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Fiction #293
(published August 31, 2006)
About Cleaning Maxine's
by Gerald Budinski
I was clean again and back with Maxine. Drug clean, booze clean, spirit clean but decidedly not Maxine clean. Whether as penitence or symbolism, I offered to vacuum her place while she was at work advising people on the next hot travel destinations - you know, screw the expense, you're gonna die soon anyway. She kisses me nicely when she leaves because we made love nicely the night before, not slobbering attack-mode bonk or transcendental ecstasy, but nicely.

Maxine likes her habitat clean. It should have been a simple thing because her new apartment is only one bedroom and an enormous combo room with kitchenette - maybe a thousand square feet, if you tally those things. It is one of four identical spaces in eight identical buildings in four hundred identical suburbs across America; but she's found a way to make her space unique.

The important thing is that before me this place had remained clean and neat, cluttered-neat but clean. It should be simple but she has this new space-age plastic vacuum cleaner that inhales layers of carpet and has a built-in hose attachment that attacks like a boa constrictor.

As I said, the place is uniquely cluttered and this is mainly because Maxine is a collector - a reason to travel collector — like London for one thing, Munich for another, etc. It's part of her pitch. So it's like every horizontal surface, from window sills and mantles to coffee tables, are covered with Beleek and Waterford, Wedgwood and Hummel, and folk-craftsy creatures made of wood or various shells from sea to nut. Her collecting began with just horses but then evolved upward through porcine and canine then down again to crawling things like turtles. They are crawling, pouncing, or prancing on every surface area not disputed by gravity or the human butt; like the bedroom footlocker, which I captured fair and square.

So why should it be surprising that her favorite Beleek stallion got busted?

I should interject that I am not a total loser who lives off women but a genuine professional writer who managed to keep my column through all the trouble — the one in the free local tabloid that preaches where the wannabe cool must go on weekends. This gets me a few bucks and my blog has paying ads now, so Maxine is almost voluntary. And Maxine thinks I'm real hip because my column is a twisted take on the world news and I have hopes of being syndicated. The twisted takes could be like maybe the Bushers took a poll that showed that most brain-dead people vote Republican. I'm Only Asking. That's me you know - the name of my column. And I really like Maxine. She is interesting mostly, like some of her travel parts and hearing her laugh, and the way she is rebuilding me.

Well, it's not my fault that the vacuum hose decides to attack the horse on the windowsill when I try to disengage it from its death-grip on the drapes. The horse crashes to her parquet floor and my heart stops until I shut the suck-beast down to do triage and see it wasn't all that bad. Really, just a clean break of a single leg that a simple dab of glue could fix. She'd never notice.

But where would Maxine keep glue in her new clean but cluttered apartment with a hundred drawers and cabinets? My search yielded nothing but an Elmer's that was all dried up, but it's no problem, got all day, go to a nearby Service Star, simple.

"Beleek — that's like stoneware," says a neatly uniformed kid that I have no reason to believe knows anything more than I do. So, I buy what he says plus four other kinds of glue from a freshly gooey Elmer's to a latestscientificdbreakthrough super-glue, called Eglise that I kind of liked the smell of.

Suddenly its four PM and the horse is still messed up with an enormous carbuncle of mixed essences that make his gait more than a bit unsteady. I had opened the superglue first but seemed like a waste to use it for a little job on a tiny leg. So I had tried the four others — each promising value with its unique bouquet — and was finding the experience to be enlightening. I was favoring this Eglise more and more, even before my experiments demonstrated that no other substance known to science would stick to this fucking Beleek crap. But this Eglise stuff works.

No, I am not stupid — I knew what was happening - but if you have been there before, you know that something like Eglise can set off creative juices and put the entire universe in perspective. So with this new perspective I decide that what Maxine needs is not a tipsy four-legged horse in the same old place but a totally rearranged menagerie. And after a few more things get broken, I conclude that what she really needs is one massive sculpture that captures the essence of all moving breathing creatures, great and small.

And it was really beautiful with all the colors and the waning sun winking through the little beads of Eglise and the awesome sense of motion, like all of God's creation got caught up in a life-squelching stampede because Noah forgot to give the order, "two by two."

Which is why I will be crashing at the office for a while.

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