(My computer is still acting up, so I apologize for the delay on this and some future posts.)
The poop house haunted me, both when I was awake, and in my nightmares.
When awake, I fitfully itched and scratched, compulsively cleaned things I already knew to be clean, compulsively showered multiple times per day, did laundry to a point which would be considered highly wasteful by energy and water conservation standards, and generally dreaded my next foray into hell.
When asleep, I was tormented by the nightmarish number of cats, dogs, and cockroaches. Sleeping sucked because it was seldom restful sleep, and usually I was at the mercy of all the living creatures in the poop house, which generally meant that I dreamed of having dogs biting at my ankles, cats hissing at me from shelves, and cockroaches surrounding me no matter where I turned... And of course the smell. Yes, even in my nightmares the smell was thick and utterly rank.
Normally, Lizzle is pretty affable most of the time. Hell 95% of the time Lizzle is downright likable to most people with any intelligence. (Admittedly Lizzle is less likable to those who posess IQ scores on the lower end of the spectrum, because she derives intense pleasure from mocking many of them with words that are too big for them to comprehend... And despite the lack of intelligence and vocabulary, they somehow manage to pick up on tones of derision, ridicule and mockery.) Lizzle really tries not to make fun of the dummies, but so many of them just beg for it! And like any good realist, Lizzle admits that there are always bad days here and there for anyone, and she's not going to pretend that she's the least bit likable when things are bad, or when she has cramps. But once the poop house came along, Lizzle started losing sleep. Sleep-deprived Lizzle is a different beast altogether. Sleep-deprived Lizzle tries to be nice, but generally operates on a really short fuse, and once that fuse is lit, it's spent for the day, until a little bit of fitful sleep essentially hits the reset button. Lizzle knows that parenthood robs a person of countless hours of sleep, but those hours are balanced out by the mellowing effects of affection for the offspring, rendering most parents pretty tolerable, if not likable. But the sleep-deprived Lizzle has no children. No pets. No nothing. Instead sleep-deprived Lizzle had the poop house, and needless to say, there was NO affection WHATSOEVER for the poop house. In point of fact, Lizzle had nothing but contempt, loathing, and hate for the poop house... And all involved with putting her there and keeping her there.
Lizzle is tired of referring to herself in the third person.
I admit that I was a little coarse and probably difficult to be around at this point in time. Things were not looking as though they were going to improve any time soon though, so my real friends tried to offset my general aire of unpleasantness by asking me to recount my daily interaction with the poop house family. I don't know if they thought it would be cathartic for me to just vent and that I would be more pleasant once it was out, or if they just had a really morbid curiosity about everything, or if they figured that since they had to suffer my presence, they might as well get the latest chapter of the horror story, but whatever the hypothesis, whatever the reasoning, no matter how many people I told, I didn't feel any better about it. Never. I did get to a point where I was able to laugh about the sheer foulness and and misery of my daily visits to the poop house, but only as a means of mental self preservation... I never genuinely felt any better about it, and to this day it still intensely bothers me. The laughter and joking merely made others more comfortable around me.
So I went back the next day.
Again as I sat at the curb, changing into poop shoes, I cursed under my breath. I then cursed at normal volume because the subtle cursing didn't make me feel any better. I turned my gaze to the poop house, noticing a grocery cart in the front yard that hadn't been there before. Knowing that there wasn't anything more than a run-down bodega, much less a full-on grocery store, within a mile of this shit hole, I had the distinct feeling that the cart had not been idly dumped by someone traveling to their own home, but rather that it had some significance to play in this visit. As it turned out, I was right.
As I choked on the foul air standing and knocking on the front door, I listened to the dogs barking. Mitch took his sweet time doing whatever he was doing inside, I assume he was getting up from his late afternoon nap in front of the television... Because he certainly wasn't cleaning. He opened the inside door, and as he reached to open the screen door, the five small dogs barked and rampaged down at his feet, and spilled out onto the porch the instant the door was open. Contrary to the instincts that you and I have, they were not out to make a grand escape. Rather, they snarled at my feet and one of them chomped at my pant leg. While I'm not one to advocate violence against animals, I am also not one to tolerate being bitten, especially when the offending animal has been living in filth and has god only knows what growing in and on it. I fought the urge to kick the little bastard off my ankle and merely shook him off, and suggested that Mitch store the animals somewhere other than little Millie's room for the duration of my visit. This would become a part of our daily routine.
As he collected the little beasts one by one and shoved them back in the bathroom, I pulled up my pant leg to make sure that my skin was still 100% intact. Once the process of containing the dogs was complete, he opened the screen door and let me in. Instantly I knew two things: 1) Mitch had DEFINITELY not been cleaning prior to my arrival, and 2) I knew I was right about that shopping cart. As I looked around, I saw enough dung on the floor that if I hadn't known better would have made me think that I hadn't been there just one day earlier. I looked around without moving more than three steps beyond the front door and could count more than a dozen piles of crap.
"Mitch! WHAT ON EARTH HAVE YOU BEEN DOING?"
"Mitch, I'm still within spitting distance of your front door and I can see at least a dozen piles of poop on the floor... That's your number one job on the chore list, so what on earth have you been doing? Because picking up poop ain't it."
"Well, uh, you see..."
That aforementioned short fuse had been lit. I was now a ticking time bomb.
"And now that I'm looking around to see more than just poop... What is all this stuff?"
"Well, uh, you see, that's what I was doing."
"I don't follow."
"Well, I was out earlier walking down the alley, and I saw this computer, and then I saw this box of stuff, and then I saw this..."
He carried on, indicating all of the treasures he'd found on his trek down the alley. My inner rage was about to boil over, and so I focused my efforts on controlling that, rather than listening to the whole list.
"MITCH. STOP. You're telling me that despite the fact that you have a total of nineteen animals to clean up after, and a house that the state has told you is too cluttered and filthy, that you went down the alley and picked up OTHER PEOPLE'S GARBAGE and brought it into your house?"
"Well, yeah," he said in a manner so frank and simply that it astonished me.
"Mitch, if I've been coming every day and telling you things that you need to throw out or clean up, what part of picking up other people's trash and putting it in your house did you think I'd be ok with?"
"Well, it's not trash, you see..."
"Mitch, I'm going to cut you off, because here's the deal, if your house is already too full of stuff you can't manage to keep clean and organized, and the state has to call to make sure that someone like me is coming by every day to make sure that things aren't getting any worse, and in fact, work with you on making it BETTER, what made you think that taking things that other people had THROWN AWAY would make this better?"
"Well, this isn't trash... It's a computer."
"Mitch, I'm not trying to insult you, but you don't live in the ritziest neighborhood in town... When someone around here throws something away, there's usually something pretty significant wrong with it that they can't fix. Nobody is going to leave a WORKING computer out in the alley."
"But I can fix it."
"Really? Do you have the expertise to know exactly what is wrong with it, or the parts to repair it?"
"Well, no. But I've got these other ones over here too... and I'll fix them and sell them."
"You see, this is why I have a problem with this... You're currently pointing at five other computers which you've amassed by some means or another, and I am assuming that none of them work either. If they did, you'd either be using them, or you'd have sold them as functional. You've told me that you don't have the expertise or the parts to fix them, and since I know you guys are going to food banks to get food, I think it's a safe bet that you're not in a position to go out buying computer parts, diagnostic equipment, or even pay for a class to learn how to figure out what's wrong with them. Stop me if I'm wrong, at any point, but if the state is telling you to clean up your house and get rid of all the clutter, which by the way would include broken computers that you don't know how to fix, doesn't adding a grocery cart load of other people's trash seem a little counter productive?"
"You don't have to say it... We both know the right answer to that one. And I tell you what, I'll even tell you that you can hang on to that broken computer, but in trade, you've got to take TWO grocery cart loads of other stuff that is broken, or trash, out to the alley. You can't keep adding other people's trash, when you've got too much of your own."
Mitch looked at me utterly crestfallen. I was making him choose. And for him, choosing certain things among his house full of garbage was like Sophie's choice.
"Mitch, I'm not trying to be mean here, but if that's what it takes to show you I'm serious, I'll be meaner than a rattlesnake. I want you guys to get this house cleaned up. I want to be able to tell your case worker that you're making progress. I want to be out of here just as badly as you want me to be out of here. And I know that you don't want me in here every day, telling you your business, and if you get this place cleaned up I don't have to be, but that's the problem; that's why you can't keep heaping new stuff onto the pile here."
"That's also why you can't be going out to look for stuff when you've got a house full of animals to clean up after. Because it's pretty obvious that while you were out and about, the animals have gone to town, and it shows that cleaning up after them wasn't your first priority."
"Well, I was going to, but then I sat down to take a break and then you showed up."
"Mitch, if I haven't even made it this far into the house and I can count twelve piles of poop without even looking around for the ones which might be a little bit hidden, or around a corner, I'm betting that you didn't just sit down and 'poof' I was here to catch you taking a break. I am in full support of taking breaks, but that means you've got to be doing something productive in order to take that break... And I've already told you I wasn't born yesterday, so I'm betting that you guys haven't cleaned a thing since I left yesterday, have you?"
"Well, we did some laundry."
"You started that while I was here... So that doesn't count."
"Come on... I'll give you the points for honesty."
"I figured. The question is, what are YOU going to do about it? I've already told you that I am not going to do it for you. I will tell you what you need to do, and I'll supervise, and I'll help you with resources, but my job it to make sure that Millie is safe, and that Dave knows she's safe... And I can't say that I'm able to give Dave a very good report today."
"I'll clean up the poop."
"I'll go through the pile of stuff."
"And I'll take some of it out back to the alley."
"And I'll do the dishes and the other stuff on the chore list."
"And what? What else is there?"
"Mitch, there's a whole lot that isn't on that daily chore list that could be done... But in the interest of setting goals I think you can achieve, I will settle for what you've already promised me you'll do, AND NOT going out and adding to your problems with other people's trash."
I did a pretty standard look around the house, made sure that the poop got picked up, (in the end there were more than two dozen piles of poop found and cleaned up,) made sure that he knew what he had to get done by my next visit, and left.
As I changed out of the poop shoes, soaked my hands in sanitizer, and raced home, I called case worker Dave to make sure that he knew about the massive amounts of poop, and the additional garbage in the house... There was NO WAY IN HELL that this was going to come back on me. I passed the responsibility to him by making sure he was aware of what he had Millie living in.
NO. WAY. IN. HELL.