Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Porcupine

It was a wonderous thing to hear, even third hand. It seems that strange, unexplainable things happen at other peoples' homes too. My friend Dolly found a bath towel thrown over her shower rod that she does not recognize. It is not hers. It is not her husband, Ralph's. They have no clue who this bath towel belongs to. Just found it hanging there, it's sole purpose to confound and bemuse. I thought that stuff like this only happened at my house.
I work nights. I get tired. Sometimes I get behind on housework. Never fear, though. I always have a plan. When I get my next day off, I load the CD player with classic rock and roll. I load Bob Segar, Journey, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, the like. 5 disks. I turn the music up loud, and I tear through the house like a woman on a mission, mostly because I am, well, a woman on a mission. My mission is to get the house completely cleaned before the final song on the final CD fades away. I sing loud and long and energized by the familiar songs ('One heart feeds the fire, one heart burns desire, WON-der who's crying now?') I generally can rip through a 6 bedroom house like nobody's business. It's just a little way to make a big job small, and to get the job done.
One winter, right after the holidays, I looked around and decided that it was time to play my game. I loaded my CD's and began. I raced down to the basement, and tossed a load of whites in the washer. I added the soap and bleach, raced back up stairs and whipped through the living room and dining room, dusting, vacuuming, cleaning, throwing stuff away, putting clutter where it belonged. The dog cowered in a corner, watching all this activity nervously. Just as I was moving to the kitchen, I heard the washer buzz from basement.
Down the stairs I flew, threw the whites in the dryer, threw another load of clothes in the washer, this bath towels and sweatshirts and flannels. Many of the sweatshirts were new, received for Christmas, and I did notice two unfamiliar bath towels, but I did not stop to ponder this. Dylan wrestled, Cara is a social butterfly, Tim's brother used the house as home base. People come, people go, I figured someone would claim those towels, didn't give it a second thought. Just kept on singing ('Truckin', I got my chips cashed in...'), loading the washer, started that bad boy up, stopped long enough to make sure that the fire wasn't calling for more wood, charged back up the stairs. I did dishes and cleaned the kitchen, and was part way through the downstairs bathroom when I heard the washer buzz.
I flew down the stairs singing fortissmo ('Tin Soldiers and Nixon coming, we're finally on our own...'). I tossed the dryer stuff in a basket to fold later while watching Oprah, and opened the washer. I plunged my hands in to pull the clothes out and got scratched. A lot. "What?????!!!!!" Looking a little closer, picking through things gingerly I discovered, of all things, porcupine quills. A lot of porcupine quills. Like perhaps in my last mad dash to load the washer, I'd accidently tossed a porcupine in there with the sweatshirts and bath towels and flannel shirts. I'm talking about hundreds of porcupine quills. I couldn't believe it. I began to pull clothing and towels out one at a time, inspecting the garments, pulling quills out. This took a long time. I had plenty of time to fume. Somebody owed me quite an explanation, and by george, I couldn't wait for people to start getting home.
The music upstairs played on ('On a long and lonesome highway, east of Omaha, you can hear the engine moaning out it's one note song...') . I did not sing as I pulled went through my laundry one article at a time. I was one mad Mom. To top it all off, no porcupine emerged from the washer, dizzy, damp, disoriented. What I did discover was two bath towels. The same two towels that I did not recognize before. These towels were so embedded with quills that they had attached to themselves, to each other, and to other clothing. It was a wad, it was a mess, it was a darn pain in the butt, going through this stuff, separating and dequilling. The two towels were set aside to be used to illustrate my next lesson to my family. I put the quill-free clothing back in the washer, and stomped back up stairs, well behind schedule.
I cleaned on. There was a difference though. I was not singing, and I did not care about schedules. I was much more interested in hearing just how those towels came to be in the washer to begin with. When I heard the school bus, I was waiting at the door as Cara walked in. I led her to the basement, confronted her with the towels, related the story. I had had plenty of time to get just that much more mad. It did not help that as I pulled the bath towels and sweatshirts out of the washer for the second time, I was still finding more quills. Cara looked at the towels. She watched me finding a second round of quills, less to be sure, but certainly enough to warrant going through the articles yet again. Her eyes were big and she was just as mystified as I was.
Now, that left Dylan. I should have known. When weird stuff happens, there is generally a boy around somewhere. By the time wrestling practice was over, I'd had time to pull the laundry out of the washer for the third time. I had time to pull another round of quills out. There were not so many, but again, there were enough to warrant examining it all for the third time, one article at a time. I was pretty sure that I had gotten them all at last, and put the stuff in the dryer. I had done the same load of laundry three times. I was a busy woman. I did not have time for this kind of nonsense. So when Dylan's truck pulled in, I was ready. I pounced as he walked through the door. He looked at the two unfamiliar bath towels. He could offer no explanations either, but found the whole thing a lot funnier than he really should have, had he been a boy with any amount of sense. I told him that I hoped that any quills that might have been missed showed up in his flannel boxers.
I had no idea what to think at that point. I am married to Tim. He's pretty sharp, doesn't miss a thing. I knew he wasn't behind it. The only thing that I could figure is that wildlife snuck into our house when we were not looking, using our shower, thoughtfully providing their own towels. This actually explained quite a few mysteries. They probably used the computer too, which accounted for some of the peculiar internet activity. Now I understood how the remotes kept disappearing. As they dropped their towels off in the laundry room, stray socks just sort of stuck to their backs, explaining the box of unmatched socks. Now I knew why I could buy deserts for lunches one day, and have none left when it came time to pack lunches 24 hours later. I had answers for all of it. Darn pesky porcupines! I had been blaming innocent children for just ever so long.
Tim got home from his second shift job. I was waiting up to tell him all about the solved mysteries. He looked at the towels and sheepishly said, "Hm. I wonder how I missed that?" I got still and waited. Tim bought a car from Sue, the woman who cuts our hair. It was her son's vehicle. (Remember the line, just two paragraphs ago? "When weird stuff happens, there is generally a boy around somewhere.") There was a lot of junk in this car. Tim found the towels as he was cleaning out the car. Mechanics always need towels. It was Tim who brought the towels in and tossed them by the washer. They were folded up. He did not unfold them.
There was a story here. Inquiring minds wanted to know. We asked Sue about it. She quickly decided that her son had stories she would rather not hear. She decided that she would not ask questions about towels and porcupines. Not being inclined to excite the woman using scissors on my hair, I decided that I would also not ask questions about towels and porcupines. That mystery is still unsolved. Even more aggravating is that I still have no explanation for that box of unmatched socks. The rest of it, I can still blame on the kids.

Historical note: The final quill was found by Cara in the seam of her favorite Aeropostale sweatshirt nearly six months after that fateful day. Dylan found no quills in his boxers. I once pulled two quills out of my shirt sleeve in a Quality Market checkout line, to the amazement of the person I was talking to. Tim found no quills, anywhere. We live in an unjust world, my friends...

No comments: