I had a late screening last night of a film I worked on. HusBen had an early wake-up call for jury duty, so before I left the house and he went to bed, he asked me to, "Text me where the car's parked so I won't have to wake you up in the morning."
A sweet thought, I thought. It was hard to stifle a smile though — I know how these things work out. Ben's attempts at quietude invariably make him louder, and the more carefully he tries for order, the more entropy erupts. I don't think Anne Frank would have had the chance to write in her diary as much as she did if Ben had been holed up with them in their attic cupboard in Amsterdam. The Nazis would have hit that house first for all the chaos emitting from it.
I was kind of looking forward to seeing (or hearing, pardon me) what would happen this morning, for it's a rare occurrence that I'm not the first one awake, and I find my darling's solicitous attempts at courtesy high-fucking-larious. So I was a little disappointed when his shower was uneventful. I was vaguely aware through the haze of sleep that there was someone taking a shower. I waited expectantly for the shower mirror to come crashing down, or a slip-and-fall episode followed by a spate of cursing, or something! Sorely let down. I resigned myself with a disheartened sigh to sleeping in.
In retrospect, I'm guessing it may have been the aerosol deodorant that eventually set it off, though I wouldn't testify to that in court. Our fire alarms sometimes go off for reasons unfathomable. They're all tied together, so when one goes off, they all go off, emitting an ear-piercing bleep! in every room of the house. "Here we go!" I thought with tired glee.
"Shit!" I heard my cherished mutter from somewhere in the front of the house as he went into the laundry room to get the broomstick, knocking over a clatter of god-knows-what in the process, which resulted in another, "Goddammit!"
This is gonna be good, I thought.
The first tricky bit about our fire alarm system is that to turn off the screaming bleep! you have to use a wobbly broomstick to tap the small button on the apparatus affixed to the underside of the twelve food ceiling — a long way up. Like the old game Operation, it takes a very steady hand. Ben's not too clumsy — except when he's trying not to be clumsy — so the 'Operation' was a failure and the broomstick stabbed impotently at the ceiling: thump, thump, thump.
The second tricky thing about the system set up, and the part that can be really annoying, is that only the fire alarm that first sensed the potential threat can turn the others off! Usually it's the one in the kitchen, reacting to blackened chicken smoke that didn't go up the vent hood, or something else obvious. But on those occasions where the things go off for no discernible reason, you have to wander the house with the broomstick, hitting every button until you find the right sensor.
In my half-awake/half-asleep state, I followed Ben around the house by listening from where the next clunking stabbing of the broomstick came, and the inevitable, "Shit. Goddammit. Fuck." It seemed to my dazed mind that he must have hit every fire alarm button in the house — twice — and the thing was still going off.
"This is a particularly beautiful attempt to leave the house quietly," I thought happily as I pulled the blankets over my ears to muffle the screaming bleep! I relaxed to 'watch' the show.
What seemed like 40 minutes later, I took pity on my poor husBen and went to turn off the fire alarm. I had noted that if he had hit every room in the house to no avail, then he probably forgot there was one in my back-back office, next to the bathroom and, thus, the aerosol deodorant. I got up, went to my office with the lowest ceiling in the house, pushed the little button with my finger, and the house fell into silence once more. Ben was in the front of the house stabbing willy-nilly at walls, cupboards, cats, who knows what else. I don't think he ever knew why the alarm shut off.
"Good show, good show," I silently applauded Ben as I crept back into bed and closed my eyes. But the show must, and did, go on.
It was time to dress. To dress, one must first extract clothes from the bureau. Ben's bureau is about as old as he is, but not in quite as fine shape. On a good day, pulling the drawer open causes a squeal of pain from the sad old wood. It's a little loud, but over quickly. Ben knows this, of course, so tries to do it quietly when I'm asleep. Which, as you could probably guess, causes the squeal of pain to turn into an elongated howl of agony and wrenches of desperation as the frame of the drawer shifts to the diagonal, and you have to 'walk' the drawer out, wiggling it back and forth: screech! squeal! crunch! choke! scrape! Oh, that's not the drawer containing the clothing you were looking for? Better shut it again, but for god's sake do it quietly! Push. Squeal. Crunch. Squeak. Crash. Ben deflects attention from the agonized bureau by muttering of a stream of cursing over the sound effects. The louder the drawer, the louder the litany.
Next drawer, same thing.
Third verse, same as the first.
Oh wait, I guess the socks were in the top drawer. Back to one, from the top, people. Take two!
Squeal! Crunch! Scrape! Break!
Of course I'm wide awake now, and trying hard not to laugh. It's important to continue to feign sleep for a couple reasons: I don't want to hurt his feelings, and by faking sleep I like to think I'm giving him the illusion of being quiet. As if, after setting off the fire alarm for an hour and a half and prying the bureau open with a crowbar and hammer, he can still think, "Well, Todd's asleep. It's a job well done I guess! Damn I'm good! Stealthy, even! I'm Ninja-Ben!" But more important than my one-and-only's pride is my own sustained amusement — the moment it is perceived I'm awake, the attempts to be quiet will surcease, and actual quiet will recommence. And that's no fun!
This morning's show wound down to a rather anticlimactic end, with just the usual minor scuffs and bangs and expletives following Ben out the door. I began writing my theatre review in my blanket-covered head: "Despite a deflated ending, I have to give this play a big ole thumbs-up for its surprising opening alone. Act I rivaled some of his better works to date, like his world renewed classic thriller, 'Emptying the Dishwasher'. What theatre-goer can forget the shocking cacophony of smashing dishes and the poetic carpet of obscenities woven throughout that masterpiece? That play won seven Tonys…"
I was drifting off to sleep when an ambulance screamed by the house, jarring me awake again. In my mind I reopened my review and amended it: "Retraction! When I complained about Act II's less-than-noteworthy ending, I hadn't anticipated the twist at the end! In a stroke of absolute genius the likes of which this reviewer had never anticipated, the playwright dazzled the audience by deliberately getting into an automobile accident on the next block, throwing in the howl of cops and EMTs to close the farce, inevitably to the roar of a standing house, crying, 'Author! Author!' and throwing Tiffany's diamonds onto the stage!"
I fell back asleep, smiling, loving my husBen for taking the trouble to wreck the car and perhaps harm himself for my amusement. I'll never find another like him, I sighed happily as I fell back into slumber.
Then the construction site at Krayzee Kornurzz next door began. A band saw's whine, its abrupt cut-off, and a howled line of, "Fuck! Godammit! Give me the … fuckin' … three-quarter-inch … it's RIGHT FUCKIN' THERE, DAMMIT! Fuckin' … fuck …"
They try, Krayzee Kornurzz'zz Kooky Konstruction Krewe, every morning, to put on a good show, but really, no one can follow my Ben, who shall forever remain the love of my life.