Sunday, August 19, 2007

Mission: Home-possible...

The Mission: Find the Red Oilcloth
Codename: Operation Help Parents
Priority: Lavender
Transmission 1: 1200 hours, 8/19/07
From: HQ, Pocono location
To: Agent Packrat, Bowmanstown Territory
Subject: Location of last known position of the sacred oilcloth of Douglassville.

Mom: Hi, Jason?
Me: Hey, Mom, what's up?
Mom: Well, do you still have that red oilcloth that we used on the old porch at the old house?
Me: Um... I think it's somewhere around here.
Mom: See, we're doing this project, and the one we have here is the wrong size.
Me: I thought they were both the same size?
Mom: Well, apparently we cut off some of this one for another project, but we don't know why or when, so...
Me: Sure, it's around here somewhere. I'll call you when I find it.
Mom: That sounds good, Love you.
Me: Love you to, Mom.
I begin the search in what I think is the logical location of the tablecloth in question: In the Garage of Neglect. My valient search begins with battling squatters as they spin cobwebs to stall my search. Birds fly over my head screaming as I intrude upon their until now sacred nesting spaces in the rafters. Chipmunks and mice scramble before Hawthorne, devourer of anything that fts in his mouth. My search in this Place of Perpetual Storage, where incidentally I find the table this cloth was supposedly cut and made for, is fruitless. I am slightly puzzled, but not entirely put-off...

I next venture into the attic--I'm sorry, make that The Attic. In this second place of Storage Central, more denizens of the dark underworld plant traps to sequester me from their most cherished corners of life. Mouse droppings, shreds of paper, and boxes from Moving-in-day of Yesteryear try to impede my quest for the Sacred Tablecloth of Douglassville, but I press on. Hawthorne sniffs and jumps as he disturbs the inhabitants, and no doubt my movements stirring up the dust don't help matters any. I can see a diplomat would have been a better way to go than trying to invade and imperialize this area, but what's done is done, and all I can do is get what I need and formulate an exit strategy.

But again, my sources were wrong--there is no tablecloth to be found here. After restacking Christmas boxes, crawling through two-foot-high caves of fiberglass insulation and wood framing of square-nailed techniques of Yore, I come to the conclusion that this purgatory for spiders not pretty enough to live on the first floor doesn't hold the cloth--I make a quick retreat as I spot one eight-legged denizen shouting in no uncertain terms that an exterminator would have to be called if I didn't learn to stay in my allotted living space on the first floor. There was even some overheard talk of a Black Widow being called in to handle pests such as myself.

I half-tumble down the stairs as Hawthorne seems to think it's now a race to see who can exit Attic Purgatory the fastest, and I realize that this leaves me the basement, and assorted cabinets and closets on the first floor, to continue my quest. I decide to leave the basement for last, as it is not only the least-likely location for something as important and sacred as a tablecloth, but experiences in that land-of-the-lost in the past (here and here) have shown it is not a place that welcomes me with open arms. I decide to tackle the closets and cabinets.

I start with the two hall closets. I get into a fist fight with some towels and sheets as Hawthorne watches in wonder at my amazing skills of sorting everything from one side to the other. A stack of board games tries to interfere in what they feel is a violation of the sheets and towels civil liberties of segregation, but after the misunderstanding is explained, Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley corporations decide to let me continue my search as they rest on the floor after our brief scuffle.

The other hall closet, while smaller, is less receptive to my diplomatic overtures. An air mattress package slams me on the head, two sleeping bags entangle me in their ropes, while two vacuums forcefully resent being torn from their warm haven from work. And while the search continued to be fruitless, the second hall closet got a firm reprimand and a reorganization in short order, thus assuring myself that future excursions here would leave my head unattacked.

I next move into the spare bedroom. Under the bed, behind the chest of drawers, and a rummage through the winter coats reveal a fire box key, two tennis balls (at which Hawthorne dropped any future investigations at the overwhelming joy of such treasure!), and some wrapping paper.

Next to our bedroom: I restack the 15 boxes of comics from one side of the closet to the other, pick up some clothes from the floor to discover yet another ball Hawthorne must have lost in previous excursions here, and manage to locate the raincoat I thought I had lost last winter... But no tablecloth. I peak under our bed to find the firebox which the aforementioned key holds the secrets to, an exercise mat which, while having moved with us through four apartments and this house, has never been used, and the army of dust bunnies which guard the abdominizer. The dust bunnies have no idea what I'm looking for, but they make a valiant effort to mask any other inhabitants' locations beneath the bed in what I'm convinced they feel is their mission to continue to Underground Railroad for Undervalued Household Items. It briefly crosses my mind to teach the hall vacuums a lesson by making them work for the forces of good by eliminating this army of dust bunnies, but decide it isn't worth wrestling with the sleeping bags again--I move on.

The kitchen holds even more previously unknown treasures--namely, a bread box. I never knew our kitchen had one as there are more than a few cabinets I've never had a need to open as we have more storage here than I could possibly even fathom using. A collection of Star Wars glasses greets me under the bar-counter area, but alas--no tablecloth. I'm beginning to think I don't have it.

I next go to the sun room. This, of course, is a misnomer as there are only two windows both of which face the next door neighbor's brick wall, and almost no sun reaches between the houses on the most sunny of days. It has become the place where things sit as they await a designated Place of Perpetual Storage, whether it be attic, garage, or basement. If the tablecloth were somewhere, it should be here.

Forty-five minutes and three broken vases later, my search continues to be as fruitless as when it began. As I exit the sun room, I spy Hawthorne merrily tearing out the rubber bands of a tennis ball on the couch in the living room. I decide to let his joy last a bit longer, as I don't want him following me to--you guessed it, The Basement of Little Light and Creepy Cobwebs. It is a place not for the faint of heart. The denizens of the basement don't have the same rules and sense of community as those in the attic have. These are creatures of darkness, creatures that have made peace with the Basemantic Ocean, Pipenagra Falls, the fire-breathing oil heater, and, of course, have no qualms about openly attacking a human such as myself, let alone our dog.

A trip to the basement requires preparation: I don a long-sleeved shirt, locate a flashlight, and take a deep breath. Doubts once again cloud my mind: "Do I have this cloth? Am I making up memories in my quest to be procure this scared cloth? Will the Shroud of Turin do in place of the Douglassville Cloth?" But no--these doubts will accomplish nothing. I must continue the search. There's a table in Albrightsville depending on me.

I open the door to the basement and click on the EverReady flashlight. I reach to my right and flick two of the three out of seven switches which actually produce light in this dank region. As I descend on the Stairs of Ominous Creaking, the slow drip of Pipenagra Falls reaches my ears. The eyes adjust to the meager light produced by the two bare bulbs on one end of the basement. The darker, more mysterious regions reflect nothing, but I feel the multifaceted eyed following my every movement. As I reach the cement floor, my eyes pick up a scurried movement in the blackness to my left. I fling the beam of light to where I thought the movement was, and I am greeted by the sight of some boxes. Not being a light saber, I am unable to simply slash through them and kill whatever has decided the old yard sale junk is a worthy sanctuary. I hear a whine, and as I shine the light back to the top of the stairs, I see Hawthorne sitting at the top, a half-eaten tennis ball in his mouth below his creased, worried-looking brow. Whether this worry is due to the fact that he doesn't know where the other half of his tennis ball went, or whether it's because he knows the danger I face in this underground cave, I shall never know.

I decide to start near the pile of yard sale leftovers, as this would be the most likely location for the cloth to be, as the basement holds little else of "home entertaining" value. I use the EverReady as a sword, battling cobwebs as I make my way the fifteen feet toward the precarious stack of cardboard. After I reach the stack, I carefully lift the first flap on the top box, certain that whatever has sought sanctuary here will leap out and tear my eyes from their sockets, all in the name of defending the homeland. But my worry was for naught, and I only spy a few books, some glassware, and a stuffed teddy bear not really living up to the "stuffed" portion of its name. The rest of the boxes hold much the same: varying amounts of -ware items, over- and under-stuffed creatures with varying degrees of evil showing through their thready smile, and other odds and ends--but no tablecloth.

I turn my attention toward the coal bin, where another stack of items sits, albeit non-threateningly enough, just above the hide-tide end of the Basemantic Ocean. After fighting my way through a small army of spider webs and a pipe claiming to be the transporter of water to my radiators above, I reach the small pile. A volleyball net, an old vanity, some more books, and a Fisher Price village center (pre-lead-paint recall vintage) all pass across my vision. I decide to peak into the intestines of the vanity, just in case, and regret doing so as a giant stack of various, antique cleaning bottles make a break for freedom from their Guantanamo-style prison. They don't make it far, and more than a few drown in the Basemantic Ocean, but I doubt many, if anyone, will mourn their loss.

As my nostrils are assaulted by the smell of old bleach and antiquated PineSol, I realize I'm getting nowhere and have searched in every conceivable crevice of my home. I retreat back upstairs and call my parents back in an attempt ot salvage some dignity. As I dial the number, I pick various webs and dirt danglings from my baseball hat and ponder how much a cleaning woman would charge to completely cleanse the underbelly of my home.

Me: Hey, Mom? It's me--are you sure I was the latest owner of the tablecloth?
Mom: Um... I dunno. I thought you were.
Me: 'Cause I can't find it anywhere.
Mom: Well, don't worry about it. It'll turn up when none of us are looking for it.
Me: Are you sure? I feel bad...
Mom: Why?
Me: I dunno.... I could have sworn I knew where it was...
Mom: Well, it's okay, don't fret too much. It's not that important.
Me: But you said you needed it
Mom: Don't worry--I'll check around here again, and if worse comes to worst, we'll find something else that will work.
Me: I'm sorry I couldn't find it...
Mom: Don't worry, it's not that important.
I just wish I had known how "not important" it had been earlier. You know, before the quest had started...

On the other hand, Hawthorne now has a tennis ball and a half left to eat, and I have a breadbox.

Not too shabby for a Sunday afternoon...

5 comments:

mom said...

hello jason! see i was hoping you would of taken a sweeper and a dust rag to all those places you visited in your house and cleaned while looking for that table cloth that grew legs and walked to someplace we have no idea where! :) I would get some science person on this latest search. :) they could get a # on how long ago it went missing. :) snort! :) thanks for looking and glad you found some things. your a good kid. :) love and prayers

DaBich said...

Bet it shows up somewhere at your place yet ;)

garage floor mat said...

Why don’t you give some productive articles?

Jason Hughes said...

Define "productive."

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Why don’t you give some productive articles?