Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Hoarder

She was not angry at the world. She was not abusive or mean spirited. Beth was an average woman with a problem. We all have our tics. Some people bite their nails, others grind their teeth and Beth hoarded.

It started innocently enough. Her husband had died a year before and her last child was finally leaving her for college. Beth threw a wrapper on the floor that day, cursing her loneliness. She looked at it for a minute in consideration before thinking what’s the point. And that’s how it began. Much as the first drop of snow causes an avalanche, or the first gale of wind begins a storm. Beth started to acquire things.

A broken table here, a smashed lamp there. Tissues; empty milk jugs; medicine containers; toilet paper rolls and picture frames. The list was endless.

She still collected on her husband’s pension therefore she never worked, and hardly left the house. The only time that anyone saw her was at the Supermarket. Beth’s cart was always full; full of cheap toys, kids clothes and other things she had no reason to buy. The cashiers just laughed, however, finding her quirky and senile. They never sensed a serious problem.

Winter came and with it snow that year. Her daughter Millie wasn’t coming home for Christmas. She had scheduled a ski trip somewhere off in Colorado. Beth remembered hearing Aspen but she wasn’t sure. It certainly felt like a slope inside her house as she huddled in her blanket to keep warm. A myriad of paper plates, bottles and other trash blocked her way to the thermostat.

She got up, pulling the blanket around her body. Beth stumbled over a rocking horse she had compulsively bought one afternoon. It hurt the arthritis in her hip as most things did.

Beth sat on the floor aching. Pushing the wooden horse out of the way revealed a heater. It seemed a godsend. If only there was a plug to reach, she thought. But it seemed an impossible task getting to one.

Gathering all her strength Beth began to move objects. It had been long since she found any motivation to do so. It felt liberating. A jacket was cleared, some pants, eggshells, moldy bread, etc. until she saw the dusty once-white outline of an electrical socket. She wiped it off with her blanket and then went to get the power cord for the heater.

It still worked. The heat warmed her in a way the blanket never could. Beth began to take off layers of unwashed, dingy clothes. Perhaps, she thought, it was possible to get things cleaned up again.

Papers and fabrics up against the heater began to smolder. Small flames flickered to life. Beth panicked in her head, wondering where on earth she had put even one of the fire extinguishers she bought.

The temperature rose, the oxygen began to disappear. Beth took one consolation as she gasped, falling to her knees. Her daughter Millie was alive and making the most of all the time she had remaining. That was something she held onto through the agonizing pain that ate at her before blacking out.

No comments:

Post a Comment

You've found your way inside my head and now there's no way out!