The Storage Unit Part 4

Continued from The Storage Unite Part 3
Photo Story Vibe Part 1
Photos by Axel Bertrand , Dan Cook , Zoran Zonde Stojanovski , Morgan Sessions on Unsplash

The next day we ate and hit the road.  We arrived when the Storage Facility opened and rolled right into our routine.  Un-stuff unit, sort in hallway, un-stuff unit, claim a long wanted item, put in hallway stash.

15 minutes later, I hear a hissing start “ssssssssssssssss.”  “What’s that?” I ask the room.

White dust immediately starts spewing into the air.  “SSSSSSSSSSsssssssss”

“Something’s happening,” I yell.  “JOHN,” I holler.  “MOM,” I holler.

A white dust cloud ballooned into the air.  I stand up and start coughing.  “WHAT IS IT?”  I yell waiving my arms through the white stuff trying to clear a path to breathe.  Panic set in.  Was it going to explode?  What the hell was in there?  What would Chuck have?  Did he have explosives?  He was in the Navy on a nuclear submarine.  He was a wack job conspiracy theorist.  (sorry)

“IT’S A FIRE EXTINGUISHER,” my husband hollers back.

I throw things around looking for it.  I can’t see anything and I’m hacking up a lung.  I can’t breathe, so I barge out of the room and knock over my husband.  He’s coughing.  My Mom is coughing.  White dust erupts out of the room and into the air.

“RUN,” I YELLED.  I might have added, “For your lives”!

John picks up our daughter, who is 10 sensible feet from the door and we all race down the hallway coughing and waiving our arms at the dust ashing the air.

50 feet away we stop and turn around.   It’s still hissing.  “SSSSSSSSSSSsssss”

White ash continues to rise out and up and over and down the hall.  It grows toward us.  The hallway fills up and I can’t see the door anymore.  I stand there in horror.  The white beast continues to spread, reaching towards us, lifting up to the ceiling, obliterating the spy camera.

The storage facility woman is going to fracking kill me!  The four of us take a few steps back as the monster reaches out, towards us.  I don’t know if it will ever stop.  I see it reach up, up, up to the skylight.  Sunlight twinkles through the white ash as the hallway darkens.  It’s not pretty like the vibrant pink volcano eruption sunsets.  No one says anything.  I’m still coughing.

The hissing slowly dissipates.  “SSSssssssssss”

The expansion ceases yet the cloud hovers.  We can’t see the end of the hallway.  We can’t see more than 4 feet into the beast. Nothing blew up.  We’re not dead.

I full on Tom Hank laugh from the Money Pit.  I laugh so hard I can’t breathe.  It’s worse than when I couldn’t breathe inside the white eruption.  I gasp.  I honk.  I hee.  I haw.  The shock wears off enough that they start howling too.

The white cloud lifts into the abyssal sky.  It reaches out, it drifts, it expands, it hovers, and it thins.  Ever so slowly, the white cloud becomes translucent like a Tulare fog lifting in the valley.

Photo Story Vibes
Photos by frank mckenna , Lucy , Dan Cook on Unsplash

It looks like it snowed in the hallway.  White powder coats every single thing.  As the fogs lifts, footprints emerge in the white snow.  Looks like a herd escaped down the hallway to where we stand.  The laughter abruptly stops.

“Opps.”

Cackling cracks the silence.  I can’t see the camera.

“Someone needs to tell her a bomb didn’t go off,” I stated.

Photo Story Vibes
Photo Story Vibes                                         Photos by Hugues de BUYER-MIMEURE , krakenimages on Unsplash

Doubled over and crying, they both look at me, and nominated me with their eyes.  “Ok fine.  I’ll see if she has a mop or any cleaning supplies.”  I’m not pleased.

I rehearsed my story as I meandered back to the front office.  It’s about a 12 minute trek.  I’ll sandwich the story.  Good news, bad news, good news, then request cleaning supplies.

“We didn’t blow up anything, I swear, it’s just a fire extinguisher that accidently went off, I don’t know how, I didn’t even know it was in there, it must have been a large fire extinguisher, I’m really sorry,” I blurt out in one frantic breath.

“You don’t say.  You’re going to have to clean that all up or I’m going to charge you a cleaning fee,” she deadpans back.

“Yes, I promise we’ll clean it up like new,” I beg for mercy.  “Do you have a mop I can borrow?”

“No.”  She’s not responding well to the situation.  I can see her brain trying to determine a punishing course of action.

I hurl myself under the bus and throw in some oh my Dad was found dead FLOATING IN THE HARBOR (it’s true) and a schizophrenic crazy guy might have killed him (still true) and this horror never ends (true enough).  I was careful not to shed fake tears though.  Those always give away the deception.  The story was true enough.  The deception would be in my falsely implied closeness to my “Dad”.

“Well,” she draws out, “there might be a bucket and mop in the closest next to the bathroom.”

Did I mention this 357,000 square foot location contains one bathroom?

Promising to leave no trace, I escape the office, body parts intact.   I find one mop and one bucket in said closet and proceed to leave a trail of sploshing water as I meander the maze back to the winter scene.  I look behind me.  I’ve become Hansel and Gretel.  Eh, it’ll dry.  I slosh onward.

White footprints greet me well before I enter our hallway.  Opps.  I left a trail.  I mop and walk backward like an assassin erasing the evidence.  No crime here.  Nothing to see folks in the spy camera.

Hallway Cameras Everywhere

When I reach my family, I notice they too left white footprints like caffeinated mice scouring a field filled with cheese droppings.

“Stop!” I holler, “We’re making it worse.  No one walks past here.”  I draw an imaginary line across the area I just wiped clean.

Busy bees left scrunched up paper towels on the wayside.  I pictured them clearing the road like a herd of trash-picking scouts, leaving bags on the sidelines for later pick up.  I see they are using our drinking water to wet the paper towels.  I’m immediately parched and thirsty.  I also see the floor is still white even where they snow plowed.  This stuff seeped into the floors’ pores.  It literally changed the color of the floor.

“Mom, will you go back to the car and grab more towels?” I ask.

“Sure.”

“Stop!  Let me wipe your shoes first,” I command.  Crime scenes require a tight ship.  “Please bring some more water too.”

“Ok,” she says as she heads off.

John and I get to work.  I swab the deck.  The powder clings to the surfaces like a monkey on its mama’s back.  Then it seeps into the floors’ pores and blends with the atoms and electrons.  It slimed over the quarks, and by the time it’s done percolating into every Planck Length, it resembles a belching blizzard that permeates the hall.

I’m intimidated by the glory that it is, a sparkling wondrous winter land dropped in the middle of a desert.  Only it doesn’t melt, nor fade.

“When I worked at JPL, a few times the humidity got so low that the humidifier couldn’t keep up with the low humidity needed to be able to work with electronic parts.  It got so bad; we poured water on the floor and slopped it around with a mop so we could keep working.” I recounted the story.

“What’s your point?” John responds straight to his point.

“I think this calls for sloppy moping,” as I tip the bucket to slosh water all over the floor.  He looks horrified.

I ignore him and proceed with the deep clean.  I swab the snow out of that floor.  My daughter could roll around and kiss it by the time I finished.

My husband wiped, my daughter swiped, my Mom washed, and I mopped.  Eventually, like good campers, we reached “leave no trace” mode.  When the floor colors matched, we proclaimed a job well done.

“It’s time for lunch,” someone declared.

After lunch, we jumped back to our purpose of being there.  Every so often, “I can’t believe the extinguisher went off!” burst out of someone’s mouth.  Usually followed by either a disgusted “yeah” or deep bellyaching bursts of eye leaking laughter.

“I see the back,” someone declared excitedly!  The four of us crammed into the doorway to see.  Yes, the storage unit contained a back wall!  We debated.  Maybe we would be able to finish in 3 days.  I felt the fire extinguisher from hell hit to the timeline deeply.  “I’m not sure,” I said, “that ‘fiasco feature’ took a lot of time.”

We slog on.

I took another stab inside the unit.  “This is perfect.  I LOVE THIS,” I hauled out my second thing to keep to remind me of him in a positive light.  I held up a heavy tarnished ship bell.  A blue canvas tie hung from the clapper.  I wagged it.  “Dinggg” it chimed beautifully bouncing off the walls and burst my eardrums.

“NOT IN HERE,” my husband immediately chastises me.  He heard it “clang” even though it specifically sang “boonnng”.

“I’m going to put this in the backyard on the playhouse!” I exclaim giddily hopping up and down.

“Really?” he looks at me.  “Ok,” my husband grouses like a grumpy bear woken up from hibernation.  He, the sound guy, is not fond of “extra” sounds.  Don’t get me started on the wind chime debates.

We finish the day, each of us finding a few more treasures.  A genuine Penalton wool blanket and a Royal Swedish wool blanket delight me while horrifying my mom and husband.  The go directly to my pile, bypassing go to jail row.

John finds a cigar box with jewelry.  Intimate and personal, it saddens me and I put in my pile to look at later.

I waver over a huge Peruvian white and tan sweater.  I recall pictures of him wearing it.  I simultaneously want it and don’t want it.  My Grandma’s favorite sweater hangs unworn in my closet.  I’m not going to wear it.  Why am I drawn to this?  It’s not even attractive.  With an inexplicable intangible draw, it perplexes me.  I hesitantly put it in the donate pile, convincing myself someone else will use it and love it.

At the end of the day, we make our last donation run.  Since we didn’t find another ‘donate at the storage unit friend,’ we haul more loads to the donation center.  There’s no parking, people pack the place, and the drop off area is closed for the day.  My mom hovers the SUV on the sidewalk while I run inside to beg them to accept our cool stuff!  The lady can’t resist my charm; she even helps us with the loads.  My Mom and Nikki stay with the car so we don’t get a ticket or towed.

White and tan sweater calls my name.  I pick it up and hug it.

“NO,” my husband interrupts me.  “You don’t need it.”

My response flops in and out of my opening and closing mouth, ‘but’ ‘I’ ’remember’.

“It’s a memory, it’s not him,” I tell myself.  I hug it goodbye.

“Ok.”  I lay it down, turn my back on it, and walk away.

“Don’t leave me,” it calls after me.  Someone will want, love, and need it, I repeat to myself.  I don’t need it.

Besides the ultra-cool auto-tracking fancy foo-foo telescope, 1.25 inch brand new curling iron, tarnished green ship bell (only made it look cooler), bullhorn needing batteries, and bait bucket; we found other fun items.  An underwater scooter, an original Gogo motorized scooter/skateboard, a Hookah rig (for breathing underwater!!!), an electric type writer, a tiny 6 inch TV, an antique computer (not the first one, a few models later that no one wants but me, for my museum), ten or fifteen cell phones, a 12 inch mini TV, auto sailing thing you attach to the wheel and gps, walkie talkies, another mini TV, an underwater anchor that looks like a parachute kids throw in the air and jump under, two emergency ship beacons, and a few computers we couldn’t open.

He possessed quite a few medical assistance items:  two walkers, one motorized wheelchair, canes, knee braces, and a custom molded knee brace. My daughter and I tested the wheelchair.  We begged John to keep it, but his superstition about using something like that when you don’t need to won out.  We could only test it a few times in the front yard.  I didn’t want to upset him too much.  Even though it would have been fun to play with, I gave him this one.

Tomorrow is our last day in San Diego.  It’s do or die time: finish the storage unit or give everything left away.  It never occurred to me to abandon it and let the storage unit people deal with it.  Abandonment issues pestered me and I wasn’t going to perpetuate the “A” word.

Standing around the kitchen drinking coffee and milk, making plans, and yakking up a storm before we leave, my cousin receives a phone call.

“Who’s calling her this early,” I ask my Mom?

“How should I know,” her annoyed response should be anticipated by now, but I’m a slow learner.

“What?  When?  What happened?  Where is he?” my cousin says.  Silence slices the room.

Ut oh.   Something bad happened.  My cousin starts crying.  She hangs up in daze, “I have to go.”

“What happened?” we all ask.

“Dave had a heart attack.  He’s in the hospital.  It’s not good.” She tells us.  Dave is her boyfriend.

We all tear up.  “What can we do?”  “Do you want us to drive you?”

She doesn’t.  She wants to go alone.

I blink and she’s gone.  We’re left stunned into silence in the kitchen.  “What just happened?”  I think of the dinner party we declined to attend 2 nights ago, thinking I’ll go next time.  There may not be a next time.  Guilt grips my gut and squeezes.

We agree it’s horrible.  I say a prayer for him, my cousin, and his family.

There’s nothing we can do, so we continue with our plans.  An hour later, my Mom gets a call from my cousin.  She hangs up and tells us his diagnosis.  She looks it up on google.  “It’s not good,” she says through tears.  “He’s not going to make it.  It’s a miracle he’s survived this long.”  She tells us his condition; his heart ripped near his aorta and cannot be repaired.  “He went for a walk on the beach with his dogs.  Apparently, he does that every day.  He’s very healthy and he just collapsed.”

Not long after, my Mom gets a text from my cousin.  Dave died.  She was with him.  We’re all in shock.  I feel so bad for my cousin.  They just found each other, someone to travel and spend their life with.  It’s not easy finding someone in the later phases of your life.  They weren’t the perfect no argument couple, but their similar interests kept them together.  They enjoyed exploring the world together.  They respected each other’s past lives and adult children.  They had a promising future together.

Sadly, I was more upset about Dave’s death than my Fathers.  Is that horrible?  Transference?  We shared what we liked about Dave, “He was such a nice guy.  Talked a lot, but he went out of his way to help us and he hardly knew us.”

“He was a great cook.”  “He loved fishing.”  “He loved dogs.”  “And sushi.”  “He was so friendly.”  “He never met a stranger.”  “Why him?”  “He seemed so healthy.”

Mortality reached out and lightly touched the backs of our shoulders, tickling our necks.  I flicked it off.

“That was quick.”

The rest of the day passed quickly.  We slogged on.  We finished.  We swept the unit floor and wiped down the walls.  Leave no trace.

-The End of The Storage Unit Chapter-

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