. Zombie Rhubarb.

Obviously, I haven’t had the coffee necessary to stay on task, and it is possible I am not-so-quietly losing my mind out here in the big woods. Let me pull your attention away from the Zombie Rhubarb and my mud-covered floors, and direct it to my newly repaired screen door handle. As good as new. It only took me 2 hours and 10 Candy Crush lives. There might be a few new dents in the door, but I see them as badges of courage. Oh, and my little boy’s jackknife also had a very nice doohickey that helped me re-insert the screen into the door. I have officially completed a job that I would normally have called the clown brigade to do. I guess that means I am an honorary clown? You know, I don’t have clown shoes…I think I need to go shoe shopping…Shoe shopping would be an awesome way to avoid dealing with the doggy finger-painting masterpieces on my very smart white tiled mudroom and kitchen floors…or maybe I’ll bake some rhubarb pie…

Advertisements

Chronicles of the Rodent Slayer

My day began early. The howling dog scratching around the furniture told me there were mice to catch at dawn. Thinking I just had a mouse-filled glue trap to dispose of, I ambled over for a peek, sipping my cup of coffee. Empty. Hercules, the Rat Catcher’s Companion, was frantic, scrabbling on the hardwood floor, trying to get behind the side table next to the couch. Slowly, I started to realize that there was a mouse on the loose, and I would have to flush it out or never have a moment’s rest. At this point in the story, I could skip to the happy ending and retain my dignity, but I need to record this for historical purposes. This is proof that practice does not make perfect, that mouse-hunting (and housekeeping, for that matter) should be left to the professionals, and that nothing of importance should ever be attempted without a least 3 shots of espresso. Not only that, if I don’t write this down, I might forget to tell the furry German man when he comes home from work this evening; this is money in the bank for me. He keeps me around to do the dirty work, so this event must be documented for my job security.

The more I thought about how I would need to go about capturing that runaway mouse, the more I realized how much I would dislike a confrontation with a feisty rodent, unencumbered by a sticky glue trap. Over the past few years, I have built up a false confidence in dealing with rodents, only because I have always had the advantage. I threw down the glue traps, the mice or rats got stuck, and I used the BBQ tongs to throw them in the garbage, whilst feeling all-powerful and in charge. All of a sudden, all confidence shattered with the realization that I was NEVER in charge. I abandoned the howling Hercules in the living room, and locked myself in the bathroom. Standing there, shivering, in my pyjamas and bare feet, I considered my options. If I took action, moved the couch away from the wall, and let the dogs chase the mouse towards its doom, there was a chance the mouse would choose to run onto my bare foot and crawl up the leg of my pyjamas. Just picturing that gave me the heebie jeebies and I actually hopped around the bathroom to shake off the image. The other option was to ignore the mouse; who knew if it was even really there? After all, the dogs have been wrong before. They bark at the wind, don’t have the sense to be afraid of elk, and have even been known to eat their own poop. Why should I trust them? On the other hand, if I chose to ignore the mouse, and it decided to take a tour of the house in the middle of the night, my luck would have it crawling up my bed covers to visit my face. Visions of Pa, in Little House on the Prairie, waking to the sounds of a mouse chewing off his beard to line its nest, floated through my head. I was pretty sure I would hate waking up to half a head of hair, knowing the mouse was lining its nest with my shiny locks…

Okay, decision made, I pulled on my thick socks and trusty shitkickers. I armed myself with a sturdy broom. And then I felt a moment of brilliance come upon me. I should gather all the glue traps from every corner of the house, and place them on the floor, all around the couch. That way, no matter what direction the mouse chose to run, I would catch him without having to lift a finger, right? I’m a genius! So I searched the house and found 7 glue traps. I placed them strategically around the couch, all the while telling the dogs, Hercules and Cody, to take care to avoid stepping in the traps. Right there, I should have stopped myself. My dogs don’t speak English. Not only do they not speak English, Cody is the world’s worst golden retriever. He hates water, hates all physical activity, and doesn’t retrieve. He mostly dances around (you think I exaggerate – but picture prancing horses at the circus – that is Cody) and pretends to be a golden retriever, while his brother Hercules is actually playing fetch, hunting chipmunks, and attacking the water sprinkler in the yard. Immediately, I lost one glue trap to Cody’s tail. 5 minutes later, with the help of a pair of scissors, Cody had a bald patch on his tail, and I think my yelling convinced him to stay on the other side of his brother ( who I thought would catch the mouse if the glue traps failed).  If there ever was a more perfect time for an intervention by a guardian angel to save me from myself, that was it.  Alas, my guardian angel must have been on a coffee break.  It was just me and the dogs against the mouse; a pack of fools versus the evil genius.

My triumphant moment arrived. Broom positioned to protect my legs from climbing rodents, I prepared to move the couch and release the hounds. I even counted down for the dogs, “Ready, set, GOOOOO!” And all chaos broke loose. The couch was shoved away, the dogs leaped, the mouse zig zagged BETWEEN glue traps, I hopped up and down screaming, “GET HIM GET HIM!!!!” and the dogs proceeded to catch 2 of the remaining glue traps, while the mouse scurried into the corner of the living room where several framed pictures leaned (did I mention that we are still moving in and the house is cluttered with crap that needs putting away?) My house is Disneyland for mice. So many places to play, so many fun things to do, so much good food to eat.

Okay okay. Time to regroup. Hercules and Cody looked at me, panting, one glue trap dangling from Hercules’ left ear, and one glue trap attached to Cody’s front left paw, lifted up to me in an offering. Both of them had such eager looks on their faces, asking me, “Aren’t we great? Aren’t we manly hunters?” Resisting the urge to yell, “YOU SUCK!”I reached out my shaking hands and patted their heads. Eyes on the mouse corner, I once again used the scissors and gave the dogs 2 more bald patches so I could remove the glue traps from their fur. Those glue traps sure are good at dog catching. Hercules, freed from his glue trap, guarded the corner while I ran to get a flashlight. I had to be sure the mouse was there, and not crawling towards the bedrooms. DOH! The bedrooms! Quick detour to shut all the doors in the house, then returned with a flashlight. Climbing up onto the easy chair (yes, still afraid of leg-scaling mice), I leaned over and shone the flashlight between the picture frames. Sure enough, 2 beady black eyes stared back at me. And you know what? He wasn’t even breathing fast. I was the one hyperventilating, while he stared me down, daring me to make a move. That was when all of the spirits of my housewifely ancestors came rushing into the room, brooms collectively raised in solidarity, causing me to take up my broom and start hysterically waving it around and banging it on the floor, yelling expletives, cursing the mouse and all of its relatives. The mouse made a mad dash for the other side of the room, with Hercules on its heels, and Cody danced around in circles, gluing himself to 2 of the remaining 3 traps. And I lost the mouse. In the struggle to stop Cody from more dancing (he glued his own tail to his ribs, and when he finally obeyed my scream to “SIT!” he promptly sat on the back edge of the glue trap stuck to his back right foot, effectively glueing his butt to his foot), I lost track of where the damn mouse had scurried. My living room looked like a bomb had exploded, my dogs looked like mangy mutts that had been attacked by killer giant moths, and I had been beaten by a mouse. Resigned to my plight, I told the dogs that we were losers, cut Cody loose from his trap, let them out to the front yard to chase chipmunks, and made myself a pot of tea.

As the tea was brewing, I tried to make a plan for living with a mouse on the loose. I thought about wearing my shoes to bed. I also thought about wearing a snow suit and a bike helmet to bed. Every few moments, I tossed out some trash talk to the mouse, to keep it on its toes. “Don’t get too comfy out there, mouse! I WILL find you. Oh, and by the way, if you really want to visit someone in the middle of the night, maybe go to Hanna’s room, instead of mine? The eatin’s good under Hanna’s bed. I’m just sayin’…” Nothing. Not a squeak, not a scribble-scrabble sound. All I knew was that the couch it was originally hiding under was safe to sit on. Nothing in the house was safe, just that couch. So I perched myself on the couch, criss-cross-applesauce to keep my legs mouse-free, and wrapped my hands around my cup of tea, in surrender.

Minutes passed. My heart rate returned to normal. I began to make peace with the thought of a mouse wandering around (after all, I knew there were hundreds of his kin living in the cellar and in the walls). I began to accept that he had won and I had lost. Mid-sigh, sipping my tea, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. The mouse was making its way to the kitchen. He didn’t even have the decency to run. He sashayed over the threshold of the kitchen doorway, tail held high, and ducked under the refrigerator. Not believing my good fortune, I sat frozen for a moment. Then I jumped to my feet, grabbed the last surviving glue trap, and ran to the kitchen. There is only one way in and out of the the path to the fridge, so I wedged the trap in the path, and returned to the living room. If the gods were smiling, I would need to do nothing more. Sure enough, by the time I had finished my cup of tea, I could hear the scrabbling sounds of a glued animal (the dogs had given me enough practice to know that sound anywhere).

Confidence returned, I sauntered over to the fridge, and used the BBQ tongs to pick up the spoils of war. A plastic shopping bag shroud, a few words of blessing (“haHA! I told you not to mess with me!”), and the enemy was tossed into the bear bin outside. I am victorious. I am all-powerful. I am Woman, hear me ROAR!

Still, I just might wear the bike helmet to bed tonight. There was a stretch of time unaccounted for, where the mouse may have had an opportunity to send a message to its brethren. If he did call in the troops, I’d best be prepared. Maybe the bike helmet AND my shoes…and a ski mask…Does anyone have any more glue traps I can buy?

%d bloggers like this: