The Voice In Her Head
"Saturdays are cleaning days!" It was the voice Susan had heard all her life, "Change the sheets, bring down the laundry, wash the floors, dust the furniture..." The voice's list went on and on.
Every fiber of her body screamed to stay in bed; she pulled the covers up over her head, trying to block out the sun streaming through her lace curtains. But there was that voice, "So much to do. Time to get up. Hurry - mustn't waste the day."
She threw back the blankets and swung her legs over the side of the bed. With a groan she got up, and dutifully began the task of tearing the sheets from the mattress.
Susan pulled on a pair of jeans and her favorite sweatshirt. She tied her hair in a ponytail, stepped into her slippers and went to work gathering the wash. Heading down the hallway, she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror; she made a face, "Ugh, I look just like her."
Susan was haunted by her resemblance to her mother. People always told her she looked just like her mom, and though she hated to hear it, it wasn't a bad thing. Susan's mother was a very pretty woman, driven to perfection in all things.
Sorting the laundry: darks, light colors, bright colors, whites. She heard the voice again, "A job worth doing, is worth doing well." After all these years, no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't make that voice be still.
How many people did she know, anyway, that got up at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday just to clean and do laundry? Yet, going back to bed was pointless. She tried sometimes, only to lie in agony, trying to force herself to relax and go back to sleep. The only success she had was to develop a very ugly mood, and ruin her day as well as everyone else's.
As she sorted the dark clothes from the rest, she wondered, "Why is it, that no one else in this family can empty their pockets?" Going through her son's jeans she found guitar picks, gum wrappers, loose change, and a note from a girl written in German. A girlfriend? Susan made a mental note to ask her son about it later.
The voice pestered, "Don't forget the fabric softener and don't stuff too many clothes in the machine., they won't get clean." She carefully poured the softener into the dispenser and removed a few items, before closing the lid.
This was going to be her weekend alone, a weekend she'd looked forward to for a long time. Susan's husband and son were on a camping trip, and she had the house to herself. There were no big meals to prepare, no home improvement projects to work on, and she planned to relax; just do as she pleased all day long.
Waiting for her on top of the television cabinet, were three movies Susan had rented. they were the ones her husband and son always refused to watch, "Chick flicks." they called them, as if that kind of movie wasn't worthy of their time.
The chastising came as expected, "Television is such a waste. Don't you know it destroys your brain cells?" Susan wished fervently that the voice would go away.
"I'll watch them later, " she thought, "it's early, and I have the whole day, but I just have to clean this kitchen floor; it's a mess. If everyone would remember to take their shoes off when they come in, the floors wouldn't get so dirty."
The voice prodded, "Don't forget the corners." Susan scrubbed the floor viciously, making sure to leave it clean. Just for good measure, she put an extra coat of acrylic cleaner on the floor to make it really shine.
She pulled out the vacuum. The carpet did need a going over. Crumbs from her son's after-school snacks formed a barrier in front of the sofa.
"If you're going to vacuum," the voice chided, "you might as well do under the cushions too."
The morning was gone, but the furniture and carpets were free of debris, and Susan had to admit, she did like a tidy house. She sighed, "I just have to clean the bathroom and dust the furniture, then I can relax the rest of the day."
Armed with rubber gloves, toilet bowl cleaner and powdered cleanser, Susan attacked the bathroom. First the toilet needed a good scrubbing. One look and she thought, "Do the guys try to miss or what" Maybe boys should have target practice instead of potty training."
The voice plagued her, "Make sure you get under the rim real good. We don't want creepy crawlies growing there." She scrubbed furiously at the fixtures, polishing the faucets as a last touch, and left the bathroom sparkling.
A string on the floor caught Susan's eye. "Pick it up, don't pass it up," shrieked the voice. She retraced her steps and picked up the offender, stuffing it in her pocket to throw away later.
Her churning stomach reminded Susan she'd had nothing to eat all day. She headed to the kitchen intending to make herself a sandwich. The voice hissed, "Only use one slice of bread, you don't need all those extra calories." An open face tuna sandwich and a diet cola, eaten over the sink, almost began to quell the empty feeling inside.
She thought of the movies waiting for her. If she stopped now, she could watch at least one. But, there was still the dusting and the porch really did need to be swept.
She tried to reason with herself that dusting and porch sweeping could wait until tomorrow, but the nagging voice said, "Don't put off till tomorrow, what can be done today." So, with furniture spray and cleaning rags in tow, she headed off to dust. She started n the bedrooms and worked her way downstairs.
The voice instructed, "Wipe with the grain of the wood, so you don't get streaks." She dusted and polished until she could see her reflection in the bureaus and tabletops everywhere she looked.
Grabbing her broom, Susan went outside to sweep off the front porch. There could be no doubt about it being fall. Only two days before she had removed the red and gold scattering from her front porch and walk, and now they were covered again.
"What a disgrace!" she heard the disapproving voice complain, "People will think you live in a pigsty, looking at your front porch."
Susan swept all the leaves into a neat pile at the curb. "That's better," she said to herself. A glance at her watch made her long to get inside and snuggle up on the sofa with a blanket and the remote. But, before Susan could get in the door, her neighbor stopped her.
"What a beautiful day," she began. Susan smiled, trying to be polite. Another peek at her watch made her frantic to get away from such absurd babblings. What did she care about the color of Christmas lights her neighbor put up this year? Would it really make a difference whether they were red and green or multicolored?
The voice in her head scolded, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."
"I'm really sorry," Susan interrupted. "I have to be going, but it was nice talking to you." As she turned to go into the house, a few weeds in her flowerbed caught her attention. It would just take a second to pull them out and then Susan could finally relax and watch the movies, still waiting patiently for her. As she stooped to reach for the troublemakers, she felt a little pain in her neck, then a tightening in her chest. Something was wrong.
The reproaching voice snapped, "Don't be such a baby. If you make mountains out of molehills, you'll never accomplish anything."
Susan struggled toward the front door, but it was too late. A lightning pain pierced through her; she couldn't catch her breath. "Oh, no!" she thought, realizing she wouldn't get to watch her movies after all.
As Susan slumped over on the front steps, the voice just couldn't let her go without one final admonition, "For goodness sake, I surely hope you're wearing clean underwear."