Clutter Free

Whenever I want to get rid of dirt or clutter, I just point at it & it disappears. I’ve had this power for years. A tumbleweed of dog fur? Point, zap it’s gone. Playing cards that my son is training himself to throw around the house? Point, zap, gone. One morning, as I went about my routine of pointing at dusty socks balled up under chairs & unidentifiable food stains on door knobs, I started to wonder where all of this stuff goes after I zap it. Now, I know a lot of you are thinking, “It goes to my house!” But the truth turns out to be far stranger, and it’s the subject of the following 100% true story.


Clutter Free

As a point and zapper, I’ve always had to put up with family members accusing me of zapping whatever they are missing out of existence. Short of going around with a camera to prove that I was just pointing and zapping away dust bunnies and popcorn crumbs, I’ve never had any way to demonstrate to them that I am not responsible for their missing hoodie, ear buds or geometry study sheet. Even with this frustration, I wouldn’t trade away my point & zap powers for anything. I never have to bend over, push a child’s dresser from the wall, or stand on a chair to reach a cobweb. In fact, the cleanest area in my house is the swath of my bedroom that I can see when I’m lying in bed in the morning.

Of course, with a power like mine, I’ve also had to learn restraint. If a zipper gets stuck, it’s not wise to freak out and zap away the jacket. I’ve also had to learn not to use it to battle my own obsessive compulsive disorder; if I can’t stop reading ingredient lists over and over when I’m putting away groceries, it does not behoove me to zap away the entire bag of groceries out of frustration. Thankfully, my zap and point power came to me as an adult – I would hate to think of myself as a child, zapping away other kids’ toys or even other kids. I promise I never did that.

But proving to family members that I didn’t zap away their beloved missing items had always vexed me. My son Dylan’s favorite hoodie had been missing for a week. How could I have accidentally zapped away a hoodie? I was sure he would find it if he actually went through all the clothes piled up in his closet. Then one Spring day, a thought came to me: If only I could look through the stuff I zapped away to be sure that their missing belongings weren’t included, I could defend myself with more confidence. But where did zapped things disappear to? Did they slide out of existence? Do they turn to energy? Or, was there a place that I was sending them – some sort of zapped items repository?

If there were such a place, how would I find it? Could I zap myself there? That would be a big risk; even if I survived, I didn’t know if I could get back. Anyway, was it even possible? Would aiming a finger at myself just zap away some clothing? Would it put a small hole in me? I looked hard at the tall mirror in my bedroom. I could point at the mirror – I’d never done that. But, would the zap bounce back and hit me, or would the mirror be zapped away? I wanted to think of a safer way to follow a zapped object. It occurred to me that everything I zapped was loose – not solidly attached to anything else. I decided to try to affix something that could act as a trail to follow the zap. I found a ball of string in the basement and tied it to a sock. It was an old sock that practically had a hole in it, so its loss would not be significant. I tied the string tightly around the sock, placed the sock on the kitchen floor and unwound about four feet of string leading to the ball. I stepped back, pointed, and… zap!

The sock was gone, and at first I thought that the string had broken off. But then I looked closer. The end of the string was floating about two inches off the floor… and it was slowly moving back and forth, a few inches to the left and then to the right. Then, the ball started rolling toward the former location of the sock. The ball was unravelling and the string was following the sock! I grabbed the ball and fed the string into the invisible hole. After several feet of string,  I stopped letting the ball unravel. I could feel the weight of something, perhaps the sock, gently pulling down on the string in my hand. I pulled back on the string, pulling about six or seven feet of string back into visibility, back from nowhere, and… up popped the sock. I held it in my hand. It was unharmed.

We didn’t have any rope in the house, but there was a 50-foot extension cord in the garage that I could tie around my waist. The next morning, when the kids were at school and my wife was at work, I set off into the unknown. Just in case something bad were to happen, I left a note on the fridge: “Zapped myself, tied to the orange extension cord, to look for missing items. Please pull me back up. I love you.”

I tied the cord around my waist and, in a highly elaborate maze of knots, secured the other end to our heavy, oak kitchen table. I grabbed a flashlight, walked to the center of the kitchen and pointed my index finger at my chest. I knew that if I hesitated, I would lose my nerve. I pushed all the thoughts of what might happen to me out of my head and, zap! I was in darkness.

I could feel detritus on and about my feet and figured it was probably old socks, dust balls and other junk I had zapped, and sure enough, the flashlight revealed a vast sea of discarded household waste. I shined the light out to the side, but the room was endless – I couldn’t detect any walls. I started walking downhill, calf-deep in the flotsam and jetsam of modern life. I knew the extension cord would only allow me to explore within a radius of about 40 feet. As I looked around, I began to worry. Had I zapped a hole in my chest? I’d better check. Do I still exist? Am I  really me? Will I ever get out alive? All of the apprehension that I had pushed out of my head right before zapping myself was flooding back into my mind and making it terribly difficult for me to pay attention to where I was going or what was around me. Other thoughts began to intrude into my melancholy. Will I ever make the rent? Odd, since I don’t pay any rent on my house. Nonetheless, it was momentarily all I could think of. I stumbled around like this, through a field of broken mugs and old, plastic toys, with one anxiety after another hitting me: My brother was always so mean to me but I should have helped him with his drug addictions; now he’s dead and it’s my fault. My husband is a crook; he’s been stealing from the business and they’re going to want me to testify against him – is he really the man I thought I was marrying? My wife is seeing someone; I’m sure of it. None of these concerns made any sense to me but I felt the full weight of them as they entered my head, one after another. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I felt tears streaming down my cheeks. I was completely overwhelmed with nasty thoughts and obsessions, worries about people I didn’t know, things I didn’t want to think about. I fell into a heap among the clutter, reeling with the tide of emotions that came along with all of these unwanted thoughts.

I felt a tug. Then a stronger one. The extension cord started to pull me through the trash and the troubled thoughts and feelings of strangers. As I was being pulled along, the thoughts came and went faster. “I’ll never amount to anything.” “My dad doesn’t spend enough time with me. He doesn’t care.” I knew whom that one came from, I could feel it. And there was Dylan’s hoodie. I grabbed it just as I was being pulled up into the air. More thoughts flew in and out. A long and pointless list of the capitals of all the states in the U.S. Alabama: Montgomery; Alaska: Juneau; Arizona: Phoenix; Arkansas: Little Rock….” There was a tight squeeze. Hands helping me. I was out. Back on the kitchen floor, surrounded by my family.

I saw Dylan’s face. “Here,” I said, handing him the hoodie. “I guess I did zap it after all.”

I remembered all of the tortured thoughts that had taken over my psyche down in the hole, but I no longer felt the emotions that had come with them. Like most of the physical junk down there, I had no idea whose thoughts they were. Except one. That evening, I made a promise to go to the gym with Dylan three times a week, and I’ve kept my promise.

And now, you are directed to click the flower, to be taken to a shorter short story:


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