Litter in the ivory tower

"Welcome to my seminar on MOLD," I greeted them as my reluctant family filed quietly into the immaculate confines of my den. "Make it brief," said my wife, sitting down on the ottoman with a sack of fresh corn she had purchased for supper.

"MOLD cannot be taken lightly," I affirmed, policing the area around my wife's garden sneakers. "This rampant blight seems to have penetrated every room in the house with the exception of my officer here."

"There's no mold in my room, Dad," announced my 12-year-old son, feasting on a large bowl of popcorn he had just made for himself.

"The term MOLD, in this case, is an acronym whose letters stand for mess, oddments, litter, and disorder," I explained, unfolding a movie screen.

"I'm sold on MOLD, Dad," my 19-year-old daughter admitted, vigorously drying her copper tresses with a beach towel. "It gives my space that lived-in look. Your den always looks like a page out of House Beautiful."

"It's been our misfortune, kids," said my wife, returning to the den with a vat of cold water for the shucked ears of corn, "that I married a neataholic, but we're willing to forgive you, dear, if you'll conclude this modly affair as soon as possible."

"All right, let's move along to the visual-aids part of my program," I said, turning off my desk lamp. "I'm about to show you some colored slides I took recently of your rooms that will graphically illustrate our subject matter in its advanced stages."

"Hold it a sec, Dad, while I get my curlers," said my daughter, exiting on the fly.

"You'd better not show any slides of my sewing room," warned my wife, shelling some peas, "or you'll be having mold for supper."

"I've only recorded the facts, Ma'am," I said defensively, flashing the first slide onto the screen as my daughter was returning with a canister of curlers.

She gasped at the panoramic view of her bedroom. "This represents a form of perennial MOLD," I said, tapping the screen with my pointer."Note the unsightly mounds of discarded clothing, the dresser drawers hanging out, the unmade bed, strewn coat hangers, tape decks, record albums, soft drink empties, and cosmetics -- in substance, MOLD spreading unchecked even now, creeping into the hallway," I droned.

"Karen!" exclaimed my wife, jumping up for a closer look at what she was seeing. I congratulated myself for the shock effect my slide show was apparently beginning to have. "Karen!" my wife repeated. "Did I tell you I saw some curtains on sale yesterday that would harmonize perfectly with your new bedspread if your father will OK my charging them?"

"Of course, dear. Please sit down," I said, somewhat deflated.

"Oh, darn," sighed my wife. "I spilled my apronful of peas."

"Please remain where you are," I shouted with alarm, "till this presentations is over! A pea-green rug would not be too compatible with my executive decor."

I snapped the next slide of my son's room onto the screen as the telephone jangled in the kitchen. "That's for me," cried my daughter, spraying the area with flying curlers.

"This slide is a classic example of a helter-skelter shelter," I continued, "perhaps unrivaled in modern times for its accumulation of unrelated objects." My pointer stabbed at the disassembled TV set, orphaned bicycle parts, sports regalia for every season, far-flung baseball cards, MAD paperbacks, batteries of every dimension, electronic kits, overdue library books, board games in various stages of progress, lengths of rope, wire, chain, and cable with the whole landscape speckled with billions of red, white, and blue LEGO chips. "May I also point out that here is visual proof of my collection of missing tools," I added.

"Glen!" squealed my daughter, returning from the phone, "You ought to be ashamed of yourself . . ." (I started to ex" ude some fatherly pride over what I perceived to be my daughter's first public outcry againts the frightening aspects of MOLD) ". . . for taking some of the hard rock albums. I see three of them on your stereo there."

"I'll return the tools and records right now," responded my son, upending his bowl of popcorn all over his sister, who then reacted by stepping into the vat of corn.

"Karen," my wife said, "hand me your towel so I can sop up some of this water."

"All right, that does it," I growled in the dark. "Lecture's over. I've made my point." As I groped for my desk lamp, my pointer snagged a carousel of slides, sending it clattering to the floor.

"I wouldn't turn that lamp on," my wife cautioned, gathering, as best she could, the remnants of the supper. "In view of what's happened here, I'd think twice about shedding any more light on the subject."

I withdrew my hand from the lamp.As I stepped backward, crushing an ear of corn underfoot, I decided I must be standing in the midst of the conclusive evidence that not even ivory towers are immune from the ravages of MOLD.

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