Cottage 40 Diary Essay

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Diary of…a Cleaner Outer Spring cleaning arrived even earlier at Cottage 40 than spring this year. In early February, I was noticed the pungent odor of the Buck Hill-delivered hardwood ablaze in my fireplace. Problem was, I was in my basement. There is no fireplace in my basement. Given that Cottage 40 in its first incarnation burned to the ground, the house has bad fire juju. Before calling 911, I decided to cajole my personal architectural advisor and neighbor, Jean McCoubrey, into taking a walk down the stairs to take a whiff. “Try checking the cleanout,” she suggested. I wasn’t quite sure what a cleanout was (except as it pertained to a quinquennial procedure advised for individuals of a certain age), but I deduced Jean was referring to what lay behind a two-foot square cast iron door on the wall of the basement, directly below the fireplace, about a foot off floor level. Access requires …show more content…

I tried a long-handled brush (too short), a deer-fence stake (too long to fit in the opening) and a decommissioned curtain rod (too flimsy). A chrome towel bar I’d never gotten around to installing worked well to liberate another foot or so of ash. I then ventured upstairs, trailing a cloud of dust like Charlie Brown’s pal Pig Pen, to search for something small yet long enough and sturdy, and to replenish my plastic bag supply. I was now reduced to Target and TJ Maxx bags. Happily, I found the perfect solution: a two-foot shower-curtain rod which twisted to extend further once inside the opening. I poked, ash fell, I shoveled. I elongated the rod and poked again. Lather, rinse, repeat. I was now extending the shower-curtain-rod-slash-impacted-ash-breaker-upper up the hole five feet. Just as I was reaching the end of my rope—and the shower curtain rod the end of its extendable length—I made one last mighty upward stab and the last cubic foot of ash descended with a thunderous

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