Thursday, October 15, 2009

From Above, It Lurks

Our attic does not have ghosts. Our attic has a plague.

You go up there, and somewhere between the molding piles of children’s books from the seventies, the boxes of dry-rotted fabric, and the full set of 1940’s wedding party attire dangling from the ceiling on wire hangers…the plague lurks.

We should have known when we found one of those old metal leg braces from the Tiny Tim Company for Unfortunate Urchins. We should have known then that our attic is no good. When did they last use those, anyway? And who keeps one hanging around for decades? (And who keeps old lace wedding dresses on wire hangers? Joan Crawford, I hear you sister…) Have I ever mentioned that we live in a 200 year old farm house? The front part of it is that old, anyway. From the before-tyme. The long-long-ago. Back when they had yet to invent closets or vaccines.

We’ll often find dead birds at the bottom of the stairs. In addition to leaving the attic full of stuff, the owner of this place at some point chipped all of the plaster from the outer walls and never re-plastered. That means that in the places where there used to be plaster, there are now wide cracks. For example, between the crumbling stone walls and the window frames. Places where I assume that plaster was once useful for keeping the weather and small creatures from finding their way in.

The plague may have something to do with the dead birds. Decades of dead bird dust flying around…plus the mold. How do we get dry rot and mold at the same time?? It seems counter-intuitive.

We discovered the plague back when I was about four months pregnant. Carl and I had been moving things around, trying to get all of the stuff up there that is not ours off to one side, so we could clear the junk out of the spare room for Wendy. (This was when we were still calling her Osbert/Prudence.) We spent a lot of time touching things and opening boxes and poking our faces right into the contents. Oooh, check out this china! Look at this doily! I bet someone made this! Neat! Old! Vintage-y! I know that I’m pregnant, but let me just huff this sick bird dander right off of my hands like an idiot!

We both spent the next week with sore throats and heads full of snot, feverish and half-delirious. The Attic Plague has stricken us both from time to time after that, when we foolishly cast aside all evidence which suggests no living thing should ever go up there again.
Anything that we store in the attic now out of sheer desperation-limited closet space, remember?-goes up in plastic, hopefully plague-proof tubs. I was up yesterday looking for the Halloween bin. I usually try to breathe very shallowly, but I was looking for more than four minutes. I must have actually let the attic air into my lungs. Why taunt the Plague? Well, you see, I just can’t handle this world of jobless recession recovery. It's all becoming too much-too cruel.

I woke up this morning with that tell-tale heaviness in my head…the signature burning behind my eyes. I tried to sigh, but choked over my swollen lymph nodes instead.

Carl is making a giant vat of chili today. Hopefully, the heat of five kinds of peppers will burn out the sick before it takes over my whole body. (Or I'll be stricken by the doom from above, unable to move as the gas of a thousand lower intestinal emissions finishes me off...whatever.)


  1. I say smudge the plague out with the chili vapours.

    If I lived closer, I'd pop by with my leather beaked plague mask and robe, but I think my son is wearing it on a playdate.

    Feel better soon!

  2. Your attic is like patient zero, the dreaded carrier, immune to its own creeping crud. The house is so old there could be smallpox blankets stored up there, left over from wiping out the Native Americans. But it is pretty hilarious that you were up there working when you were pregnant. What, you couldn't find any asbestos or lead to expose yourself to?

  3. On a totally unrelated note... Are you doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month - Have you heard of it? Have you done it before? I did it last year and only made it to about 40,000 words--traveling during Thanksgiving week really screwed me up.

  4. MORGEN! stay out of that damn attic for shit sake!!!

  5. Sorry for freaking you out about smallpox...I'm SURE it can't be smallpox in your attic. About NaNoWriMo, if you've ever thought about writing a novel, you should totally do it, for the following well reasoned reasons:
    1. Writing 1600 words a day is cake. That's about the pace you have to maintain to make it to 50,000 words within the month of November.
    2. When else will you ever be unemployed like this and have the free time to write a novel? Hopefully never. Unless it ends up launching a whole new career for you...
    3. It's free & run by a nonprofit. They gently ask for $10 per participant, but it's not required.
    4. There are weekly "write in's" for every geographic area. If you go to one basically you just sit around with your notepad or laptop with a bunch of other people who are also writing and maybe drinking coffee and eating pastries. They stage word wars and other nerdy writing games and give stickers and erasers as prizes. But just look at it as good socialization. Except for that guy who is writing about Gobdralft the Magnificent and wearing a cape while he writes. He's just weird.
    5. The 50,000 word goal is the equivalent of Kafka's Metamorphosis or Hemmingway's Old Man and the Sea or Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. Slim novels but novels nonetheless.
    6. You can start telling people you're not jobless--you're working on your novel. It sounds productive.
    7. And yep, I'm going to do it again this year. Mainly because it drove Robb crazy last year. :)

  6. Hey can I come rummage through that old stuff in your attic? I love digging through other people's long ago discarded stuff. I used to live in an old post office that had seven gazillion boxes of stuff in storage. Very interesting to say the least.Also, I have lung rot from Hurricane Katrina, so I doubt I will get sick.

  7. I bet you can get the plague on top of it. Never underestimate the power of a good pox to ruin your day...