The Dustbunny

I first saw the dustbunny on the day I'd almost had a wreck on the way home from work. I was upset when I got to the house, and walked straight back to the bathroom so I could get a drink of water to help calm down. As I stood there gulping down the water I looked at my image in the mirror; saw a thirty-something woman, brown hair, average features. There was nothing special or different about my face, so why did I always feel like it was my fault when bad things happened to me?

I sat down on the bed and tried to relax, but as I thought about it I felt worse. "It wasn't that guy's fault," I told the room. "I wasn't paying attention to driving, it's my own fault. I just barely passed my driver's test; I probably shouldn't even be driving." I thought about the rest of my day and felt even worse.

I'd spilled coffee on my blouse at work this morning, I was such a klutz. And then there'd been that new girl who'd looked me up and down and asked why I'd wear such an ugly skirt. I never did have any fashion sense. With a sigh I pulled off my work clothes and walked to the bathroom to drop them in the hamper.

On my way back to the bedroom I tripped over the door sill. I caught myself before I fell, but bent over as I was I saw a quick flicker of motion over by the bed. I straightened up and walked over to see what it was, but couldn't see anything.

"Must've been my imagination," I said to myself. I changed clothes and went to the kitchen to fix dinner. A few minutes later I realized I was humming quietly to myself as I chopped veggies, and dancing over to the pantry. As I stirred my meal I realized I was enjoying myself – but then I'd always loved to cook.

"No, it's more than that" I said aloud. I frowned slightly as I idly stirred. "A few minutes ago I felt like I couldn't do anything right, but now I'm feeling good. I know I shouldn't be so hard on myself, but it's not that easy to stop thinking negatively. Why the sudden change?" I shrugged and went back to cooking.

Dinner was good, I watched a funny show on TV while I ate. But as I was washing the dishes later I dropped a glass and even though it didn't break I felt a sense of frustration. "I can't even do simple things without making a mess," I said, shaking my head as I wiped up the water splashed on the counter. The rest of the evening was normal enough. I called a friend, read my e-mail, and finally got ready for bed. But lying there in bed I had trouble not thinking about the things that had gone wrong with my day, feeling like I couldn't do anything right.

The next morning I struggled out of bed when the alarm went off, and began getting ready for work. I wasn't looking forward to the day, even though it was Friday and I was going out with friends that evening. I sat down on the bed to pull on my pantyhose and stuck my fingernail through one leg. "Damn it!" I cried. "I should've been more careful." I got another pair on without trouble and walked to the closet to choose an outfit. I couldn't seem to make up my mind, found something wrong with each piece. "Just part of my grumpy mood, I guess," I muttered to myself.

Finally I pulled out a skirt and blouse almost at random and tossed them on the bed. The skirt was a little wrinkled, so I shook it out. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something swirl around in the air and disappear. I walked to the corner of the bed to look, but nothing was there.

"Hmmm, I wonder," I said, and bent down to look under the bed. "Yep, lots of dustbunnies on the floor under there. That's what I saw. I need to clean this weekend." That didn't help my mood any; I'd needed to sweep under the bed for awhile and felt guilty for not getting it done sooner. And when I looked at the clock and realized that I was running late I felt like a complete scatterbrain.

I got through my work-day without any major problems. Oh, that witch in Accounting was short with me for not getting that report done before lunch; I wasn't a fast worker. I thought about it as I drove home. "But that woman could find fault with anything," I told myself. "Everyone hates to work with her, it's not just me." I realized that most of my frustrations were little things and wondered why I let them get me down. "Well, " I told myself, "I'm not going to let them bother me tonight, I'm going to have a good time."

But the minute I stepped in the front door my mood darkened. From the smell, it was definitely time to change the litterbox; I should've done it last night but was too lazy. The day's mail contained nothing but junk and bills and I tossed them on the pile on the table, knowing I'd forget to take care of them before the bills were due. The cat was curled up in Grandma's hand-crocheted throw – in the middle of the floor! I shooed Kitty away and picked up the throw, shaking off the cat hair. The breeze blew the mail off the table, and I saw a big dustbunny slide under the couch. "Looks like I need to do some serious cleaning tomorrow," I told the cat, who stalked off indignantly at having been moved.

My evening out was nice, I had fun and a few beers, came home feeling good and fell asleep straight away. The next morning was a different story, of course. My head throbbed and my mouth felt fuzzy, and I didn't want to get out of bed. Especially when I remembered I'd promised myself I'd clean the house today. It was two hours before I felt like tackling the job. I swept, vacuumed or mopped every floor in the house. And they needed it too, I hadn't realized how dirty it was under the furniture. I felt really good by the time I'd finished. Everything sparkled, I had a sense of a job well done, and I hadn't had even a little mishap.

Sunday was a nice day, too. Things seemed to run smoothly, and I felt better than I had in a long time. "Must've been the housecleaning," I told myself. "It's been needing doing for awhile, and now I don't have to feel bad for putting it off." But as I threw back the covers that night I thought I saw something floating in the air by the closet. "I must've missed one," I thought as I climbed into bed. "I'll pick it up tomorrow, it should be easy to spot now that the floors are clean."

Monday was, well, Monday. Although it seemed to me that I was in a pretty good mood nevertheless. I managed to ignore the young man who glared at me through the swiftly-closing elevator doors, and the waitress who slammed the ketchup bottle down on the table at lunch. "These things," I told myself "aren't my fault."

But at home that night I began feeling down again. For one thing, I couldn't find any dustbunnies anywhere and I knew I'd seen one last night. I got a call for "Joe" and the caller got belligerent, couldn't I even handle a wrong number? When I tried to open the bag of chips it exploded all over the kitchen, and I told myself I'd been in too big a hurry. And I broke a nail opening the jar of salsa, I wasn't paying attention again. By the time I went to bed I was feeling pretty down.

The next morning wasn't any better. As I pulled the towel off the rack in the bathroom (and knocked my toothbrush off the sink with its whipping end) I saw the dustbunny again, flying out the door into the bedroom. But by the time I'd dried off and went to look it was gone, and it wasn't hiding under the bed. "Where could it have gone?" I asked Kitty, who was grooming herself on the pillow. "It's almost like that dustbunny shows up to taunt me when I'm already feeling bad about something stupid I've done. But that's silly, it's just a ball of dust and hair, it's not alive." I hurried into the kitchen for breakfast, and burned my finger on the toaster. As I spun around to stick it under the tap I thought I saw something move under the dinette, but then Kitty came running out so it must've been her.

My day was pretty normal for me, I was feeling blue and looked forward to playing with Kitty when I got home. I sat down on the couch but Kitty wouldn't come near me. "Even my cat doesn't like me," I thought, but then realized she was acting weird. She was staring at the couch, swishing her tail, and occasionally hissing. "It can't be a mouse," I thought. "She'd just kill a mouse. It's almost like she's afraid of something under the couch." I bent down to look, but saw only a clean wood floor. Getting up, I bumped my head on the coffee table and sat down hard on the floor. "Geez, I'm just not thinking, I should've known better than that," I said as I rubbed my head. But as I sat there on the floor feeling like an idiot I clearly saw the dustbunny round the corner into the hall, almost like it was slinking away. Kitty ambled over and climbed into my lap.

"Everything OK now, Kitty?" I asked as I petted the cat. "Did the mean old dustbunny blow away when I fell down? It can't hurt you, baby." Kitty purred, and rubbed her head insistently against my hand. As I idly scratched the cat's ears I was thinking. The dustbunny could've been hiding by the leg of the couch where I couldn't see it. But it had moved several seconds after I'd fallen, surely the air current hadn't lasted that long. Something weird was going on. I held the cat up in front of my face and spoke to her, "Let's go chase it down and get rid of it!" But Kitty twisted out of my hands and ran across the room to jump on the back of the recliner and glare at the doorway.

I got up and walked into the hall. I flipped the light on, but still saw nothing. I muttered, "Did it go in the spare room?" But a careful search turned up nothing. "It's almost like it's running away from me, how could that be?" I asked myself. I continued thinking out loud, "It's so big it should be easy to see, where could it have gone? Well, I need to start supper, I'll look for it later."

As I started cooking I dropped an egg on the floor. Hearing my "Whoops!" Kitty wandered in to help clean up the mess as I got another egg and continued putting dinner together. A few minutes later I stepped over the cat on my way to the fridge and it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn't felt inept for dropping the egg. "So the dustbunny runs away and hides and I don't feel like a klutz when I have an accident?" Kitty was contentedly lapping up egg and ignored me. I stood in the middle of the kitchen for a minute. Then, glancing at the stove for a quick check on the progress of dinner, I headed for the bedroom at a fast pace.

I walked into the room and stopped quickly, looked around. There! Just between the bed and nightstand I saw a furtive movement. I lunged toward it, hands out to catch it. Was it the air of my passage that whisked it away, or was the dustbunny running from me? I bent down to peer under the bed, but it if was there it was indeed hiding because I couldn't see a thing. "I'll get you yet," I told the dustbunny as I headed back to check on dinner.

As I cleaned up after eating I thought about the situation. I must be nuts, it was just a dustbunny, it couldn't run away from me or send me bad vibes. But it needed to go just the same. "How would you catch a dustbunny?" I mused. My gaze landed on Kitty who was sitting on the dinette washing her face, the light flashing on her whiskers as her head moved.

"Kitty you're a genius!" I yelled. I jumped up and ran to the closet for the broom. "Dust gets stuck on a broom, just like it does your whiskers when you prowl behind the furniture. I'll leave the broom under the bed tonight and catch that silly thing." I ran to the bedroom and slid the broom under the bed.

I resisted checking the broom before going to bed. The next morning I woke feeling happy, and laughed at the idea that it was because the dustbunny was afraid to hide under my bed last night and send me dark thoughts. I'd zipped through my morning routine and had a few minutes to spare before leaving for work, so I pulled the broom out from under the bed. There was a shred of something stuck to the edge, although it was much too small to be that huge dustbunny, must be a little piece I'd missed last weekend.

I reached out to pinch it off the broom, but missed. The A/C was on, it must have blown in the breeze. I turned my back to the vent and tried again. Again the little bit of fluff seemed to wiggle away. I moved my hand slowly and grabbed it between thumb and finger this time. It felt strange, not gritty as I'd have expected, but soft and smooth. I rubbed my fingers together, but it felt like I was holding a piece of cloud. I walked to the window to get a better look, yet when I stuck my hand in the early morning sunlight the piece of fluff seemed to disintegrate. I thought maybe it was so delicate that it had broken, but I saw no trace of it on the floor. "Nothing there," I laughed and took a moment to enjoy the warm sunshine on my face before putting up the broom and heading off to work.

My day went well, and I stopped off at the store on my way home. I bought a new DVD and picked up a sandwich to eat while I watched it. But the stupid security stickers would not peel off and the box flipped out of my hand when I tried a different angle. Though the disc wasn't broken I felt my mood darkening. I was a klutz. I put it in the player and sat down at the table to pull dinner out of the bag, and a big blob of mayo oozed out and splattered on my slacks. I always made such a mess. I reached for the remote and managed to knock it off the table – couldn't I do anything right? As I bent down to retrieve it I saw the dustbunny gliding under the couch.

"That's it!" My voice was harsh. "I may be crazy, but that damn dustbunny's gotta go. Even if it's just my imagination, I'll feel better if I get rid of it." I ran into the kitchen, movie and dinner temporarily forgotten. I grabbed the broom and headed for the bedroom, but stopped abruptly halfway there. Kitty had been following and now sat there looking quizzically up at me.

"The broom wasn't enough last night, Kitty," I explained as I started back toward the kitchen, thinking frantically as I walked. "It wasn't sticky enough, or big enough maybe, to trap that big fuzzball. What have I got that's sticky?" Back in the kitchen I pulled open my junk drawer and spied a roll of duct tape. "Aha!" I cried. "This ought to do the trick." I grabbed the tape and a pair of scissors and marched to the back.

I slid just the head of the broom under the foot of the bed and began constructing an elaborate trap. I wrapped tape around the broom and the legs of the bed, so that the dustbunny would either stick to the tape or be funneled onto the broom's bristles. I had the feeling it needed to be near me to influence my mood, so I didn't think it would stay away. "Let's see it get out of that" I said firmly as I left the room.

I stayed in the front of the house the rest of the evening, watching the movie, and reading after that. I left my dishes in the sink, I'd do them tomorrow. I realized this decision hadn't made me feel guilty or lazy, and I wondered if that was because I'd scared the dustbunny out of the front of the house. I hoped it was already stuck in my trap, but I resisted the urge to peek under the bed before I retired.

I woke up the next morning feeling downright depressed. The radio was playing an upbeat song, but the thought of going through my morning routine and going to work was almost more than I could bear. "What's the point?" I asked the ceiling. "I'm so lazy I didn't do anything last night, and I'll just screw something up today." But as I lay there mentally beating myself up I remembered making the trap. The whole thing seemed stupid and pointless this morning and just to prove that to myself I rolled out of the bed and looked under it.

The dustbunny was there, stuck to a piece of tape. It wiggled as if trying to free itself but seemed stuck fast. I grabbed a nailfile and began sawing through one side. The dustbunny bobbed with my efforts and I was afraid it might break loose. So I cut through another piece of tape and wrapped it around the dustbunny, then put a long piece over the top. I got the other side loose, and managed to slide the tape under the whole thing before I picked it up.

I still felt like this was a useless charade, but I had to know if I was making the whole thing up. Remembering yesterday morning, I stood up and carried the squirming trapped thing to the bedroom window. As I stepped into the square of light on the floor I saw little wisps peeling off the surface and floating away. I stopped where I was and watched carefully, saw that the wisps were not falling on the floor but were fading away into nothing. I moved closer to the window and the bright light shining through it. The dustbunny looked like it was boiling, streamers of smoke coiling up and away from its surface. As I watched, I could clearly see that the blob was getting smaller, though one edge remained stuck to the tape.

I stared at it, fascinated. It was as if this was an accumulation of all my doubting thoughts, multiplying in the dark corners of the house, and then projecting themselves back to me whenever something didn't go right and making me feel worse. As they streamed away in the bright light I realized I felt good and happy, like I could take on the world.

But as the dustbunny disappeared before my very eyes I was suddenly afraid of what would happen if it vanished completely. If it wasn't there to trap my self-doubt I'd have to deal with it by myself. I stepped back out of the light and it stopped dissolving, although it continued thrashing feebly against the trap. I pushed it toward the sunbeam again and saw another little puff drift away. I smiled and said "Let me put you somewhere safe."

Over the next few weeks I experimented with the caged dustbunny, watching how fast it grew. I learned how near it needed to be to absorb my dark thoughts, how far away I could keep it so they wouldn't affect me, and how often I needed to melt them away in the sunlight. Need I say my self-confidence improved? I'm no dumb bunny after all!