Industrial Disease by Kate Mohler

April 28, 2011

Today was a day for chores, both indoors and out. I started in the kitchen by sticking my hand down the garbage disposal, which had been making a funny noise akin to gargling rocks. It would have been perfect for “the secret sound game” on a radio station—nobody would have guessed what was stuck in there. Making sure that the disposal was definitely off, I pushed my hand through the black rubber sleeve hoping that a mangled chicken fetus was not waiting for me in the cruel womb of my sink. Or maybe it was a nuclear sewer roach with a super-tough exoskeleton.

I poked around in the disposal, scraping scum off metal with my fingernails. Gross. But I found something. I pulled it out—again hoping not to see bone of any kind, beaks or cloven hooves—and was happy to be holding a mangled plastic bottle cap. Since I wash and reuse my plastic bottles, it was no surprise to see this cap, now gnawed and distorted beyond recognition. I tossed it in the recycle bin and then, without thinking, I stuck my finger in my ear because it itched.

I dug around in my ear for a moment or two until the thought crossed my mind, Probably a lot of germs in that disposal. Greasy germs from raw chicken and rotten cottage cheese. Why are you transferring all of those germs into your ear? Do you want fungus growing in your ear along with all the other problems you have?

I took my finger out of my ear and washed my hands in the sink, then headed outside for some fresh air and other jobs I’d been putting off. First I scrubbed the pigeon poop off the patio, flinging the milky poop-water off the cement with my brush. Then I got my weed spray and hunched around the front and back yards, Quasimodo Lawncare. Sometimes I pulled weeds and put them into my bucket, sometimes I sprayed weeds, and sometimes I pulled weeds I’d already sprayed because it was hard to keep track of everything going on. 

Finally I straightened up but swayed with lightheadedness; ammonia from the urine of a thousand splendid stray cats had filled up my senses. I stood still for a minute while the world righted itself, then scratched my nose. It was more than a scratch though; this was a smashing of my dirty fists into the sides of my nostrils so that my nasal cavities stuck together and parted, stuck together and parted. I rubbed my nose until it was practically inside out, and ground my knuckles into my eyes. Allergies.

Then I thought to myself, People worry about chemicals and bacteria and you’re out here practically bathing in them. Why? Why must you insist on rubbing animal waste and weed killer into your moist tissues? Remember the frog in Erin Brockovich? Do you want to be Erin or do you want to be the frog? 

I really didn’t have an answer to that. I like to work barehanded. I’m not going to let the pigeons and stray cats and weeds of the world make me suit up.

As the sun…another hazard from which I was not protected…sank lower in the sky, I gathered my yard supplies and put them away. Taking my chances by their grubby little hands, we walked to the house, my better judgment one step behind.

Kate Mohler is originally from Minnesota, but has lived in Wisconsin, UP Michigan, Pennsylvania, Washington State, and Alaska. She now resides in Arizona. She has a B.A. in English from Bemidji State University in Minnesota (um…go Beavers!) and an M.F.A. in creative writing (Arizona State, ’94). She is a full-time English faculty member at Mesa Community College in Arizona. She enjoys working out, writing, reading, bonding with her cats Sara and Lucy, tackling home projects, and now baring her soul on her blog, www.hotdishing.com.

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36 Responses to Industrial Disease by Kate Mohler

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