The doorbell rang. It was a Saturday, and we weren’t expecting anybody. I was still in my bathrobe and hadn’t showered for a few days, but I answered the door anyway. Who cares? Out on the step, there was this fresh-faced fella in a suit, carrying a little leather folder. He looked eager.
“Hi, I’m Ken, from Filter Genie! How are you this excellent morning?” He had a skinny face with a lot of teeth in it, but he looked absolutely harmless. His smile was so wide it was hard not to return it.
Now, our vacuum cleaner was a piece of junk, and I had 3000 square feet of hardwood floors and faux Persian rugs and real Mexican tile to look after. I’m not complaining; it was my dream house, after all. The day we moved in, Tommy gave me a big hug and kiss and said it was exactly what I deserved.
I don’t know about that. I mean, he was married when we first met. He divorced his beautiful wife and now here I was, living in a house on a hill, overlooking the river, surrounded by fruit trees, flowers, and birds. But the place wasn’t exactly looking it’s best, these days. I didn’t feel like vacuuming, or doing much of anything else. And I was about to send Ken packing, because now wasn’t a good time to be making a big purchase. But here came Tommy to see what was going on.
“What’s going on?” he said.
“This is Ken, from Filter Genie,” I said.
“We make your wishes come true!” said Ken, with a wink. Be careful what you wish for.
“Come on in!” said Tommy. “Let’s see what you’ve got.” I’m like, really? Are we really going to buy a vacuum cleaner, after what just happened?
“Can I get you a glass of water?” Tommy asked. “Some tea?” He had his own big smile on, the one he uses when he’s trying to make money or make friends. But Ken just wanted to get right down to business. We all trooped into the living room, where the morning sun poured in through the windows, illuminating drifts of dust bunnies that surrounded us like glowing nebulae in a disintegrating universe. I was a little embarrassed, but Ken didn’t mind.
As he sat himself on the couch and began his spiel, an orchestral flourish of dust billowed up out of the upholstery to illustrate his point. A quality vacuum was an investment on the future, he said. Our beautiful home was worth it. We were worth it. He had no idea that he was sitting in the exact same spot where I was when I’d opened the computer and saw that string of emails Tommy forgot to delete. It was all I could think about while we listened to Ken talk.
There was an excellent deal to be had on one of their finest models, he said. Only $3200, but it would take care of a place this size no problem. There was a payment plan available, and free three-year warrantee.
“Let’s have a look,” said Tommy. He always liked to plan ahead. All I knew about the future was that I wasn’t about to skedaddle with my toothbrush and go couch-surfing, like the I did the last time I caught him fooling around. It was his idea to buy this place, so we could start fresh; but it was my dream house. If anyone would be hitting the road, it was Tommy. He probably thought I was on my way to sweeping the whole thing under the carpet, like I did before.
Ken went outside and brought in the Filter Genie. It was an R2D2 unit; a big sparkly canister on wheels with a halo of doodads festooning the crown. Ken started
pulling them off and explaining; this one was for upholstery, this one for cracks and crevices, and so on. There were about twelve of them.
“It looks heavy,” I said. Ken explained that she did have some weight, owing to her super-duper motor, which would last for at least twenty years. Some marriages do last that long.
“But she’s got these wheels on her, with special rotors inside,” he said. “You’ll hardly know she’s there. Watch this!” He gave the wand a little tug, and the Filter Genie spun around the floor like a ballerina. “She’s totally maneuverable. And the suction power is the best on the market.”
“Like magic,” said Tommy. His eyes were bright, and he looked fascinated. I hadn’t seen him look so excited in months. “You know, we really need a good vacuum. You deserve it, honey.”
Ken plugged the Genie in and she fired up like a rocket ship, with a smooth low soothing hum. He aimed the wand under the couch, and dust bunnies raced towards it like they couldn’t wait to be obliterated, forever. They disappeared like they were never there.
“The cord isn’t retractable,” I said.
“I’m glad you mentioned that,” said Ken. “What you’ve got to know is that this cord is extra-durable, and that retractable cords wear out faster. We did a study. You just loop it over your arm and she’s a piece of cake to handle.” He demonstrated, doing a graceful little dance around the living room with the Filter Genie making tracks behind him. He did the Persian rug in about three seconds flat, then sucked up the fuzz lining the corners of the room.
“She’s good on hardwood or carpet,” he said, giving the Genie’s body a tender little rub, as if she was Aladdin’s lamp. “Just flick this switch here. And the attachments are so versatile,” he said, pulling one off and putting another on. “They’re made of this special plastic that makes them easy to change out. No sticking.” When he lifted the wand to do the drapes, you could actually see motes of golden dust in the air racing towards the nozzle. At the very least, he’d be leaving the place better than he found it.
“We wouldn’t need financing,” said Tommy, giving me that big smile. “We’ll just put it on my credit card.” He was probably thinking a vacuum cleaner would be cheaper than another divorce. “What do you think, honey?”
What did I think? I thought, It’s a really dumb idea to buy a 3200$ vacuum when our marriage is on the rocks. I thought, It’s your credit card, so go for it. I thought, If you think a vacuum cleaner is going to make my wishes come true, you’re a fool, Tommy.
“Sure,” I said.
So Tommy put the Filter Genie on his credit card. I used her to vacuum the house from top to bottom after it went on the market. I couldn’t afford to stay there after the divorce; the taxes were out of sight, and anyway, the place was too big for one person. Too many empty rooms to look after. A dream house is sort of a nightmare, once you wake up. Better to start fresh.
Tommy and I figured things out amicably; 60/40 in his favor, since we had no kids, but I got the contents of the house. He was pretty good about it; maybe he felt guilty. The only thing he asked for was the Filter Genie.
“No way,” I said. “She makes wishes come true.” He didn’t even try to argue.
The thing is a monster. Fifteen years later, she still sucks. Nowadays, I live in a cramped split-level condo unit full of stairs, and the Genie doesn’t do well with stairs; she weighs a ton, and she’s too big and clunky to fit in any of my closets, so I have to haul her up from the basement every time I want to vacuum.
Her squat barrel of a body tips over on those tricky little wheels every time I turn around, and I’ve tripped on that extra-durable non-retractable cord at least a thousand times. I try to loop it over my arm like Ken did, but it still gets tangled in the attachments sticking up out of her crown; I never use half of them. I wish I’d watched his demonstration better. He made it look so easy. But I was too busy thinking about all the things I wanted to say to Tommy, and didn’t.
All of that means I don’t vacuum as much as I should, so I guess you could say my life is a mess. Every time I look at the Filter Genie, I wish I’d just let Tommy have her. I think of that beautiful 3000 square foot dream house, and I wish we’d never moved there to start fresh. I wish I could afford a new vacuum. And I wish I didn’t have to make my own wishes come true.
But I got what I deserved. The Filter Genie and I will just have to suck it up.