Suburban Soliloquy #72


Situation Comedy


Home maintenance is not our forte. We have neglected our sprawling, fifty-year-old, three-bedroom house. When we come home from our paying jobs, we are too tired to clean and repair. We just want to pursue happiness, which is not derived from raking leaves, or dusting row after row of books, or removing the clutter in order to vacuum a great expanse of wall-to-wall carpeting. Major work involving carpentry, wiring, or plumbing, are nemesis because of my ineptitude. Even if by chance we have the energy when we arrive home, we're eager to pursue our not-paying-so-well second careers as artists. Ms Keogh paints. I write.

The door of the yellow bathroom has swollen with the humidity. There was an increasingly loud squeak between the door and sill. Eventually it stopped opening. The lock was never applied, yet the door refused to budge and the doorknob refused to turn all the way, just as if it were locked. In the last couple of weeks, Ms Keogh was getting locked in for long minutes, either until I came to help with my weight and strength, or she recollected an old skill of sliding and jiggling a credit card in just such a way as to move the bolt.

On one recent night Ms Keogh forgot to bring a credit card with her into the bathroom, a senseless habit at any other time. I had to come to the rescue. With a particular pattern too troublesome to bother describing in words, an elaborate ritual of knob pulling, pushing, lifting, and turning all in very particular order, I had the door opened. It took a bit longer than usual; I had failed to appreciate that the door was becoming more adamant in its resistance.

Having opened the door, I stepped into the warm, steaming bathroom, where the love of my life stood naked, drying herself with a towel. With a pride that comes naturally to men, I was determined to teach her how to open the bathroom's door without a card. Even as she was insisting this was ill-advised, I had shut the door again and we found ourselves once more trapped, but this time together. Assuring her that all was well and to pay close heed to my technique, I launched into my elaborate ritual of knob pulling, pushing, lifting, and turning all in very particular order, and the door remained stuck. I extended my efforts beyond the usual time necessary. I was decidedly disadvantaged in that my additional technique of applying my shoulder was inappropriate on this side of the door, which opens in. I had started to work myself into a sweat. Meantime, Ms Keogh was exhausting herself with laughter at my expense. She had robed and proceeded to take over the endeavor.

Since she did not have a card, I had to supply the required tool from my wallet, a Blockbuster card for renting movies, the premise being it was the least valuable card in my collection. Ms Keogh then artfully began stabbing and wiggling the card between the door and frame. Even she admitted this was taking longer than usual and was growing anxious. She blamed my choice of cards, the Blockbuster being too thin, but in time it worked. She had us freed.

She departed the bathroom, but I did not. I am sorry to report that my pride would not let this little adventure conclude here. I was convinced my method could still work. I again closed the door. I'll be to the point, I could not open it. I was inside the yellow bathroom and Ms Keogh was without. We both found ourselves on the wrong sides for our technical proclivities. I did not have the practiced talent of using a credit card to slide the bolt and she did not have the brute strength to manhandle the doorknob and shoulder the door. We tried. She slipped my Blockbuster card under the door and I destroyed all four edges attempting to pull off her trick. She, meanwhile, strained her wrists and bruised her shoulder. Even so, we both appreciated the humor of our situation, being jovial and swapping jokes through the door that had become a wall.

It was necessary for Ms Keogh to get dressed and bring me a set of tools to be passed through the bathroom window. When my parents lived in this house, every autumn the screens came off, were thoroughly cleaned, and they were stored for winter. In the spring, the tracks were cleared with a steel brush and the screens restored to the windows. Ms Keogh and I have been living here more than a dozen years during which time the screens have stayed in place. The screen in our bathroom window had also grown content and lazy and would not permit itself to be removed. It was only due to my brutal impatience that a corner of the screen was accidentally torn from its frame and now Ms Keogh could slip through the tools.

It was a long sweat removing the door hinges, which also seemed to have grown fat and lazy, and had been painted over. Their removal made no difference. The swollen door would not give way. Ultimately, I freed myself by prying and wedging the head of the screw driver between the door and frame, near the lock, chewing a large piece of moist wood out of the door. It was a hideous scar, but I was free at last, and we were still laughing. We reminded ourselves it would be one less worry after we sold the house, and in the meantime we must never again close the door all the way, except maybe in dry seasons if the door happens to shrink.

Jokes are never as funny the second time. What was funny that one night, was not as funny the consecutive night. I was keeping Ms Keogh company, reading to her while she bathed. While she was drying herself, we were talking and laughing about something that, when I leaned against the bathroom door, was quickly forgotten. I had closed it all the way. We were stuck in the bathroom. The door had become more determined overnight and nothing we could do with card or brute strength would even shake it. The tools had been put away the night before.

It was now necessary for me to tear the rest of the screen away in order to climb out the window. The window is not large and I am not small. Yes, it would have been easier for me to lift Ms Keogh and slip her out the window, but she was wearing only her bathrobe.

Even with the tools I could not get the door opened from the outside. Engaging my fist and shoulder only succeeded in a cascade of white paint chips leaving behind a grey door with newly created cracks. My big body had to once again pass through the small window so that I could work the door from the inside. With a little further damage, we got the door opened.

To prevent any reoccurrence of this drama, I have stuck duct tape across the bolt. The door can now be closed without peril. We are compelled, Ms Keogh and I, to make a greater effort in the future to sell this house sooner as opposed to later. We shall rent a small garret in Paris and live happily ever after as artistes.

Bruce Bentzman

This essay is number 72 in a series of regular reports from the life and times of Mr Bentzman. If you've any comments or suggestions, the writer would be pleased to hear from you.
Mr Bentzman's collection of poems, "Atheist Grace" is available from Amazon, as are "The Short Stories of B.H.Bentzman"