Bleach House (Sorry, Charles Dickens)

November 21, 2013 

It started five weeks ago—my annual autumn cough. But then it multiplied by six and I was in danger of blowing ribs. I didn’t sleep for four consecutive nights, for hacking and gagging. My voice grew raspy, and people on the phone kept saying, Speak up. I was speaking up.

Yesterday, in desperation I went to Kevin’s office. Kevin B. is a great doc. He looked up my nose, down my throat, in my ears; he stethoscoped my lungs and had me take deep breaths, each one ending with a sound like a very large cat upchucking a hairball.

Kevin said, Gene? This single-spaced, two page chronological summary of your last five weeks? I can’t read all this now. Wait. What’s this last thing—number 16? You want to die? Artists. Compulsive but interesting. May I suggest some alternatives to death? And where is the Indian artifact you promised me? Okay. Do not say a word. I am now a psychic. I will make three statements, at the end of which I will tell you what’s wrong. I know you’re a writer—I don’t know anything about your living circumstances. Agreed? (I nod) Okay. 1. You have moved in the last six months (seven). 2. You rented a house in the country and it has a basement (si). 3. You saw mold growing on the walls this summer. True or false? (Swami-Doc!) You have mold spores in your sinus cavity and mold spores in your lungs. You are one infected son of a bitch (son of a bitch added for effect—or is it affect?). Now. I’m ordering a CAT scan for tomorrow. I know what it’s going to say. Did I mention the Indian artifact?

And so I had the CAT scan today. The technician who attended me, Miss Sarah, was stunningly cute. She cradled my, uh, shaved head in her soft as butter hands and she smelled like lilacs, and her bow-shaped lips were inches from my nose, and her long black hair brushed my cheek and I “dreamed the impossible dream.” Get it? I’m on asthma medication and, after one pill, I’m improving.

Except. Genehouse is sick. I scraped blue-green mold off walls this summer. I scrubbed with bleach.

My landlord—call her Bowling Ball because that’s how she’s built—said, Hey you live in the country. Everybody has mold and asthma. You don’t like it you can leave at any time. Wet basement? Who ain’t got one? You can leave at any time. Now, just to ease your mind, I’m spraying bleach—you can leave at any time—on ever’thin down there. No, don’t offer me rubber gloves. You can leave at any time. My brother promised you new windows. He run away but I kept his word. We got them for ya in timely fashion (last week; the promise was made in June) We don’t have to but because of your complainin we are putting plastic over the basement doors—not this weekend, the family’s got things to do and what’s a west wind in the basement, if not bracing. I ain’t afraid a bleach! Mice? Bring ’em on. Wasps? Smash! Earthworms on the basement floor? They should be on the ceilin? Ants? Uncles. pinch bugs? I will pinch them where the sun don’t shine. (poor, poor pinch bugs, her jellied adiposity impossible to pinch—my condolences) I lived in this house and what did it do to me?

It ate your brain, Bowling Ball.

About Eugene Jones Baldwin

I am a writer: non-fiction, fiction, journalism (Alton Telegraph), essays (The Genehouse Chronicles) and have a website: I've published a couple dozen short stories and had eleven plays produced. Current projects: "Brother of the Stones" (available on Kindle), a book of short stories; "The Faithful Husband of the Rain, short stories"; "A Black Soldier's Letters Home, WWII,;" "There is No Color in Justice," a commentary on racism; "Ratkillers," a new play. I am an avocational archaeologist and I take parts of my collection of several thousand Indian artifacts (personal finds) to schools, nature centers, libraries etc. and talk about the 20,000 year history of The First people in Illinois. (See link to website) I'm also a playwright (eleven plays produced), musician, historian (authority on the Underground Railroad in Illinois, the Tuskegee Airmen) and teacher.
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