Domestic Tranquility: The Vacuum Cleaner

Domestic Tranquility: The Vacuum Cleaner

Hi CAMPBELLSWORLD VISITORS!!! Here’s a story that left me laughing and shaking my head all at the same time. Steven Dear…???

Subject: Stephen’s Tale: Vacuum Cleaners

Stephen Halpert

                       Domestic Tranquility: The Vacuum Cleaner

Tasha had just finished vacuuming the living room with the new vacuum she had been given by a friend who had moved away to live with her daughter. Seeming stronger and heavier than any we had ever had before, it moved across our rug like a Sherman tank rooting out dirt and grime from every fiber. 

 She smiled. “Doesn’t our rug look practically brand new?”

“Just as new as it did last night.” I foraged around in the fridge looking for a snack alternative to cheese.

“It was sweet of her to make a me present of her vacuum. It’s really quite special you know when someone you care for gives you their vacuum cleaner.”

She wheeled it into the bedroom and started it up. I gave up on the fridge and followed after her.

I scratched my head. This was a new thought. “You really think so?”

“Of course,” she said. “Having a good vacuum cleaner is essential. Without one think how dusty and dreadful our apartment would become. The only alternative would be to take the rugs outside and beat them by hand.”

She finished vacuuming. We rearranged some boxes so as to fit the new vacuum into the back of our closet. “Thank you for helping me find a good place to keep it.” 

“I never knew you felt that way.”

She sat down at her computer. “Which way?”

“Your passion for vacuums. It’s really touching to hear you speak so well of them. And when you finished vacuuming you seemed so fulfilled and peaceful. Now I know what to surprise you with under the tree come Christmas.”

She looked at me oddly. “What are you talking about?”

“Finding you old rare vacuum cleaners. Not those fly-by-night cheapo’s from China we see at the mall. I’d like to start building you a collection of classics, like the ones my mother used. An assortment you can show off proudly to your friends.”

Her eyes widened. “You must be kidding.”

“No, really, I’m not. Can’t you just imagine the wall behind our loveseat with old rare vacuums displayed there within easy reach the way men mount their rifles, their swords, even their fishing rods.”

“Not mention their fish,” she added.

“And then when the grandchildren come visit each could use one and we’d play find the dirt.” 

She turned away took out one of her cookbooks and began to peruse it. 

But I wasn’t finished. “Remember that guy in Virginia? He collected rare hubcaps and mounted them all over the walls of his condo. Why shouldn’t you do the same?”

She made a face. “His wife left him. Maybe that was why”. She turned the pages. “This looks like an interesting way to fix chicken.”

I smiled.  “I’ll start by finding an Electrolux from the 1950’s. Remember them? They looked like rocket ships. My mother loved hers.  Even brought it with her when we’d summer at my grandmother’s in Narragansett Pier.”

She frowned. “Why do you keep on this way? Are you making fun of me?”

“Not at all! Graham Greene’s novel Our Man In Havana is all about a vacuum cleaner being perceived as a bomb.”

She looked up at me and nodded. “Yes. Alec Guinness was in that movie. It was funny.”

I went over and hugged her. “This is a new idea for us, but to me it makes ultimate good sense. Why after a few years if we keep at it one day you could even open a small vacuum cleaner museum. I know there’s already one or two somewhere else but not anywhere around here. People will come from miles just like they go to Worcester to see the museum of plumbing.”

She closed her cookbook, looked at me, and shook her head. I wondered if there was some fallacy to my idea.

Her voice was firm. “I don’t want to open a vacuum cleaner museum. I think the idea is ludicrous. If anyone heard you talk like that they’d think there was something wrong with your head.”

I persisted. “But think of it as a fitting tribute, a remembrance to American domesticity, the essence of the patriarchy. Wow! I’ll bet we could apply for grants and gain a following. Besides doing that would be so cool. We could go to the museum in Worchester and see how they display toilets and related plumbing fixtures. Plus I’ve heard there’s even a museum near Fitchburg we could visit that displays a wide assortment of plastic. Ours would fit right in and become a trendy place to visit.”

She looked at me, shook her head and smiled. “Now I know you’re teasing me.”

I leaned back in my chair. “Not really. Do you have any idea the tax advantages we could get from opening a museum? Plus once you have a large collection you’d have a vacuum for any task. People could consult with you as to which kind to use for what. You could pick and choose like selecting the right golf club for the best approach to the tee.”

She stood and put her hands on her hips. “One really is enough.”

I shook my head. “I’m sure that the one we have works well for everyday rugs. But in addition to it wouldn’t you like one of those sleek old hand held Hoovers that could get behind picture frames and clean diabolical germs from out-of-the-way crevices? My mother had one of those and the house was so clean none of us hardly ever caught colds, unless we visited people with less effective vacuums than hers.”

She took a chocolate bar from her desk, opened it and gave me half. “I never knew that about your mother.”

“When I was a kid if I dared cough she’d consider putting me in quarantine. Her war on germs was intense.

Tasha took a bite of her chocolate bar and chuckled.

“Eventually you could even have one of those expensive robotic vacuums we see in catalogues. And just think, your daughters would be so proud thinking of their mother as the First Lady of Vacuuming. Why you might even make the cover of People Magazine.”

        She looked at me and smiled. “Go on and eat your chocolate. I know perfectly well you’re kidding.” She came over and gave me a hug. “You are truly my good humorist, and I love you for it.”

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