I’d just started cleaning under the stairs when I noticed a particularly rank smell coming from my hand vacuum. It was sharp, acrid, and if I were forced to assign a cause to it I’d say it smelled like a small motor that had burned out and was now melting the power cord.
This, oddly enough, led to an interesting discovery about the St. Catharine’s fire department.
Now, I shouldn’t have been cleaning the cupboard under the stairs in the first place. It had to be done, yes, but there are priorities, and I figured the cupboard under the stairs was somewhat low on the list. It’s also true that I wasn’t looking forward to it — I’ll admit that. The top of the cupboard is about four feet high at its tallest, and there’s no actual ceiling, just the floor joists and bottom of the landing above, and the bottoms of the stairs leading down into the basement. Entry is through a slab of panelling that has been cut away as a door and now hangs on one hinge when opened. It’s dirty, there are cobwebs on every surface, and the surfaces themselves are rough-textured and difficult to clean.
But my decision to put the job on hold for a bit was in no way tempered by my distaste toward it. I was simply putting first things first. Time was also a consideration, since cleaning the cupboard was only half the task. The rest was carefully packing it with things that had to be stored, but ready-to-hand when required.
Things like Edward’s books.
Edward is our friend who is moving to Mexico, and he’s now in the final week or so before departure. If you’ve seen Numbers, then think Prof. Larry Fleinhart, the astrophysicist seeking to cast off the ties of all earthly possessions in quest of some cosmic vision. That’s him. That’s Edward.
Except editor instead of astrophysicist, but vision-seeker all the same.
When he leaves, he will be taking one bag and the clothes on his back, because taking anything else is just too damned expensive. But even those who are casting off the ties of all earthly possessions generally have something they’re saving for last, and in Edward’s case it’s eight boxes of books and documents.
They’ll be going in the cupboard under the stairs.
After it’s cleaned.
But I wasn’t supposed to be cleaning it. At least not just yet.
What I was supposed to be doing — what my actual job and only source of income required me to be doing — was marking and commenting on dozens and dozens of essays. Or “asseys,” as one student so charmingly called them in her e-mail to me.
So I decided to clean out the cupboard under the stairs.
Call me a coward. I don’t care. You don’t know what it’s like. Trying to read these things that have no punctuation? No capitalisation. No concept of grammar? No actual English words?
I was weak. I retreated to something more pleasant.
So anyhow, I was vacuuming up some kind of grit, grunge and unspecified grot when I noticed this smell.
The cupboard floor is partially covered by a carpet patch that looks like Fido Dido’s hair after having been electrocuted. (If you’re not familiar with the early-nineties 7-Up icon, what I’m saying is that the carpet is all stringy along the edges.) The rest of the floor is plywood, except where the plywood ends, revealing a slab of concrete that in no way looks like a body was buried and the floor above it hastily re-poured.
Well, it appears that a piece of carpet string got wound around the spinner thingy in the vacuum, stopped it from turning, and overheated the motor. It’s all fine now.
So there’s that. Yeah.
And then I found out that the St. Catharines fire department has something called a “Juvenile Fire Starters Program.”
Is that wise? I mean, do juveniles really need to learn this kind of thing? I don’t know, but it’s interesting.
I discovered that little tidbit when I looked them up online after wondering what would have happened if the vacuum had started a fire.
So yeah, there’s that, too.