What am I doing? I'm going hand-to-hand with my appliances. I'm wrestling my house to the mat. But, for the moment, she's got me in a hammerlock.
The house has a right to be upset. Really. What would any woman do if you'd neglected her for five months? No calls. No attention at all. And then you show up thinking everything will be the same as when you left.
"Where the hell have YOU been? You turn off the heat. The gas. The water. You even unplug the phone. And you think you can just waltz in here?"
I thought I'd made a commitment. She thought so too. I HAD decided to live in the house year round. But, well, things happened. I got an assignment to go elsewhere. There were personal reasons. There always are. And, well naturally, I left in the drear of winter.
Does a house care about warmth? Does she miss a fire in the hearth? Hot water coursing through her copper veins? Does a house get lonely? If the tantrum my house is throwing can be called into evidence I would say - yes.
It started with the plumbing. I subscribe to a plumbing service. Yeah, subscribe. Like a magazine. Like a concert series. The finest kind of plumbing service. But - if you want the water turned on - you've got to notify them at least two weeks in advance. No exceptions. I never know what I'm doing two weeks in advance. So I found myself under the house turning on the water. In mud, I might add, because I missed a set of drain valves. So attuned was I to leaks IN the house I never thought there might be one UNDER the house.
Did I say leaks? I mean fountains. Glorious fourth-of-July-fireboat-greeting-the-Queen-Mary fountains. Erupting from the open top of my toilet. Two trips to the hardware store before I find the right whatzit. The technical term is an anti-siphon toilet fill valve.
The house has allies. Furry ones. Last year it was squirrels. They got into a void over my bedroom and it took a month to get them out. You don't want to know what they left behind. This year it was mice. I noticed their mischief when I turned on the hot water heater. The smell - a combination of charnel house and chicken coop. They had taken up residence in the insulation surrounding the tank. I tried to clean up with my trusty Hoover. It clogged. I threw the insulation away but the evidence of furry intrusion lingers. I can't wait for warm open-the-windows-all-the-time weather.
The whole thing is - the house knows how to get me where it really hurts. In my competence. Other men can turn on a house without a major catastrophe. Other men can fix a toilet. Other men can... well you know the mantra.