As I stood lecturing Mitch about his chore list, sounding not entirely unlike a broken record, Millie rolled in like an unwelcome rain cloud at public hanging, something unpleasant on its own coming along in a timely way and making an already really unpleasant situation just that much worse.
Millie bounded around with all the energy that an enraged overweight 5 year old could possibly muster. First she terrorized the animals. She selected the nearest, slowest or sleepiest feline she could find within grabbing distance, (and with the outrageous number of cats in the house, she had plenty of options…) and grabbed it in a way that made me wince. I anticipated deep scratches and yowling from the cat and tears and screaming from Millie. But much to my dismay, the cat seemed relatively resigned to its fate. It hung uncomfortably in her arms, draped over her pudge, and not seeming to mind that she was clinging to it only by its shoulder blades. Shortly after growing bored with merely holding the cat, she decided to make it dance on a pile of laundry which could only possibly be described as filthy, even if Mitch had just taken it out of the dryer, (which was doubtful). This, inevitably, pissed the cat off. And about 4 seconds into the dancing, the cat began to twist and writhe in determined attempts to escape little Millie who seemed equally determined to hold onto the cat.
With a sudden burst of unanticipated vocal rage, Millie made the announcement that she was hungry. It was an announcement made in a much more hostile and loud way than what I would’ve considered standard for a kid informing a parent of mild after-school hunger. This was worrying. Mitch told her to wait and he’d make her something in a few minutes. She screamed and stomped and made a big production. And as I stood there, mentally tabulating the reasons for this kind of aggression, Mitch just yelled back at her screaming that he would fix her something in a few minutes. Mental tabulations resolved. She simply mirrored what she had available as a role model, which was poor at best. As the shouting match continued, I stood there observing, shaking my head in disbelief at the lowest level of parenting, (if one could call it that,) which was displayed before me. After a few minutes I’d had enough and interjected that if they weren’t so busy yelling at each other a snack would’ve been prepared by now. I suggested that Millie go play in the other room while Mitch got something ready. They both seemed displeased with this, and gave me a sneer of disgust… If only they knew how mutual the feeling really was.
Mitch jumped on the first opportunity to prove that he was not the lone culprit in this pile of filth they called home, by showing me that Millie wouldn’t listen to him. He screamed at Millie to put the still-struggling cat down. Millie screamed back that she was playing with him, and didn’t want to let go. If a sigh had been possible without engaging in a deep breath, I’d have rolled my eyes and deeply sighed at this interaction, because obviously I was misinformed in my middle-class upbringing, and this screaming is the best way to communicate effectively, especially when standing about 5 feet apart. I settled for rolling my eyes and mentally cursing profusely.
When the cat finally clawed its way free, Millie screamed and stomped out of the room to chase after it. Mitch stopped her long enough to tell her to go clean her room. Millie retorted that she had to go to the bathroom. Mitch told her to hold it for a few minutes until I left because the dogs were in there and if she let them out they would proceed to bark and nip at my ankles. Knowing that the dogs were likely carrying all kinds of crazy diseases not known anywhere else in the civilized world, and knowing that Millie’s impulse control wasn’t all that great on a good day, and that having to go to the bathroom would only worsen anyone’s impulse control, I thought that was my cue to head for the door. It would’ve been a handy excuse to get the hell out of there into fresh air, only speaking to Mitch over my shoulder as I made a beeline for the exit. Clearly that exit strategy was not meant to be.
Millie then ran across the garbage and feces-littered living room, chasing after one of the cats, and upon cornering and capturing the poor creature, began tormenting it. Meanwhile, Mitch plodded over to the pantry door to retrieve god only knows what from one of the shelves. As he opened the door, another cat shot out from one of the lower shelves and bolted toward the relative safety of the dining room table which was, as previously mentioned, heaped with piles of soiled laundry. I couldn’t entirely blame it, as I turned in time to see Millie squeezing whichever of the many other cats she’d managed to capture and naturally proceeded in a clear plan of action by screaming in its face. As she turned more directly toward me, I noticed that the screaming was a consequence that we all suffered as the poor feline desperately clawed her, I hoped the clawing was as much for punishment for the squeezing and screaming, as an attempt to escape. I was admittedly surprised that she hadn’t yet taken to swinging it around by the tail. I turned the half of my attention which wasn’t devoted to controlling my shallow breathing, and not vomiting, back to Mitch who was apparently trying to satisfy Millie’s after-school hunger, I noted that he was seemingly perplexed by the pantry, either unsure of its mixed contents, or trying to dream up some kind of remotely appetizing snack using any of the ingredients he had on hand. As I tried to figure out what it was that he could make using the alleged “food products” in the pantry, possibly by covering some of them with the stocks of government cheese I knew they kept in the fridge, I had a thought. Essentially, my thought was that while I wasn’t the wealthiest kid on the block growing up, (in fact, FAR from it,) I know that my upbringing afforded me some luxuries that my client base was not privvy to, but even if I were stranded on a desert island, and I were all out of coconuts, and I had depleted all my other resources, and fished the seas barren, I still would not have ever consumed anything that was prepared in this kitchen… As this thought reached its conclusion, I noticed something disturbing, in hindsight, the thought might have been abbreviated by my noticing that the walls of the pantry were speckled black and brown, and worse yet, the speckles were, of course, MOVING.
Of course the pantry, like the rest of the house, was totally infested with cockroaches. It was folly to imagine otherwise. I don’t know why it shocked me so deeply when I actually SAW the many legs and antennae traipsing about among the household’s food supply. My gag reflex was being tested more than usual… I knew I had to make a quick exit or risk yacking all over the place. I would not have felt any guilt over the mess my vomit would’ve caused in the house, as my vomit would arguably have been the cleanest and healthiest thing to show up in the residence since the family moved in. My concern over vomiting was more related to knowing that when one throws up, the general impulse is to be crouched low to the ground, or clutching a toilet, and then gasping once the regurgitation is complete. The crouching, toilet-clutching, and deep gasping breaths were not rationally feasible here. It simply could not be done.
“Well, I know she mentioned that she had to go to the bathroom, and you’ve got the dogs pent up in the bathroom… If she’s got to go to the bathroom, let her go, I’ll just get out of here. Be sure to keep working on the chore list! And I’m going to reiterate that I don’t care if you have to wash those dishes in the bathtub, or rinse them off using the hose outside, make sure they are done by tomorrow! I’ll see you then. Bye.” I said all of this at a frenetic pace as I practically ran out of the residence, because once you have vomit backing up enough to feel the chunks rising in your throat, and you recall that freedom was dangled in front of you like that, all wrapped up in a neat little excuse not unlike a glistening Christmas present in shiny gold paper with a giant crimson bow, you lunge at it and you tear it open because you’re pretty sure it’s got to be the new game system you’ve been begging your mom for over the course of the last three to six months... Or pure and simple freedom.
I celebrated my the end of my shortened visit to the Poop House by changing out of the poop shoes, racing home with all the windows down and taking the requisite sanitize-mode shower and having a stiff drink or six with my slightly-earlier-than-planned dinner. I would pay for this later… I knew it. There is no such thing as getting off easy when it comes to the Poop House.
In hindsight, I did pay for that quick exit… Though the problems I’m about to face were in no way something that could’ve been solved by me staying longer, I knew that karmically, this was all going to keep compounding because I ran out when I did.