Friday, April 17, 2009

The Battle Rages On

Do not feel entirely sorry for the house. It is not the helpless victim it makes itself out to be. After reading about the violence done upon it by the man, you may be inclined to think the house is wholly innocent and has never committed any wrongdoing. This is not an accurate thought. The house is not innocent and is indeed guilty of certain crimes.
But the house is old and wily, and it has learned in its long life that small lies told sweetly with a liberal sprinkling of accuracy are much more likely to be believed than wild lies or even, oddly enough, the truth. Who really wants to hear the truth? The house is good at listening, and it has observed the reactions to all such sayings. It knows what humans like to hear.
And so the crafty house made up its mind to befriend the things the people set inside it and see if it could not turn those things to its own ends. The black thing--oh, the house still hated that, but the things it had known for ages, the things it had had the time to turn to its own ends...those were the things the house turned to.
The house knew that the woman was more particular about things like dust and scrum than most of other women it had seen, so it sought out the cracks in the floor and compressed them, oozing dust onto freshly swept floors. It shook its walls when they were gone--not hard enough to crack its skin, but hard enough to shake a fine film on plaster onto the gleaming piano and mantle. And it whispered to the humming refrigerator and the banging washing machine and convinced them to plague the woman with water.
These Machines were largely generous and grateful to the woman for cleaning them and polishing them, and were hesitant to rile her. But the house was persistent and persuasive, and they succumbed.
One day, one fine spring day when the sun was high and a pair of blue jays were beaking their way to a fine nest under the eaves of the porch, the house unleashed its plan. The woman opened the refrigerator and found a pool of water on the bottom shelf. Frowning, she bent and touched it. She turned and picked up a towel, and she sopped it up. Satisfied, she turned toward the pile of laundry.
Since it was such a fine day, she had decided to wash her heaviest winter comforter. She had to shove to fit it in the washing machine, and its sides groaned in a small protest. The house hushed it and whispered for it to bide its time. When the woman left the room, the scheme began to unfold. The water in the refrigerator had been a mere foreshadowing of the flood to come.
When she returned to the laundry room, she was met with a violent banging and thrashing sound. She threw up the lid to the machine, stopping it, and checked inside. It seemed fine, so she pulled it out and took it to the line.
The machine fumed its vengeful odor--the burnt rubber smell--and whispered the idea that she should wash another load. The woman sniffed and wrinkled her nose, but she must have listened, for she added another load and started it up. She left again, and this was when the flood happened.
The machine had never vomited before, and it was outrageously painful, but the house was insistent, and it did make the woman angry. She must have heard its heaves and trickles, for she rushed back into the room and made a very small squeak. Her face grew red and a line formed between her brows.
Then she turned off the machine, leaving its belly full of dark wet socks and t-shirts, and she swept all the water out of the room. She swept in furious sweeps, the water splashing on the walls and out the door. She swept, her feet planted firmly on the floor, her white arms flashing and her hair bouncing.
The machine doubted itself and began to disbelieve the house. Maybe this family was not evil and maybe they were not harmful. Maybe they did just like to be clean and warm. It was about to share its doubt with the refrigerator when the woman leaned her broom against the wall and left the room.
The smallest person was speaking and she answered him, cooing, as she opened the refrigerator. She growled a very small growl when she saw a new pool of water on the bottom shelf. She got another towel and bent to mop it up. This time, the house was ready for phase two.
Just as she rocked back on her heels, the pool soaked up in the towel, she noticed a trickle of water on the wall of the refrigerator. She stuck her head inside, leaning on the bottom shelf. That was when the second flood happened.
This flood was not so large as the other, but it somehow sent the woman over the edge. She shrieked and leaped back, slamming shut the door of the refrigerator. She stood up and leaned on it, reaching for the white roll of paper towel. Then she flashed around, whipping the door open, bending with ammunition in hand to fight the water back. She cleaned it all up and called the man.
He came home and looked at the refrigerator and scratched his nearly bald head. He pulled it away from the wall and shone a light on its innards. He shrugged and moved into the laundry room. The man opened the machine and looked inside. He turned its inner workings and took off its front. He found the hose the house had persuaded the machine to let loose, and he pushed it back in place. He dusted his hands and set up a fan to dry the rest of the water and hugged the woman, telling her she had been braver than Noah.
The refrigerator and the washing machine refused to speak with the house, and the rest of the things inside began to grumble loudly at it, posing questions about its motives. The house had lost their confidence and seemed to even doubt itself.
But we don't know that for certain.