The coffeemaker started it.

I prepare the machine the night before. I pour fresh water in the reservoir. I count the scoops loud to myself. I could eyeball it, as someone who will remain nameless is wont to do, but I prefer to foster a small measure of precision in this chaotic world, my office and bookshelves notwithstanding.

Coffeemaker locked and loaded, as it were, I make my final preparations and depart for the Land of Nod. Until dawn, when I awaken like a spike pried from a railroad tie and stagger downstairs for that all-important first Cup o’ Joe.




I run down my blurry-eyed diagnostic checklist. Is it on? Is this the toaster? I switch from auto-brew to manual start. The green light illumines and gives me hope.

Still nada.

Desperate for that all-important hot beverage, I resort to brewing some chamomile tea, or a potpourri pouch; at that hour it is hard to tell. So, the coffeemaker is kaput. Nobody repairs these things anymore. I’ll have to buy a new one.

It is housecleaning day, so I steel myself with a second cup of potpourri, spiked with honey and pepper for taste, and go upstairs to put clothes in the washer. Back downstairs, I pull the vacuum cleaner from the closet and start to vacuum the living room rug.

What is that burning smell?

I look down at the roller brush viewing port and determine that the roller brush is not spinning. The smell must be coming from the drive belt. Safety first, I unplug the vacuum, turn it over and determine that I’ll need a Philips head screwdriver to get to the belt.

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I haven’t enjoyed sitting cross-legged on the floor for 20 years. Just my getting down on the floor resembles my mother trying to fold a road map. Once in a position of only excruciating pain, I examine the vacuum intake assembly and count nine, no, eleven screws to be removed to get to the roller and drive belt.

My cats are apprentice mechanics, at least to the extent that they are attracted to tidy piles of screws. I redirect them elsewhere and reconstitute my little heap of eight (I could have sworn there were eleven) screws.

Low and behold, the cover the screws hold in place does not budge. I spring to my feet the way a road map springs open and limp to my computer to find information that might explain the recalcitrant cover. My research reveals two more screws hidden beneath two wheels that must be removed to gain access.

Eventually, I clear the sluggish roller and belt. I am missing three screws. I resign myself to finding them with a bare foot or with the vacuum.

I start the vacuum. An loud, ominous thumping from the laundry room overhead tells me the washer is riding a bull named Fu Manchu.

Smoke rises from the vacuum cleaner.

The machines are winning. Again.


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