There are people in this world who have a quiet peace about them. They are the people who make people like me wildly uncomfortable. There are people who have never uttered an expletive at a stubbed toe, or heard their tummy rumble in a quiet office. There are people who have their knees and shoulders maintained to such a degree that they never creak or pop when climbing stairs. I’m quite sure that there are people in this world who have never uttered an audible fart, burp, grimace or groan. If these people should happen to be reading this post, take heed that this is not the proper place for you.
Because I am surrounded by a sea of laundry baskets, and because these baskets at any time are filled with previous attempts at sorting or folding laundry, or are occupied as staging grounds for the latest installment of the great Hot Wheels vs. Transformers battle, laundry for the most part has to be carried to the laundry room in great wadded armloads. This wouldn’t be a huge dilemma if not for the beagle, who views the laundry room as that sacred promised land of untold treasure, who knows the sound of stray socks getting scraped off of bedroom carpeting is akin to the echoes of church bells cuing the start of holy communion. Our normally dormant beagle, upon suspecting that one of us may be about to do laundry, silently rises to her tiny dog feet, bows her head reverently, and follows the laundry bearer in an attitude of humility and repentance.
Our laundry room is the smallest room in our house. It is just large enough for a small chest freezer, our washer and dryer, our hot water tank, one hamper that contains an adult sized baby-blue fleece onesie with a unicorn hood (because where else am I going to keep that thing? Surely not in my closet!) and our kitty supplies. Two litter boxes and two dishes full of Little Friskie’s Seafood Crunchies fill in the last remaining square feet not occupied by forgotten piles of once washed, but now dirty again winter socks and gloves. There is a door to the laundry room, and for two glorious weeks after we moved into our home the door actually closed. The door still stands, and looks lovely, but because it will not close and latch, and because we now have two cats who require access to the laundry room, there is a discarded garden gate that leans across the doorway to prevent beagle infiltration into the fortress of laundry and feline solitude.
Since we offered the poor abandoned kitties sanctuary, complete with their own personal refueling and refreshing station in our laundry room, the beagle has been in a state of panic. She doesn’t mind the cats themselves. She minds the fact that they get to have tasty bowls full of kitty food that she is not allowed to have. She is offended by the fact that two perfectly good litter boxes await her sniffling nose and nibbling jaws, but a mere garden fence, precariously leaned against a gaping doorway denies her access to such delights. The poor beagle stares forlornly, not at the children who aren’t petting her, not at the rawhide bones being denied her by the other, larger dog, not at the pillows pulled out of her reach, but at the small and cluttered laundry room, with the mysteries and joys of feline delicacies on the other side of that garden gate.
With a load of laundry gathered in my arms, I make my way through the house, and as I approach the laundry room entrance I have to begin a wild cacophonous procession meant to deter beagles from entering the laundry room and sampling the goods inside. Beagles were born and bred to hunt. Fearless sporting dogs, they are meant to bound across forests and fields in pursuit of prey, rifle fire ringing like a chorus in their ears, the bays of their fellow hounds harmonizing with the terrified squeals of their chase. Their ears open like sails to carry them across the field where they wrap their jaws around their prize, carrying it majestically, obediently back to their smiling master. This particular beagle missed class the day they taught bravery and pride. She is terrified of everything, including the sound of wind. As I make my way through the house to the laundry room, I make as much noise as I can. I bump. I bang. I growl. I curse. I threaten. I snarl. The beagle maintains her trail, following me toward the promised land, but maintaining a timid gap between herself and the seemingly psychotic woman hugging an armload of wet bath towels.
Once inside the laundry room, the real dance begins. She knows that I am busy inside the golden laundry room of happiness. She knows that I am not going to take the time to close the gate that I have leaned out of the way to grant me access to the washer. She knows that once the gate is opened, if she can make it past the grunting, the growling, and the banging noise of the crazy laundry lady, she is sure to feast on her Friskies. Phase one, I drop the pile of dirty things with a soft thud on the floor in front of the washer. I bang “ratatatatatatat” on the open and useless door with my foot. She skitters back across the kitchen into neutral territory. Phase two, I open the dryer and pull out a clean, dry load to carry back to the bed or the couch for folding, hanging, or ignoring. The beagle will make a move unless I spend the entire thirty second journey from dryer to couch and back on a torrent of insults and snarls, certain to make the meanest of bookies apologize for their language. The beagle will slink out of the way as I make my way back to the laundry room for phase three. In phase three, the wet laundry has to be removed from the washer and put either on hangers to air dry or into the dryer. This phase can take several minutes to complete if there is a large number of shirts or jeans that require hanging. Thus, phase three is also known as the percussion feature.
If I begin removing items from the washer with careless abandon, it is inevitable that I will her the unmistakable scrabbling of Friskies being pushed about a plastic bowl by a canine tongue. On silent paws, the beagle will creep into the room, and begin to daintily munch on kitty cuisine. When I stop her treachery, she will assume an air of indignant shock, as if she was completely unaware that she shouldn’t be eating the cats’ food, and that she is hurt and offended that I would stop her. “I beg your pardon, but if I am not invited to dine at this table of Seafood Friskie’s, why was it left here for me to partake of? And why do you assume that just because you have stopped me from eating it before that I should understand that it is your intent to deny me equal access to this delicious feast for eternity? And furthermore, how can you stand there, with your hands full of other people’s dirty undergarments and tell me that I am gross for sniffing around the entrance to the pootie boxes?” Nonchalantly, the beagle will step just outside the room, and wait patiently for me to re-enter the laundry state of mind. When she hears the rustle of wet clothes being transferred, I will once again hear the rustle of a busy beagle tongue sliding fishy-shaped crunchies across the bowl, or searching the depths of the litter box for Lord knows what. This back and forth volleying can make a five minute wet laundry transfer last twenty. That is why the percussion feature is such a vital part of the crash-bang laundry experience.
Properly executed, the percussion feature will prevent beagle entry into the laundry room, and leave a full two-sided dish of kitty food, and an undisturbed pootie box. Properly executed, the percussion feature leaves the beagle momentarily confused and mesmerized by the horrific display of emotion that unfolds, as any truly great musical performance does. The percussion feature includes a series of strategically uttered curse words manipulated to apply exclusively to beagles, so as not to offend any sensitive kitty or child ears who may perhaps be within earshot. It also requires rhythmic kicking of the non-functional door with the right foot, and periodic banging on the drum of the washing machine with the elbows and left knee. The percussion feature is not for the weak, the uncoordinated, or the easily discouraged. The beagle will try to surpass this important phase of the laundry process. However, with practice, diligence, and a little creative cussing, everyone can leave the laundry room feeling like a winner.
I made a feeble attempt at marching in the high school band as a teenager. I had no rhythm. I couldn’t read the music. I mostly followed my section members around a field wearing an itchy wool suit and a 65 pound brass tuba for the social opportunities that it afforded a tall, awkward girl with acne and a love for 1970’s polyester fashions. I was usually marching out of step with the rest of the band, and almost always out of rhythm. I would like to invite all of my former marching band colleagues to join me for a couple of loads of laundry some time, just to prove that rhythm can be learned, even by me.
There will come a day when I won’t have to apologize for my language before entering the laundry room. There will come a day when I won’t have to wonder if my yelling was off -key, or if I should be kicking the washer in a more staccato fashion to correspond with the words I have chosen to yell into the washer barrel. Some day I won’t have to close all of the house windows before venturing into the laundry room to dry the socks. Some day the beagle may learn to keep her nose out of other people’s Friskies. Until that day, I will shout. I will cuss. I will kick and I will pound. The beagle will scamper, she will sneak, and she will relentlessly pursue that illusive dream of a peaceful bowl of Friskies followed by an after-dinner stroll through the litter box. So, for now, the beat goes on.