Thijs walks to the hallway closet. Alma calls out from their kitchen.
“We need to vacuum before they get here.”
Behind the closed door, the closet is overstuffed. Reusable shopping bags form the outer layer of things. Once a week, the bags are removed then thrown back in.
Somewhere within, the vacuum is load-bearing.
“Dunno – The Swiffer is good enough on the hardwood.”
“T, it’ll sweep stuff into the cracks. We were supposed t-”
“I was supposed to re-varnish over the break. Yeah.” Thijs turns the key that doubles as the handle for the door.
The closet is worse than he thought. Last month he disassembled the pointless metal side table that came with the too-small apartment three years ago. Its legs weave through the mess.
“Alma, they’re not gonna be checking the cracks.”
The vacuum stands upright in the bottom-right corner. It’s pinned beneath an avalanche of belongings.
“I can do it if you’d rather dice the carrots.”
Thijs weighs up his options. He could remove the objects, layer-by-layer. Excavate the vacuum. First the shopping bags, then the board games. He wants to do that. It’s the right way. But once a thing has been removed from the closet, it needs to be placed back in. It’s a few dozen little actions and choices.
He doesn’t have time for them right now. People are almost here.
“I can dice the carrots.”
“Actually dice, not like, chunks.”
He could also just pull out the vacuum. The vacuum might not be as integral to the mess as it seems like a Jenga block.
He remembers the game of Jenga that’s somewhere in there. It’s pinning back a set of skis which, if disturbed, will fall out and crash onto the floor. You’d definitely hear that from the kitchen.
“You actually don’t think I can chop carrots?”
A calendar is wedged between some rolls of gift wrap. An annual gift from cousin Bill. He collects photos from the scattered family’s social media and makes them into the calendar.
“Last time they didn’t cook through – and all the other vegetables went soggy. Just saying they need to be finely diced.”
February was a photo collage dedicated to Rose’s newborn in Scotland. Which seemed to be laying it on a little thick, considering how many times the kid popped up in the other months.
Before March had rolled around, Thijs and Alma didn’t feel like looking at that anymore. Into the closet.
“Why do you not think I can do anything?”
They only got a single token placement anyway. In the top corner of October, a selfie at a Christmas market near Dusseldorf. Red lips from the Gluhwein.
“I didn’t say that?”
The knife is the sharpest in the house but not very sharp. Used for everything. He can hear the cracking of each carrot beneath its blade. The sound does not slow.
“Yeah, but it’s what you mean.”
Thijs leans into the closet, brushing against a disposable poncho, this disturbs an unopened copy of Cards Against Humanity, which had been teetering on a Christmas tree box. The game falls to the hallway floor. He sighs.
“That’s what you mean, right?”
The chopping stops.
Thijs pulls the vacuum out from the closet, and a pair of skis come tumbling out along with everything else.
Emil Čolić is a Yugoslavia-born, Australian-raised, Amsterdam-dwelling author who has spent over nine years writing advertising campaigns. Recently he’s moved into Fiction. His short story Linesman was selected as a Slinkies 2020 winner by Spineless Wonders. In his spare time he helps run a writing group called Strange Birds with over 1000 members.