Why today when she had all these wonderful women coming?—these women whom Betsy had trained into thinking that she was definitely one person who had it all together. They would never understand if she totally fell apart.
Well, there was nothing she could do about it at the moment so she went to work. She got out a dish pan—a big plastic one that she’d bought at Wal-Mart just for this purpose. She quickly threw all the dirty dishes in it and hauled it to the guest room. “Please, please, please, let no one open this door tonight,” she prayed in a whisper. She had made the mistake a few years ago of putting another plastic dishpan loaded with dirty dishes in the oven to hide it. It served the purpose of allowing the kitchen to look great, but the next morning Betsy turned on the oven forgetting its contents. The fire it started wasn’t pretty. Yes, the guest room was a better place for this filled dish pan.
Betsy grabbed a towel and wiped down every visible kitchen surface until she came to the table. Sand? What was sand doing on the table? She took a paper towel and swept the sand across the plastic tablecloth that made a laughing sound with the effort. Even the table was laughing at her. This was not funny and she would have none of it.
Out came the lace tablecloth and onto crystal plates and into crystal bowls went the Costco specials: mini cream puffs, spirals, baby carrots, salsa, chips, cheesecake bites. She briefly contemplated putting some HCG on a serving tray for the two women who seemed to live on it and nothing else. The thought would have been humorous if she had been in a better humor.
Gathering the empty cartons and the dishtowel, she ran to the guest room and tossed them on top of the loaded dish pan.
Now what? It was getting so late. How was she going to make it by 7:00 with any semblance of her public self? “There suddenly came over my spirit all the keen, collected calmness of despair.”
The wheelbarrow. That would be the quickest. “It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain.” She ran to the garage and grabbed the wheelbarrow from its revered spot in the corner. She dumped its contents of miscellany and rolled it through the kitchen to the family room. In went the school papers, the backpacks, the sweatshirts, the week’s mail, the shoes under the coffee table, the half bag of Cheetos and the tall stack of newspapers. Betsy had begged the kids to not eat in the family room but if they insisted on eating there, to at least pick up their dishes and put them in the dishwasher. She might as well have tried to instruct a herd of zebras. So on top of the pile in the wheelbarrow went three dirty plates, seven glasses and five forks. Betsy wheeled the barrow right to the center of the guest room and dumped it unceremoniously. She didn’t have time to be careful.
The bathroom was next. Into the wheelbarrow went the damp stinky towels and the stiff washcloths and the pile of dirty clothes both Mark and Benjamin had left on the floor. What did they care if a group of ladies was coming to the house and just might need to use the bathroom? Not as a group, of course, but it would only take one woman to spread tales of disgust to the rest of them. Betsy took one of the damp towels and wiped down the sink with its globs of toothpaste, the tub with its week’s worth of soap scum. And the toilet. Yuck. The toilet. Oh, Nelda, Nelda, Nelda. Betsy definitely didn’t pay her enough. Why can’t boys hit the water instead of back behind the toilet seat? It couldn’t be that hard to aim dead center, could it? No wonder Marcie insisted that the males in her family sit on all occasions. With a wipe-down of the mirror and floor, Betsy was on to the office. “You should have seen how wisely I proceeded…I went to work!”
She’d have to admit that most of the mess of the office belonged to her—the white cardboard carry-all she used for the Primary Singing Time spilling over with word charts and teaching tools, the messy stack of spiral notebooks filled with ideas and notes about gardening, writing, photography, and inspirational thoughts. Betsy wondered if an I-Pad would eliminate the need for all these notebooks that had no order at all to them. Well, she’d think about it later. If she’d have a “later.” The way this day was going, that was debatable.
All of her office stuff went callously into the wheelbarrow along with the kids’ doodling papers and unfinished school assignments and Nick’s piles of church manuals and books and file folders that had never found a safe, permanent home. This load, too, was dumped in the guest room. The pile was huge now and Betsy was feeling a sense of power, of accomplishment, of get-it-done-ness. “In the enthusiasm of (her) confidence,” “in the wild audacity of (her) perfect triumph,” Betsy wondered why she had never done this before? She had several very clean rooms and only one horrendously messy one. It was worth it. She thought she could now run get herself ready when her heart buckled under a new realization.
Since Mark’s room was closest to the front door, that room would have to be purged, too, so that coats could be laid on the bed if necessary. Betsy opened Mark’s room with trepidation and rolled in the wheelbarrow. The smell was overwhelming and it was piled high with stuff—boy stuff. Clothes, shoes, stiff socks, guitars, music, papers. She had pleaded with him to put his things away because she was having company, but her words must have hit a ricochet spot near his ear drum and disappeared into the opposite corner of the room. She started throwing everything into the wheelbarrow: the CD’s, the sketches of football plays, the several pairs of basketball shorts. And another apple and pen. Out of curiosity, which she really didn’t have time for, she slipped the pen into the apple. A good fit. Was this a straw for sucking out apple juice? A tiny piece of information she had heard somewhere came unglued from her memory and she sank in the comprehension that this wasn’t just an apple and this wasn’t just a pen. And together they didn’t make a straw. Together they made a very unique pipe. A great marijuana smoking pipe. Betsy didn’t have time just then for her body to turn completely inside out, starting with the top of her head, going down through her skull and straight through her body to her feet. But she was definitely going to put it on her to-do list. She also fought the urge to throw herself down on the floor with flailing legs and pounding fists as she sobbed herself into oblivion.