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I always start with the kitchen when I'm cleaning a house. Usually, that's the dirtiest room and it takes the longest. This kitchen, I knew, would take an especially long time due to the greasy orange-yellow film that covered every surface and the horrifying state of the oven.
First thing I did was open the oven and hose it down with a good healthy dose of oven cleaner. Then I closed it up so it could marinate and started washing down the walls and counters. The soapy water I was using turned dark brown and viscous very quickly from the sheer volume of grossness all over everything, and I had to continually dump it down the sink and make more. Still, one of the best things about cleaning is seeing actual visual evidence that your hard work is accomplishing something, and with a little elbow grease and some Citra-Solve I was actually able to make the dull yellow cabinets and walls look white again.
The blinds, though, were another story. They were pretty much ruined. The film of smoke and grease from the kitchen had baked deep into the cheap plastic, and they were bent and broken in spots and pretty damn disgusting. There was no saving them, and I didn't want to leave them hanging there looking so shabby, so I pulled out my trusty multi-tool and snapped them off their tracks. I tossed them in the corner of the kitchen and went looking for something to put them in. There had been a black plastic bag full of trash in the workshop/garage when I got there, so I was hoping that maybe there might be some extra trash bags out there. I checked all the shelves and cabinets in that room, and was about to give up when I spotted a utility closet tucked over in the corner next to the washer and dryer.
I opened the closet door and saw what looked like a box of trash bags on the floor. I stepped inside and reached for the chain pull that would switch on the light in the closet. When I did it, I was already looking down at the box and so luckily what fell on my head when I pulled the chain hit me on top of the head and not square in the face.
I screamed, because I'm an arachnophobe and I automatically assume that anything falling on me from above is a giant spider. It wasn't, though. It was a doll. A clown doll.
It had a porcelain head and hands and was wearing a white and black satin outfit and it had the traditional clown features with the leering red mouth and fuzzy orange hair and bulbous cherry nose. I picked it up and said a few choice bad words at it; I dislike clowns almost as much as spiders, honestly. This little dude was worn and stained, as if some kid had carried him around for ages. I wondered how he got up in the top of the closet, and how exactly he could have been positioned so that he fell on me when I pulled the chain. Weird.
It was a box of trash bags on the floor and there were still two bags left inside. I carried the bags and the doll back to the kitchen, stuffed the blinds in a bag, and after thinking about it for a minute tossed the clown doll in as well. At first I felt bad doing it; what if it was some kid's treasured binky, left behind in the move? But I didn't think so. I tied the bag up and carried it outside and sat it next to the big metal trash can. Later Bozo, you creepy fuck.
I finished wiping down the cabinets and pulled on my giant rubber gloves and started working on the inside of the oven with a razor blade and a green scrubby. The oven cleaner had barely made a dent in the grime, but I figured it had loosened it up enough and I didn't want to wait any longer. So I scrubbed and scraped and scrubbed and scraped. Any repetitive mindless task is very close to meditation. The body goes on autopilot and the mind wanders and usually I find it very soothing and relaxing.
Not in that house, though. It was when I was cleaning the oven, my mind pleasantly drifting in space while my body sweated, that I first became aware of the sound. It began as a kind of low level hum that I could almost feel in the back of my neck, and it unconsciously made me start grinding my teeth. As I became more aware of it, and focused in on it trying to identify it and where it was coming from, it grew in depth and became regular, a kind of rhythmic sibilant sound like a woman sucking air in and out over her teeth while in labor. It seemed to be coming from everywhere, the walls, the floor, the ceiling. I actually stopped scrubbing, thinking that maybe it was a sound I was making, but it didn't stop. I sat still and listened, the hair beginning to rise on the back of my neck. It grew even clearer. Nonononononononononono. A constant repeating loop of no.
What the fuck, chuck? It was a subtle sound, barely at the edge of human audible range, and yet it was a tangible noise and I could feel it in my spine and in my teeth. I took off my glove and stuck my hand over the floor vent next to the stove, thinking that maybe the ac had kicked on and was rattling but there was no air moving through the grate.
For a moment I had the distinct thought that something was there, in the house, and that it didn't want the house to be cleaned. I have always believed in ghosts, and I have seen them since I was little. I'd even done some paranormal investigating in our last hometown with a group of scientists who used me as their medium. But in my experience, most ghosts were harmless and relatively repetitive, like recordings of energy made somehow on the atmosphere. I'd had a few experiences with what I felt like were negative spirits, but they certainly weren't in broad daylight on a sunny Friday afternoon. When investigating the paranormal on any serious scientific level, a healthy dose of common sense and skepticism is imperative. Most weird things that happen in houses which are blamed on spirit activity are actually mundane things with perfectly rational explanations. And I was sitting still when I should have been working, giving myself the heebie jeebies over some noise in an old house.
I shook my head to snap out of it and went back to cleaning. The noise did not cease. If anything, it intensified. But I did a fair job of ignoring it. I fell back into the rhythm of scrubbing and scraping and wiping and scouring. But the lingering unease that I felt wasn't easy to shake off. I began to think of things that I didn't usually dwell on. Death. Pain. Sadness. It was like my thoughts were not my own. As if I'd slipped down into some lower level of consciousness and was dreaming while I was awake. Nightmares. Horrible images appeared in my mind. I didn't even realize it was happening for awhile and when I finally did it took a few moments to free myself from it, like struggling to wake from a bad dream in a deep sleep.
I'd inhaled too much oven cleaner. That was it. I peeled off my gloves and headed outside for a smoke to clear my head and get some air. I almost tripped on the clown doll, which was lying on the steps leading down from the kitchen into the enclosed garage.
I almost screamed again. It fell out of the trash bag, rational mind insisted. The blinds poked a hole in the plastic and it fell out and you didn't notice it. That's all.
Whatever. I picked it up and tossed it in the metal trash can and shoved the lid on tight. Then, I used the entire metal trash can to prop the back door open this time. It was heavy, but I managed to drag it over and wedge it in place.
Outside, with the birds chirping and the sun shining and the soft breeze cooling the sweat on the back of my neck, I felt I could think objectively. Was the house haunted? Maybe. Or maybe I was overreacting to perfectly ordinary things, blowing them out of proportion, letting my imagination run away with me.
Fact was, I needed the money. Even if the house WAS haunted, it wasn't like the movies. Ghosts couldn't hurt you. My husband would be there long before dark, and he would be the first to tell anyone that he didn't believe in any ghost nonsense at all. With his help, I could finish cleaning the house and be done with it, and maybe there would be enough left from that 200 bucks to go shoe shopping this weekend.
I felt better after a couple of cigarettes. What I would do is simply get up, go back inside, and finish the job. Period. Though I couldn't help thinking about the real estate agent's regular cleaning lady, the one who had bailed leaving her sponge and bucket and stool. Maybe it wasn't just the impossibly dirty house that made her leave the job?
Well, she wasn't as tough as me obviously. I got up, went inside, put on my gloves and started on the oven again.
(If ya'll are still interested in this, I'll finish when I get back to town next week. Sorry it's so wordy, but it's a story I've never told before and I wanted to tell it right.)
doo doo doo dooo
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thebluecanary wrote:First thing I did was open the oven and hose it down with a good healthy dose of oven cleaner. Then I closed it up so it could marinate and started washing down the walls and counters. The soapy water I was using turned dark brown and viscous very quickly from the sheer volume of grossness all over everything, and I had to continually dump it down the sink and make more. Still, one of the best things about cleaning is seeing actual visual evidence that your hard work is accomplishing something, and with a little elbow grease and some Citra-Solve I was actually able to make the dull yellow cabinets and walls look white again.
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