RM’s Mum is moving in for three nights so that I can attend a conference on the Gold Coast where I’ll be staying at an exotic two bedroom apartment by myself, sans kids, and I’m already a syrupy fusion of excitement and guilt before adding in a dash of adrenalin and a trickle of bile as I fluster about, at speed, trying to mother-in-law proof the house.
‘I really hope your Dad dies slowly,’ I say to RM, who’s feeding Maki at the kitchen table, as I skitter past her to the laundry with yet another load of washing which is so huge, and has seriously come out of nowhere. I would not be any more surprised if I looked down to see I was carrying a lama, or a bag of leprechauns.
‘Right…’ she says.
I manage to shift all the clothes to one arm without droppinganything but that minor miracle is made redundant when I lift the lid to find the last load peering up at me, all wet and needy, thanks to the washing machine’s recent trend of overbalancing during the spin cycle.
‘You sloth mongrel bastard,’ I yell as I kick it and drop my lama-sized bundle of clothes to the dusty floor.
‘Who are you talking to?’ RM says, from the kitchen.
I’m pulling out the sopping items one by one and repositioning them in the washing machine’s tub, dripping water on to the tiled floor, so that I slip a little bit when I step back into the hall and let go of a short involuntary squeal which, embarrassingly, RM hears.
‘That’s my girl,’ she laughs, as I walk back into sight, glowering, to clean up the toys and shoes and segments of partially squashed mandarin, so frustrated by a series of small isolated stuff-ups – that have been happening all day – that I don’t notice the plastic piece of train-track lying on the floor, and suddenly the squeal of the slip is replaced by the shriek of the stab as I step on its squarish, pointy edge before human pogo-sticking my way to the couch, almost passing out from the pain.
‘Are you okay?’ RM asks.
‘It’s cut me, RM’ I say, grabbing my ankle and twisting my foot around. ‘Dear lord; there’s blood… and a flap of skin…. and your Mother’s coming… should I pull it off?’
‘You want to pull my mother off?’ she laughs.
‘What’s Mum got to do with it?’ she says, reaching for the tissue box on the table and throwing it to me.
After it bounces off the couch to the floor, just out of reach, I sit grinding my teeth, watching as it grows eyes and a large clown mouth and says, ‘Haha!’
‘There’s no way I can leave the house as it is with your Mum coming to stay. I need to get it cleaned tonight,’ I say, swirling in hysteria. ‘But there’s still so much to do… and now the kids… and Toys R Us have teamed up to maim me… what hope is there?’
For some reason the way I’m panting reminds me of an overheated Guinea Pig, which sickens me, because Guinea Pigs are basically food for other animals, useless unto themselves, constantly skittering and squealing and shivering at the prospect of being eaten, and I’ve been cleaning the house for the past few hours and stocking the fridge and burying marital aids with that same pathetic intensity.
‘Don’t make a big deal out of it,’ RM says. ‘Mum just loves helping out and being useful.’
‘I know,’ I say. ‘And if I don’t get the house clean she’ll go to work being useful on all the things I’ve missed and then I’ll get back from the Gold Coast to see the ironed folds in the fabric-softened sheets, and the rearranged clothes cupboards. We’ll also be able to see the floor in the toy room and the bathroom will be so shiny it’ll be like walking into a house of mirrors…’
‘The clothes cupboards do need a bit of attention,’ she says. ‘I found my sports bra in Lewis’s pyjama drawer this morning.’
‘…and then the guilts will get me,’ I continue. ‘And I’ll find it almost impossible to make fun of her… to her face… for a little while at least.’
‘You poor thing,’ RM says, all bouncy with sarcasm.
When I take a deep breath to reach out and grab the smarty-pants tissue box from the living room floor the effort squeezes out yet another vermin-like squeak and with it comes the harrowing stench of defeat. I flop back in near acceptance of my guinea-pigness. ‘This is me actually attempting a straightforward thank you to your parents,’ I say, struggling with the reveal. ‘I want them to be able to just focus on the kids… I’m just trying to say categorically, that I appreciate the monster in your mother and father’s efforts, in the things they do for us.’
‘You could just try telling them that,’ RM says.
‘I could just tell them that,’ I say. ‘Yes. Or I could continue with the approach I find much easier; skittering around cleaning the house… frantic… hyperventilating… mutilated.’
RM laughs as I take away the blood soaked tissue to see that I have stemmed the flow and so I head down the hall to the medicine cabinet and limp back sporting a Ben 10 bandaid on the sole of my foot to find that she’s transferred Maki to his cot, and is picking up the murderous toys. When I join her she says, ‘So you want my Dad to die because…?’
‘I want him to die slowly… because I owe him big time,’ I say. ‘When I asked if he’d give me a lift to the airport, he said yes, of course, but then in his usual style said, when was the last time you took me to the airport RD? Seems like a one way street.’
‘He’s just joking,’ RM says.
‘But it’s true,’ I say. ‘Your Mum and Dad let us stay at their house for a fricking year, they continue to babysit for us at the drop of a hat, your Dad has handy-manned our house to a superior level of security and comfort, and the only gift I’ve offered them in return is to use them as comic fodder for my blog.’
‘They love reading your blog…’
‘So, I was thinking about it… I really hope your Dad avoids a massive heart attack and instead has a mild stroke, or catches some kind of muscle wasting disease, or just goes senile, so that I get the chance to be his – part-time – invalid carer, as a way of paying him back before he dies.’
‘You are a freak,’ RM laughs. ‘Dad would hate that.’
‘What, dying slowly?’
‘No, relying on someone else to look after him.
‘Don’t worry,’ I say, as I hobble on boldly with the good of my in-laws the only focus. ‘I will change his mind on that with just one tender and compassionate sponge bath.’