We did not choose our son to replace the vacuum. He discovered plenty of dirt on his own, and when the Hoover broke, he took to it. First, he rolled around collecting glitter and string. Lint flattened out under his roller-pin frame. Cat fur strung around his neck, and to regain mobility we scissored free his head from the threads.
Our house leaked many pollutants, the gooey grease kind. They leaked out of the beds after sunrise and vomited around the toilet. They separated into sticky marble-sized pests and collided like billiard balls seeking pockets. Net pockets just below the table surface. Felt ripped by beer-sloshing cues. Our son hummed in chalky puffs turned clouds spinning dust devils. Inevitably, school expelled him for poor hygiene, or so he informed us.
We didn’t mind. The house looked better and better, and there’s no point in a vacuum being learned. Neighbors and friends recruited him. He felt obliged, but their dirt didn’t stick. So he returned home and mowed our fibers threadbare. When mother faded to a kitchen ghost, we married a sweeper. She stood taller than us and carried her broom from room to room and house to market. Without children herself, she trained the dustpans to trail after her. They clanged, gonged, and demanded equality. “Almost brother, sorta daddy, be fair. Give us wood floors. We want to slide, not scuff our bottoms.”
Stepmother warned, “You love us all, don’t you?” and her eyelashes flashed knives.
To appease the little dustpans and avoid impalement, we ripped out the carpet and sent our son downstairs.
He may yet be in the basement vacuuming the rug remnant left there. Making lines in the rectangle, obsessively and faithfully, we wouldn’t know. It’s grown quiet in the house except for the broom sweeping.
Richard Bower lives in Central New York with wife, daughter, and black cats. He teaches writing for Cayuga’s School of Media and the Arts (SOMA). Follow his work at https://tinyurl.com/RichardBower