That Can Be Fixed, We Aren't Made of Money

Submitted into Contest #185 in response to: Write a story about someone who doesn’t know how to let go.... view prompt


Fiction Horror Funny

"Wait. What are you doing with that lampshade?"

"It's broken and covered in mouse poop. I'm throwing it away."

"What a waste! It can be fixed and cleaned. No wonder you and Bob haven't got a pot to piss in."

My sister-in-law, Ivy, was determined to keep her toppling, mega-stash of unwanted, broken, stained, and unusable items from being chucked out with the trash, where they belonged. When faced with confrontation about the questionable usefulness of items she would throw insults at my husband and me to change the subject.

"What lampshade are you going to replace with this one?" I asked, knowing beforehand what her answer would be.

"None right now. What if one of our lampshades in the living room breaks? What then, 'Miss Throw Your Money Away?'"

"I can see your point. If you want me to bring you some masking tape and Clorox you can repair it and clean it right now and I'll put it back on the porch with all the other junk you won't let me throw away."

"I'm busy right now. Just put it over there in the pile of 'KEEPS', and I'll get to it."

"No. Jack said either repair or toss." I firmly declared, reminding her that her husband was giving me the job of forcing his stubborn, hoarder wife to let go of the crap that had been overtaking their five bedroom home for the past thirty years. Jack had built a three story garage to store his wife's sundries in and they had overflowed that spot three times and were now taking residence all over their once neat home.

Ivy had held a garage sale earlier that Summer, but became so enraged when strangers started buying up her 'favorite' items, she shut the whole enterprise down, swinging her cane at eager bargain hunters until her daughter wrestled her back into the house.

To Ivy, everything was her 'favorite' item. Even if she had no use for it, didn't know what it was or it was covered in mouse turds and squirrel pee. It was all hers and no one was going to tell her what to do with it. She had spent years at garage sales collecting items that other people had no use for, didn't want to repair or clean or simply had no idea what the heck they were.

She held on viciously to a formaldehyde soaked turkey wishbone floating ominously in a bottle from a long ago Thanksgiving dinner. The formaldehyde had leaked into the walnut bookshelf but she wasn't giving in. "No. That's from Thanksgiving. You aren't going to throw it away. It's my favorite turkey bone!"

When I presented her with the option to toss out a battered and filthy C-Pap machine from the 1950s, she asked me, "What am I supposed to use if my doctor tells me I need one? We aren't made of money, you know. It's not like I can just run out and buy a new one. Put that in the 'Just in Case' pile."

Sadly, they were made of money. After many years of running manufacturing plants all over the country her husband had amassed a small fortune and they were sitting on about three million beans in the bank, which they would never spend in five life-times. It would not have been a problem for Ivy to order a new C-Pap machine if she truly needed one.

Although, this, she used to remind everyone, was why they had money in the bank. They never threw anything away. She would shower with slivers of soap so small they got lost in her tummy flab. She would cut toothpaste tubes to scrape out the smallest left over bits. Dish soap would get watered down until it stopped making suds and she would only allow for one load of clothes to be washed in cold water every month.

She combed her hair with a toothless comb and turned out every light in the house at night, including nightlights, because, "We aren't made of money, you know."

They still used furniture her parents had given them when they got married over sixty years ago. "Why buy something you didn't need just because your old stuff was broken?"

As I was hauling out trash from her back porch she saw a torn open package of wrapping paper from the 1940s in my dusty paws. It was stained with God only knew what and mice had chewed the edges of the paper. She stopped me in my tracks to inspect the package and decided she would use that paper for the following Christmas. It was birthday wrap, but waste not, want not.

While I toiled away under the auspices of the guardian hoarder queen, my husband lucked out by being able to work out of her sight in the garage, hauling broken furniture, cat urine soaked comforters and clothing that hadn't been worn since the 60s to the overflowing trash cans. It was a blessing for him to be able to work in peace, while Ivy inspected every piece of junk I tried to toss out and lectured me on why we were poor and they were not.

The houseplants were a particular pain in the butt for my brother in law, Jack. The houseplants were all either dead or nearly dead and they shed their pathetic leaves all over the place. It was my job to present Ivy with each plant so she could decide what to do with it. Of course, they all stayed and I had to put them all back exactly where they had been, leaving a shower of leaves on the carpet, which I would soon be vacuuming up.

Ivy's hoarding was so out of control that walls were bowing and floorboards were creaking under the weight of her detritus. The garage, the basement, the back porch, the mud room, the front hallway, and all five upstairs bedrooms were chock full of hideous clothing, nick knacks and a few odd paddy-whacks thrown in for good measure. Still, she resisted the free clean-out we were giving her. It was like fighting with a toddler over her favorite blankee.

Toilet tissue rolls, empty egg cartons, paper towel rolls, empty containers and shipping boxes were all hallowed belongings that would someday create masterpieces of crafty artwork. Because no one could get to these fabulous craft supplies, though, the chances of them becoming magnificent bird houses or spy glasses was slim and dim.

Jack was furious at Ivy most of the time, and her habitual hoarding was at the root of their marital problems. I found him in the mud room storming around and complaining about her refusal to accept help clearing out her 'damned shit' as he was rearranging his shelves filled with leftover wooden shims, paints from previous projects, stiff paint brushes and paint rollers stuck to pallets with hardened paint. His old jackets and coats and galoshes from the past 50 years were piled carelessly on top of an old freezer that had been unusable for at least thirty years.

The garage was filled with a series of his broken lawn mowers from the 1950s to the present, because someday he was going to get them repaired. Rusted tools, ropes, kids' toys, camping supplies that had been mildewed and mouse inhabited, saved for a rainy day, because, "We aren't made of money, you know."

Jack's old fishing lures were jumbled into a tangled mess and strewn about the hallway, just waiting to impale waiting bare feet that were stumbling through the darkened hall after mandatory lights-out. He had a golf hat collection that rivaled Arnold Palmer's. They were all thrown haphazardly into one corner of the mud room, next to his assorted boxes of sawdust coated screws, nails and brads, which he had saved off the floors of the manufacturing plants he once ran. Those were valuable supplies which he swept up every afternoon after the workers had left for the day.

He also held onto various mugs and match books from the different restaurants and bars he had frequented on his journeys. These were piled on top of the dryer, always threatening to fall off as clothing tumbled dry once a month.

His reading room and office was filled from top to bottom with 8-track tapes and VHS tapes because you just never knew when the new technology was going to fail. Also, he never took empty soda bottles back for a refund because he liked to rinse them out and fill them with water. He had hundreds of them stashed all over his office, just in case.

Snacks? He had a thing for ordering snacks online. He had so many bags of candies that he should not have been eating that Ivy had to give them out to relatives when they came to his funeral.

He also saved each and every one of his insulin needles. Not in Sharps containers- but in plastic shopping bags that resembled shiny porcupines. He reused his diabetic testing prickers, because, "We aren't made of money, you know."

I was frightened of what we would find in the bathroom and thankfully, he was not reusing toilet paper. That was frivolous, I thought. Did they think they were made of money?

February 10, 2023 23:49

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Julie Grenness
21:31 Feb 22, 2023

Well done. This is a quirky look at clutter to the mostest. The choice of language and imagery was effective, and apt. This story did convey the writer's message so clearly, good imaginative prompting with such word pictures of clutter. I hope you keep on writing.


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Henri Porritt
10:05 Feb 19, 2023

Such a good demonstration of the mental effects that poverty can have, well done!


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Rabab Zaidi
14:28 Feb 18, 2023

Wow ! I could really relate to this !


Jeanne Kiesinger
16:10 Feb 18, 2023

God bless my dear relatives. Good people who grew up in the shadow of the great depression.


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