Sunday, June 04, 2006

What Lies Beneath

You must be wondering, where are my manners? I apologize for not visiting your blogs lately or putting up new posts on mine.

I've been working over at Maxwell House during most of the daytime lately, and when I come home, all I have energy for is a shower before I collapse. It's the heat, the kind of work, and my age - oh, and have I mentioned the arthritis in my hands, hips and knees before? That, too.

We're going to move into Maxwell House in a few weeks. Thank God we're not in a hurry or on a deadline!

The tenants had seven weeks' notice to move out by the end of May. One of the tenants - let's call her "Margie," wasn't quite out by June 1st when I went over there to see the house empty for the first time. This gal had been filling the three wheelie-bins (an English term I've picked up) for weeks with what were apparently sacks and sacks and sacks of used cat litter. When I went over there on the first, I saw that she had left boxes and boxes and boxes labelled "trash" on the front porch. I had to wait another day to see what was inside after she left.

Oh. my. god. I knew that Margie was not a good housekeeper. I had heard that from Max, my ex-husband, who left the house to me when he died. I knew that she apparently didn't clean up after her cats as well as she should because I'd heard that from the realtor who tried to sell the house for a year. I knew that her place was smelly because occasionally I'd get complaints from the other tenants, and then I'd mention it to her, and she'd do something, but the problem would always return.

I also knew that Margie was "weird." The quiet type. Reclusive. She wouldn't always answer the door. Or if she did, she only cracked it enough to talk through. She didn't associate with the other tenants or neighbors. She never answered the phone - I always had to leave her a message. I wasn't really worried about this because I was, after all, trying to sell the place and move to North Carolina. As long as she paid the rent on time ... etc.

What I did not know was that Margie was suffering from a debilitating mental disorder called "hoarding." This was apparent as soon as she left the premises and I went inside.

It took Tomcat and I eight man-hours to literally shovel what she had left inside her apartment, bag it up, and take it out to the curb. People, this was after she had spent weeks filling up the wheelie-bins with trash, and after she had moved the stuff she wanted to take with her. I have to pay the City extra to come pick all this stuff up, but it had to be put on the curb first.

I cannot describe the smell. You wouldn't want me to, anyway. Trust me. In addition to petrified cat shit everywhere, we found maggoty plates of food under the sink. I'm serious.

Today we went over there to set off flea bombs. Fleas! God, of course there were fleas! I hadn't even thought of that. We have two dogs but we haven't had to deal with fleas since that miracle product, Advantage, came out over a decade ago, so I had literally forgotten all about that.

But first, we had to spend two man-hours literally RE-shoveling and RE-bagging the crap on the curb because the street people had pawed through all of it. You would think the smell alone would have warned them away.

I had a cleaning service come out Friday to give me an estimate on cleaning her apartment - including ripping out the carpet. They're coming in the morning at 9:00. I plan to get there around 8:00 to start airing the place out. Otherwise, they simply will not be able to work in there. After it's closed up over night, the cat pee smell is so strong it burns your eyes.

We don't think we'll have to rip out drywall, but it may come to that. I also have painters coming tomorrow to give an estimate on painting her place. I think there is a brand of Kilz that will attack the odor. I sure hope so.

I have no idea what lies beneath the carpet. The other apartments have nice hardwood floors. Fortunately, the carpeted area is confined to only one room and a hall.

I had the plumber out on Friday to fix the kitchen sink in Margie's apartment - the faucet was running - not dripping - running both hot and cold water. No telling how long it had been doing that. There was also a crack in the sewer line under the house. Ugh!

In addition to the plumber, the cleaners, and the painters, I also have a locksmith lined up to rekey everything. And, I hope the City shows up soon before the street people attack again.

Last night I dreamed about Margie. I was trying to get her some help, some therapy. And a nice, new clean place to live. And those poor cats! She had two that we know of (that she admitted to), plus one that lived outside because it refused to come inside!

I've never seen anything like what we encountered in Margie's apartment. I do not know how anyone can live like that. I hope she gets some help, and soon. I hope we do, too - I feel like we've got post-traumatic stress disorder ourselves now! Gah!

Sorry about the rambling. I've been so exhausted lately. This heat and having to be working out in it is definitely not for us writer-types!