herald

Monday 11 December 2017

Family Guy: Time to tidy the house, kids, 'cause we're getting a cleaner

WE'RE getting a cleaner, though I don't like the word "cleaner". It conjures up an image of some sort of housemaid in uniform, while we jolly well swan off in the Bentley to play golf. I hate golf. So, we're getting "someone in to help clean the house each week", much to the bewilderment of our teens.

"Why?" asks the older middle one.

"Because?" I enunciate in a tone that perfectly mocks his. "Our house? Is a wreck?"

"I don't want a cleaner," says his younger brother petulantly from his machine-gunner's nest in the sitting room.

"You're not getting one," my wife tells him.

"She's not a 'cleaner', anyway," I wince. "Her name is Augusta."

"What's she going to do?" he says, eyes glued to the carnage being wrought with his thumbs.

"All the things you lot aren't," says my wife.

"Well, I don't want her in my room," he mutters.

"We wouldn't wish your room on anyone," I point out, swatting at him. "In fact, we've already warned her over the phone that we have a crazy person living here and not to go near their door, no matter how bad the smell."

"You can look after your own room," interjects my wife, announcing: "You'll ALL look after your own rooms."

"And if you don't," I tell him hoarsely, "we send in The Cleaner." I emphasise the last two words like I'm talking about Harvey Keitel's character in Pulp Fiction, pulling one earphone out of his ear as I do this.

"Get off," he says, wriggling away.

"In the meantime," calls my wife from the hall, "you can all help by tidying up before she comes."

"Um, why do we need to tidy up if someone is coming to clean?" says the older middle one.

"Because no one," says my wife from under her eyebrows, "needs to know just how awful a pigsty we really live in."

"She'd run away screaming," I say.

"So, just to get this straight," he deadpans from the kitchen doorframe. "We now have to tidy even more than we already do, because someone is coming to clean the house each week."

"Bullseye," chimes his mother.

"Hand that young man the giant furry giraffe," I say, applauding slowly.

The boy disappears, muttering.

The youngest bounces in. "Can I have my hair cut?" she chirrups, adding: "For the cleaner?"

She hands us a photo. "Like this," she says, jabbing it with a finger capped with chipped, black nail polish.

"This is a picture of your brother," says my wife, blinking.

It's the eldest all right, safely away from all this, at college in the States for a year. "And with very short hair," I observe.

"You really want your hair like this?" says her mother.

"You'll look like KD Lang," I gawp ruefully.

"Yes," says the youngest, turning to frown at me. "Who?"

"Never mind," I tell her. "We'll still love you."

"Maybe later," says her mother. "Have a think about it."

She shrugs and skips off down the hall for now.

"She can always adopt," I say dreamily, for which I receive a jab in the ribs.

The phone rings, startling us both. It's Augusta, wondering if she can come by to pick up the spare key, have a quick look around and see where the cleaning supplies are kept - the Hoover and so on.

"Cleaning supplies?" says my wife when I hang up.

"Well, the Hoover's easy," I say, opening the door to under the stairs and promptly triggering an avalanche of old boots, bags and several dilapidated kites inextricably intertwined with everything.

"Look, I'll deal with this," sighs my wife, wrestling a Wellington boot out of my hands.

"Right," I say. I'll . . . go and organise my music."

"Because Augusta is really going to notice that your records are alphabetical," mutters my wife.

"Nope," I mouth, quoting John Cusack in High Fidelity: "Autobiographical."

When the doorbell rings, I open the front door. It's Augusta. "Hello," she says, smiling.

"Thank heavens you're here," I say. "So many . . . change their minds at the gate."

"Pay no attention to him," says my wife, shooting me a look. "Good to see you, Augusta."

We show her from room to room, skirting quickly past the problem areas and arriving at the cupboard door under the stairs. My wife opens it and I flinch. The Hoover is stacked neatly in its own space.

I poke my head into the dark and blink. "Hey, it's actually carpeted in here. Who knew?"

When I extract my head again, my wife is glaring at me, thin-lipped.

"Uh, the Hoover," I mutter, pointing. "Is . . . here."

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