Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I crawled out of bed this morning to find my father's golden retriever lying next to a puddle of his own vomit. It was mostly brown goo, but there were a few chunks in there as well. At first I yelled at the dog, but I think this just confused him. It's not like I was going to be able to shame him into not throwing up all over the floor in the future. The thing already has enough trouble with "sit" and "stay"- I'm doubtful that it could learn "don't vom", or even, "stop rolling around in that," or "don't eat your own puke". I took him outside, hoping he might realize that it would be a far better place for him to wretch up anything left in his stomach, but he just sat there and stared at me.

Back inside, I grabbed a wad of paper towels and started mopping up the mess on the floor while the dog raced to eat as much vom as possible before I had wiped it all away. Afterwards, I splashed some Pinesol on the floor, and I was immediately hit by that pungent smell that always filled our house after Maria made her bi-weekly visits. It was a little surprising for me to realize that I had never before identified what produced the "Maria smell" that indicated that the house was at least temporarily sanitized for the 24 hours that the smell lingered above the tile floors.

Maria was a strange figure during my childhood. I rarely ever saw her, but her presence was noticeable in so many ways that she became an almost supernatural figure, like the wind or the sun or a bolt of lightning that cleaned the house every week (she had come more frequently when my mother still lived with my father). Maria was the reason why a toy or a magazine would suddenly go missing, only to appear in a completely foreign drawer or cabinet. She was the reason why the water in the toilet became blue and bubbly and lightly fragrant. She was the reason why I had to pick up all my toys once each week and the reason why the stuffed animals on top of my bunkbed needed to be rearranged so that they could return to their proper positions. She made my sheets change colors, produced arcing patterns in all the carpets, and left that sickly sweet Maria smell to let me know she had visited.

Once when I was very young, my mother told me that Maria had promised to give back all the money that she made cleaning houses after she became a millionaire. I can't remember if my mother also told me how Maria was planning to make it big, but I often think of this story and it always makes me a little sad. I think it's one of the reasons I try to avoid Maria whenever she's cleaning my father's house. A few years ago, she approached me while I was eating breakfast in my father's kitchen and asked me to say hello to my mother for her. I eventually passed along the message, but my mom just rolled her eyes and said that Maria must have been looking for work. At first I was angry at my mother for being so callous, but I've come to realize that she was probably right. And now it's become another reason why I get a little sad whenever I smell Pinesol.

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