My friend called last night with a funny story.
She and her husband had gone away for a few days, leaving her eighteen year old son behind to hold the fort. He's as responsible as any eighteen year old boy can be. Which means they would have been better off leaving their Cocker Spaniel in charge. But there comes a time when you trust your kids - although the wise parent puts away anything breakable and hides the matches.
Anyway, they came home from their trip, and walked into the house ... and my friend's jaw dropped. She looked around, scarcely believing where she was. She leaned outside to check the address. Yep ... this was her house, alright.
It was spotless. Not a dish on the counter, which gleamed in the sunlight. Not a speck of lint on the carpet. The beds were all made, the garbage taken out. It was, she freely admits, the cleanest that her house has been in ... well, forever.
She took a moment, savoured the aroma of lemon from some unidentified cleaning product, then turned to her son. He smiled proudly. She smiled back and said, "Okay ... when was the big party?"
His face fell. Busted. He reluctantly admitted there had, in fact, been a tiny party on Saturday night. Twenty people, he said (which means close to seventy; with teenagers and party numbers, the formula is same as temperature conversion - double it and add thirty two). But he knew he had covered his tracks perfectly ... and yet, somehow, his mother had known. But how ...?
She never told him, but I got it out of her later. It was a classic mistake he made that had given the game away.
"He's a teenage boy," she said. "And he cleaned the house. Perfectly. Better than it's ever been cleaned. He had to be covering up something."
Having once been a teenage boy, I saw her point immediately. Teenage boys don't notice dirt until it can actually support agriculture. My parents couldn't get me to clean the birdcage, let alone my room. As for sterilizing the entire house ... well, I might. But only to cover up either a murder or a wild party. And while I hesitate to eliminate any possibility where teenage boys are concerned, my friend's son doesn't seem like the body-in-the- freezer kind of kid.
You have to feel for him. He probably worked all day Sunday, making sure everything was just right. He cleaned the bathroom, including - drum roll - the toilet (my friend figures someone at the party had ralphed all over the place, forcing his hand). He took back all the empties, including a goodly number that had been there before the weekend - she's been trying to get him to do that for months.
She wasn't mad about the party. She figured he'd have one - didn't we all have a party when our parents were away? Nobody was driving, and nobody got hurt, if you don't count collisions with the toilet bowl. And the way she looks at it, this was a lot cheaper than hiring a maid service - better job, to boot.
He keeps bugging at her to tell him how she knew. She laughs and says he forgot one thing, and he'll have to figure out what it is. It's gotta be eating away at him. You know he's saying "Next time, I'll clean even better. Next time, I won't leave a trace."
My friend is already planning her next weekend away. Just before Christmas.
Don't shoot the messenger, but Christmas is coming! Nils Ling's book "Truths and Half Truths" is a collection of some of his most memorable and hilarious columns. Send a cheque or money order for $25.00 (taxes, postage and handling included) to RR #9, 747 Brackley Point Road, Charlottetown, PE, C1E 1Z3.