Column: Lions, tigers and what’s under the bed, oh my

By SCOTT SAALMAN

When my daughter was younger, she was scared about what might be under her bed. Seeing her brother’s gruesome Goosebumps book covers likely fueled her fear. I would enter her uncluttered room (ahhh, memories), look for the boogie man below and find nothing there — absolutely nothing, no monsters, nothing more bloodcurdling than carpet fuzz — and tell her so. Satisfied with my findings, she would fall asleep peacefully.

Now she is 14 and I’m the one, not her, who is scared of what might be under her bed.
A few years ago, I wrote a column about my teen son’s messy room. What had I expected? It was a teen boy’s room. My daughter will be different from her older brother, I thought. Girls are tidy. It’s an X chromosome thing.

How could I have been so naïve?

She rivals, if not surpasses, my son when it comes to the slovenly state of bedrooms: shoes everywhere; dirty, cat-haired clothes, cereal bowls and Diet Coke cans on the dresser and floor; an unmade bed; fast-food bags near — but never in — her trash can.

I ride her about the disgraceful condition of her room, and her response is spine-chilling. She seems to turn into that possessed child that Linda Blair played on “The Exorcist,” her voice deep and demonic. “Just because you have OCD doesn’t mean I have to have it,” she says. I expect her head to spin and her mouth to spew pea soup, the latter in no way clashing with her room’s decor.

I buy flowers for her, hoping their presence in the room will make a difference, like holy water during an exorcism. I hand the vase to her through the cracked door, and she seems to appreciate the pretty yellows, reds and purples — even says thank you — and then quickly the door closes so as not to let in too much fresh air. The flowers prematurely wilt and blacken. My daughter doesn’t seem to mind the sickly dry state of her flowers; they stay on display, the failed fauna attracting gnats.

I buy her a fancy shoe tower to solve the shoe mess. It is designed to hold two dozen pairs. I peek in her room and discover not even one shoe on the rack. I worry she has run away, but then I see one of her Brumby sheepskin boots sticking out from beneath her bed. I drop to my knees for a closer look, and sure enough, all her shoes are under her bed. The shoes did not walk there by themselves. It takes human effort to do this. She denies any wrongdoing.

Before I tell you what else I find under her bed, let me explain something about her bed. This year, I bought a new bed for myself, and Delaney asked for my old one. I liked the idea. Since my old bed was twice the size of hers, it would mean less space being left for her to mess up her room, I thought.

Makes sense, right?

Wrong!

There are far more items than shoes beneath her bed, way more. A fresh, full bag of garbage in the garage testifies to that. Here are some things I find: labels and tags for Otter Box, Sperry, Hollister, Cadbury, JVC and LA Colors; blank photocopy paper; a depleted Visa gift card; a Starbucks mocha cappuccino bottle; empty bottles of water (I stopped counting after 12); lip balm; two Scotch tape dispensers; a stick of Trident; a Nestle Crunch wrapper; a pump bottle of Suave advanced therapy lotion; Subway bags and napkins; an alternative music magazine; a middle school yearbook; a stuffed pink snake. If I dig deep enough, it won’t surprise me to find a few trapped Peruvian miners or the body of Jimmy Hoffa.

This peeves me. What really makes me snap, though, is the empty Q-tip container designed to house 500 Q-tips which are now scattered beneath the bed. I had searched for the Q-tips a few days earlier. Now and then, I find a little pile of cotton swab remnants on the kitchen floor, courtesy of our Q-tip-entranced cat, the cotton sucked off the ends of the little white sticks, reminding me of sparrow bones, as if part of some feline sacrificial rite.

After rounding up about 25 Q-tips from under the bed, I lose my patience. Knowing the actual quantity of Q-tips scattered on the floor overwhelms me. I’ll leave it up to the cat to move the remaining 475 into the kitchen. I resign from my role as under-the-bed-trash-picker-upper, leaving the remaining mess for another day, fully knowing it ultimately will be worse than I have left it. I should just erect a sign that says condemned.

I’d gladly revisit my son’s past messy room any day over my daughter’s — at least I never lost the will to finish cleaning his room in one session (Q-tips were never his problem). I cannot sleep, thinking about what’s under my daughter’s bed. Damn my daughter-diagnosed obsessive compulsive disorder.

Scott Saalman and the Will Read (and sing) For Food Players will perform a public show at 7 p.m., Nov. 7, at Huntingburg Old Town Hall, to benefit the Shared Abundance food pantry.




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