Ora wakes with a start at the sound of the weather report. She doesn't recall having dozed off when the news came on. What she does remember is that she had planned on watching the broadcast before tackling the task at hand - one that has been weighing on her all afternoon.
Getting the house ready for the cleaning woman, who comes on Tuesdays, is Ora's Monday-evening routine. As is nagging her kids to remove all dirty dishes from their bedrooms and put them at least in the kitchen, if not in the sink or - heaven forbid they should overexert themselves - the dishwasher. She has all but stopped pestering her husband to collect his mounds of paperwork from the dining table and move them elsewhere, preferably to the filing cabinet where they belong. Doing so elicits snide remarks about her "Polish roots showing," and wisecracks about having to pay someone else for a service self-rendered.
Ora used to arm herself with logic to counter his and her children's cynicism, which she still considers a clever cover for laziness. "Straightening up does not constitute cleaning," she would insist, whenever accused of being ashamed to show the maid the less-than-shipshape state of the family abode - a.k.a pigsty. But she no longer bothers. For one thing, she suspects there's more than a grain of truth to the chiding. For another, arguing is a lot more exhausting than folding laundry. Especially after a hard day at the office.
Which is why tonight's ritual normally would not have caused her any special concern. On the contrary, her husband's being abroad and her kids' staying with friends would have made tidying up the mess a much simpler operation. If there hadn't been the remains of last night's Purim party to contend with, that is.
ORA RUBS her eyes and gulps down the now-cold coffee she didn't have time to drink before falling asleep on the sofa. She glances around the room gloomily, trying to figure out where to begin.
Torn strips of crepe paper and wilted balloons hang listlessly from bits of string and Scotch tape. A winding trail of popcorn and pretzels, glued to dried puddles of Coke, lead to nowhere and everywhere. Pieces of costume paraphernalia, strewn here and there, lie among a haphazard array of cups and plates, half-empty, half-full.
Ora groans as she goes for the garbage bags. Rolling her sleeves up past her elbows, and tying back her hair with a rubber band, she starts by tugging down the wall decorations. She tells herself she will remove the heavy debris first and then take a break before dusting, vacuuming, washing and mopping every surface of the apartment. "Even if it takes all night," she says to a pair of glasses perched on a large rubber nose and mustache. Which, under the circumstances, it is more likely to do than not.
Her pace now stepping up, Ora feels hot. She lifts the bottom of her T-shirt first to fan her face and then to wipe it dry.
"Oh, no!" she yells, at the sight of her hands and clothes, which are glimmering all over from gold glitter.
She freezes. There is no point in continuing this clean-up until she locates the source of the sparkles. Experience as the mother of two girls has taught her that this stuff is so sneaky and stubborn that it almost takes on a life of its own.
But where did it come from? How had she not noticed it earlier?
With a mixture of a warrior's determination and the despair of a damsel in distress, Ora spins around and scours the area like a predator preparing to pounce on its prey.
She spots the culprit peeking out from under a bean-bag chair. It is a "magic wand" with a clear-plastic star at its point, glitter-filled, like a snow shaker - punctured and discarded by some teenage Tinkerbell during the festivities which Ora is now wishing she hadn't gotten finagled into hosting.
This isn't the only wish she mourns not being able to fulfill. Another one is for her house to become sparkling clean - and sparkle-free - in a single wave of the wand. For this, she'd even be willing to throw in an "abracadabra" for good measure.
Ora yawns as she lifts the leaking scepter and carries it to the trash. "Where are all the Fairy Godmothers when you need them?" she asks the abstract sculpture she uses as a book-end, while scraping a wad of bubble-gum out of one of its crevices with her fingernail.
"Go to sleep," says a sweet voice she knows she must be imagining, but could swear its soothing sound is that of a savior. "Rescue is on the way."
"You're right," she says, desperate to shower and climb into bed.
ORA WAKES with a start at the sound of the weather report from the radio in the kitchen. She doesn't recall having dozed off the minute her head hit the pillow, nor having failed to hear the alarm ring. What she does remember is that she had planned on cleaning the house last night - a chore that had been weighing on her all afternoon. And now, thanks to a broken "magic wand" and spirit, it's too late to rectify the situation.
Groggy and with a heavy heart, Ora exits her bedroom.
"Coffee?" offers the house-keeper, who has just poured herself a cup.
Ora nods and blinks in disbelief. "It's a miracle," she gasps at the sight of her sparkling clean - sparkle-free - home. "Fantastic," she adds, amazed.
"Nah," the housekeeper pooh-poohs. "For this degree of dirt I always use bleach."