WHEN I returned home one recent evening I thought I had stumbled onto a live broadcast of a ``Twilight Zone'' episode. There was an alien scent in the semidarkness. The living room was littered with couch and chair cushions among ghostly tubs of exotic flora. Frenetic screaming from some otherworldly rock ensemble crashed against the hallway walls. Upon entering the kitchen I could smell gasoline. Then something leaped from under the kitchen table, fastening itself to my ankle. Suddenly a six-foot, smudged-faced youth in camouflaged fatigues appeared in the den doorway. I half expected a Rod Serling voice-over. ``Is . . . is that you, Glenn?''
``Don't breathe, Dad!'' barked my 15-year-old offspring. ``Mom's flea-bombed our turf!''
``You reek of super unleaded,'' I replied, disengaging a ball of marmalade fur from my ankle and handing it to my son. ``I wouldn't light any matches until your wardrobe reaches spin dry.''
``We had a busy day at the pumps,'' explained the part-time Texaco attendant, checking the refrigerator for some cat food.
I sat down at my desk just as the phone rang. ``Karen's not at home yet. Who's calling please?'' was my standard response to perhaps some 20 rings my popular 23-year-old bachelorette would start receiving during the next hour or so.
``I just tripped over your abandoned work clothes in the hallway, Glenn,'' complained my wife, raising some windows.
``Sorry about that, Mom,'' apologized the Red Star serviceman. ``All the hampers were full.''
I hung up the phone, jotting down a third name and number. ``You know, six months ago we were leading a pastoral, unpolluted existence around here. Our property was flea- and litter-free, hamper space was not at a premium, and our phone bills contained a single page of specifics. But ever since your daughter returned to the nest with her stray feline, and her brother's love affair with cars began, our home has assumed a rather hostile environment. We could be cited by the Environmental Protecton Agency.''
``Certainly more exciting than assembling jigsaws of Norman Rockwell Post covers,'' my wife replied .
My son handed her his grimy work uniform. ``How's it feel to be traveling in the fast lane again, Dad?''
``It's an exhilarating experience,'' I answered, gasping at our latest utilities statement, ``and expensive.''
``Perhaps all this could be discussed at a post-supper parley tonight,'' suggested my wife, adding, ``after a nice bowl of chicken soup.''
I picked up my pencil as the phone rang again. ``Are you implying our cupboards are bare already? It's only Monday night!''
``Blame it on the TV movie snackers,'' my wife offered above the whir of the can opener.
After supper, to discourage no-shows, my wife announced she had made one of her world-renowned apple pies for all attending parley members.
``I'll eat my piece later,'' I said, slapping a legal pad on the kitchen table. ``I've drawn up a few new house rules which I hope will meet with everyone's approval and -- ''
My daughter lunged for the phone. ``That's for me, Dad, but keep talking. I'll be listening.''
``No. 1,'' I began, keeping a wary eye on my succulent wedge of pie, ``there will be a 7 p.m. curfew on the consumption of all goods with the exception of tap water.''
``Dad, I'm still a growing boy,'' my son pointed out, already downing his second piece of pie.
``So I've suspected,'' I allowed, nudging my pie allotment out of my son's boardinghouse reach. ``No. 2. All clothes hampers will be emptied every 24 hours including holidays; wastebaskets every 12 hours. This should discourage the practice of littering our home environment with discarded wardrobes and ice cream wrappers.''
My son reacted immediately by retrieving his napkin, which had missed the kitchen basket on a sky shot.
``Rule No. 3,'' I continued, as my daughter returned to her parley seat, ``there will be no admittance to the TV room during evening hours until all cat, supper, and homework-related chores have been completed.''
My wife suddenly jammed her fork into my pie wedge. ``Of course,'' I added quickly, fearing irreparable damage, ``I could offer my services as a kitchen aide when needed.''
``I'd like that,'' smiled the piemaker, slowly withdrawing her fork.
I nodded with relief. ``And finally, rule No. 4, concerning phone monopoly. It seems some of us are spending too much -- ''
``Hold that thought, Dad!'' My daughter jumped up. ``That's the long distance call I've been expecting. Be right back.''
By the time my phone mate returned my son was cramming in his room in the company of The Zombies while my wife was feeding our basement machines with hamperloads of muck'n'mire. I reached for my pie.
``You're absolutely right about No. 4, Dad,'' my daughter agreed, snatching my plate from under my poised fork. ``I'll start phoning all my friends to inform them of your new ruling.''
I sighed. ``Ma Bell will be happy to hear that. Now please return my dessert. I've earned it under the circumstances.''
``Sorry, Dad, it's after 7 . . . rule No. 1,'' my daughter explained, heading for her room phone.