My mother-in-law invited us to dinner the other night. She had made enough spaghetti sauce to feed our entire family five times over. Eating at her house is always risky, not only because of her complete disregard for refrigeration and expiration dates, but because of the general state of filth in her kitchen. In addition to an open trash can and recycling container, she maintains two slop buckets – one for her neighbor’s chickens, the other for the compost heap in her side yard. The result of these open containers is a constant swarm of fruit flies, which she refers to as a different and more hygienic species known as compost flies. I have given her fruit fly traps and fancier, covered compost containers with charcoal filters. These have disappeared somewhere.
This particular evening, she was trying to determine where the black ants that could be found all around the counter tops were coming from. “If I knew where they were coming in, I could plug the hole and feed them honey and borax,” she remarked. True, there was no evident entry path, but I had my own ideas about what might be attracting them as I set off killing the ones that were approaching the food intended for dinner.
I nearly tripped over a large cardboard container, which I intended to dismantle and bring out with the recycling; however, it was filled with the all-too familiar bottles of a shopping spree at the Vitamin Super Shoppe. I had to take a peek to see what magic supplements she had over-ordered this time and found roughly ten bottles of Magic Fiber and the same number of something called Colon Care. I detected a theme.
As I helped my mother-in-law at the stove, we heard some noises in the ceiling above us. Squirrels, she pronounced, but the roofing guy had plugged up the hole where they were coming in. Not so much, I remarked, as they still seemed to be up there in the attic. This she shrugged off with a dismissive remark about the noises coming from the squirrels playing with sticks on her roof. And besides, she added, there was nothing they could harm in her attic.
I asked her how she was feeling and she filled me in on her constipation woes. She has had this particular malady for a few years now. When we were embarking on a cruise last year, we were required to fill out a survey inquiring about our intestinal health, the purpose of which was to be certain that no one with the Norovirus was allowed on board. As I strongly suggested to my daughter that she never admit to having diarrhea in a cruise ship terminal, my mother-in-law asked me if she should let the authorities know about her constipation. She seems to spend her days of leisure concerned about unplugging her bowels and plugging holes in her house. As she stirred the spaghetti sauce, she let on with a wink that instead of bread crumbs; she used bran in the meatballs. Yum.