CLEAN UP YOUR LIFE by Jack Montgomery


     "What a disagreeable man," Jane thought.

     "Faulty items and junk surround you," he continued. "Yet you are blind to most of it. Be ruthless, if something is broken, get rid of it."

     Jane might not be housewife of the year material, but she kept on top of the household chores; she knew her house wasn′t like that. The ′house psychiatrist′, on the show Clean up Your life, was explaining how people could adjust to little things in their houses that were broken, or didn′t work properly. How was it he put it? "Useless items lay about for so long that they became the norm; they became invisible to you."

     "Nonsense," she shouted at the television. Her house was clean and everything was in working order. Jane knew this for a fact because, every Saturday, Jane presented Dave with a list of odd jobs designed to keep the house shipshape. In response, he would sigh, drag himself from his chair and reluctantly begin to work through "his tasks".

     "It′s good for him," Jane explained to her friends, Sandra and Isabel.

     "Stops him getting fatter," she′d laugh. "Otherwise he′d just waste the time watching football down the pub with his mates."

     After ten years of marriage, Jane had developed a routine for Dave that suited her perfectly.

     "Think its nonsense?" The psychiatrist appeared to look directly at Jane. "Why don′t you take a look around your house? You might be surprised."

     "Okay, I will," she stood up, accepting the challenge.

     Jane started with the kitchen. She surveyed the spotless marble worktops, gleaming stainless steel cooker, and immaculate pine cupboards.

     "As expected, everything is perfect."

     The psychiatrist was still talking.

     "Remember, look beyond what you normally see. Look for things that have become invisible to you."

     "Invisible, ha," Jane snorted dismissively, and turned to leave the kitchen; something caught her attention. Lurking behind her cast iron scales, waiting to be repaired, was a yellow china butter dish with a broken handle. Jane had thought Dave had mended it four weeks ago.

     "That doesn′t count," she decided. She grabbed the broken butter dish, shoved it in a cupboard and closed the cupboard door. It swung shut with a loud BANG.

     Dave had said he was going to put a rubber stopper on that door. With her confidence rapidly deserting her, Jane realised that she had better cast her eyes over the rest of the house.

     A cursory examination confirmed Jane’s fears. She identified a dining room chair that wobbled, a bathroom tap with a drip needed a washer, a skirting board whose paint was flaking off and an ugly tree stump smack bang in the middle of the garden that, for months, Dave been promising to dig up. What horrified Jane was the fact that she knew about all of these, she had simply become blind to their existence.

     Jane put her head in her hands; the psychiatrist was right, the house was a disaster; full of broken items and never-completed jobs and it was all Dave′s fault. He was supposed to have dealt with all of them.

     Acknowledging defeat, Jane decided it was time to review her strategy.

     "Damn it, if I′m going to do this, I′m going to do it properly."

     She grabbed a pen and paper and began a methodical examination of each room. As the list grew, adding to the case for the prosecution, she realised that she was actually enjoying the challenge of uncovering every little flaw. She was going to make Dave′s life a misery for this. What had he been doing all these years? He always seemed to be pottering around, doing ′little jobs′.

     Based on the evidence that she had on the paper in her hand, Dave had done nothing for most of their married life. Impatient for Dave to come home, Jane marched to the front door. Her eyes were drawn to something beside the door; it was a glass topped, aluminium bedside table that should have been taken to the tip weeks ago. Now it was home to gardening gloves and a trowel. The sight of it fuelled Jane′s anger. She heard a car engine and looked up to see the silver saloon enter the drive; the guilty party had returned.

     "Inside  -  NOW," Jane hissed, pushing her bewildered husband through the front door. "You lazy, good for nothing, slob," She shouted.

     "What have I done?" Dave was bemused.

     "It′s what you haven′t done that′s the problem," Jane told him about the TV programme and the result of her investigation. She threw a damming three page list at him.

     ′I′m meeting Isabel for lunch. You better have dealt with most of these by the time I get back,′ Jane grabbed the car keys and stormed out of the front door.

     Lunch with Isabel, a glass of wine and the opportunity to blow off steam about her useless lump of a husband helped calm Jane down. Some therapy shopping thrown in as compensation helped Jane′s mood and she was feeling far more tranquil by the time she returned home three hours later. It was a state of mind which was short lived; it evaporated completely when she was greeted by the aluminium table, still defiantly holding its position.

     Jane shook her head in disbelief and a threatening dark cloud descended as she walked through the house, registering that Dave apparently hadn′t tackled any of the jobs she′d left him.

     The guilty party was in the garden, leaning casually on a spade beside a gaping hole; the spot once occupied by the ugly tree stump. Jane stormed through the patio doors.

     "Smart, Dave, smart. Starting with the job that you knew would take the longest," Jane put her hands on her hips. "I suppose you thought that if you spent the afternoon removing the stump you wouldn′t have time to do anything else?"

     "No, that′s not it at all," Dave straightened up. "Clean up Your Life was repeated this afternoon; so I watched it. It was fascinating. It really opened my eyes to things I hadn′t seen before, so I decided to tackle the biggest problem first."

     "I see; the stump?" Jane folded her arms. Dave looked at her and smiled sadly. "No love, not the stump  - you."

     The last thing that Jane saw before her light was turned out and she toppled backwards into the hole vacated by the stump was the shovel coming toward her.

     Dave quickly shovelled earth back into the hole.

     "That man on that programme was spot on. It′s too easy to become blind to the things in your life that causes the biggest problems."

ENDS © Jack Montgomery