“Fannie, I called to congratulate you. Mom just told me the news,” said Eleanor with excitement.
“Thanks, El, didn’t know you would be so excited about a vacuum cleaner,” I said laughing.
“I know a vacuum cleaner is not that exciting, but it’s what it represents,” she said in earnest.
“A clean apartment?” I asked perplexed.
“Don’t be silly,” said Eleanor exasperated. “It’s how you know you’re a real adult. You know, when you actually want to buy something like a vacuum cleaner.”
“Oh, I see, well thank you. Do you want me to call you when you buy your first vacuum cleaner?”
“No, I want you to teach me how to balance my checkbook when I get one. Lenora Jane said she taught you and I think it’s only fair you teach me.”
“Got it. Let me know when you open your first checking account and I’ll be there for you,” I said.
“So, what did you name it?” asked Eleanor burning with curiosity. “Give me all the details.”
“My checking account?” I asked teasing her.
“No, your vacuum. Honestly, who names their checking account, come on.”
“His name is Eureka Joe. The best reconditioned vacuum $35 could buy. The owner of the shop even put on an extra long cord on it for me so I only have to plug it into one outlet and I can vacuum the entire apartment.”
“Can I try it when I’m over next?”
“Sure, knock yourself out, I won’t even charge you if you vacuum the whole apartment,” I said trying to keep the laughter from my voice.
“Okay, but get this, Eureka Joe has one quirk, when I first turn him on, he puffs dust out his vacuum bag, so I have to vacuum the same area twice, once when I start and once when the dust settles.”
“Sounds like a personal problem to me,” said Eleanor laughing.
“Yah, well, at least he gets the job done,” I said.
Eureka Joe worked in tip top form for five years. Just before Richard and I married, he needed his first new belt.
“Fannie, what is it between you and this vacuum cleaner?” asked Richard staring at the cloud of dust exiting the vacuum bag.
“What do you mean?” I asked turning off Eureka Joe.
“It doesn’t clean, all it does is spread dirt all over the apartment,” said Richard, “we should have the carpets professionally cleaned then you’ll see what I mean.”
“There’s nothing wrong with Eureka Joe. And to prove it, I’ll get someone in here to clean the carpets,” I said putting my hands on my hips.
“You do that,” said Richard smiling.
Two weeks later Richard and I stacked our meager furniture floor to ceiling in the kitchen.
The carpet cleaner arrived at ten.
“Wow, that was nice of you to move all of the furniture,” he said. “It will make my job go a lot faster. All I need is access to water.”
Richard showed him the bathroom.
One hour later, our apartment smelled of lemon. A bit of humidity clung to the air. The carpet cleaner showed us the water before he dumped it. We could see ourselves reflected in the black liquid.
“Oh yuck, did that really come from our floors?” I asked, feeling sick.
“Oh, this isn’t bad, most times sludge forms on the bottom of the bucket. This is only black water.”
“And that’s supposed to make me feel better?” I asked. “Richard, I owe you an apology. I guess Eureka Joe wasn’t doing the job I thought he was.”
“Fannie don’t worry about it, if you’ll just pay the man, I’ll start moving the furniture back in place,” said Richard, “we can talk about a new vacuum cleaner later.”
While writing the check I asked, “What type of vacuum cleaner do your recommend?”
“The bag-less variety with a HEPA filter usually works the best. You can spend a whole lot of money, but there are some much more affordable ones on the mar…”
The sound of Eureka Joe firing up stopped the carpet cleaner in mid-sentence. We watched Richard vacuum moisture from the carpet.
Before one minute could elapse, Eureka Joe shot sparks with a loud popping noise, black smoke filled the air. The lemon smell disappeared.
“Richard, what do you think you’re doing?” I asked holding back tears as Eureka Joe bit the dust.
“The carpet is still too wet to put the furniture back, besides my parent’s vacuum cleaner never had this problem,” he said.
“The only vacuum your parent’s own is a wet/dry shop vac.”
The carpet cleaner grabbed his check and equipment and hustled out the door.
“You mean not all vacuums can remove water?” he asked as the reality sank in.
“No,” I said tears running down my cheek, “And now not only does the apartment smell like smoke, we can’t clean until we replace this one.”
“Oh. I didn’t know.” said Richard. “Fannie, I am so sorry. I didn’t mean to destroy the vacuum. We’ll get a new one next payday.”
Two days later, while watching the news Richard and I saw an ad for the Phantom vacuum cleaner. Drool poured down my chin.
After I went to bed, he ordered the vacuum cleaner. The Phantom started its journey to our apartment.
Payday arrived. Returning from work I followed the UPS driver up the stairs to our apartment. He carried a large box which he leaned against the door frame and rang the doorbell.
“Boo,” I said.
The driver jumped.
“Sorry about that, I thought you knew I was behind you,” I said looking at the package.
Richard opened the door.
“Hi honey, your new vacuum cleaner is here,” said Richard. Smiling at the UPS driver he said, “I’ll sign that.”
Richard carried the box into the apartment. He opened the box. Removing the Styrofoam revealed shiny black plastic parts and the word Phantom.
“Oh Richard, you shouldn’t have, we can’t really afford this,” I said running my hands over the vacuum.
“Fannie, I know you will use it until it falls apart, it will pay for itself.”
“Let’s put it together, I’m dying to try it,” I said removing parts from the box.
Ten minutes elapsed before the plug met the outlet. Power flowed through the vacuum, twin headlights lit the way. Dirt flew from the carpet, no dust cloud appeared. The smokey smell diminished.
“Oh, Richard, I am so glad you did this. This vacuum is so wonderful I feel like I’m doing something naughty,” I said laughing.
Richard gave me a big hug. “I’m glad you like it.”
I wheeled the Phantom into the closet where Eureka Joe once sat.
Three days later Eleanor called.
“So mom told me the story about you getting a new vacuum cleaner,” said Eleanor. “I thought I should keep with tradition and congratulate you. What did you name this one?”
“Sinclair,” I said, “He is so awesome.”
“Sinclair, what kind of a name that?” asked Eleanor laughing. “Are you reading romance novels or something?”
“No it’s nothing like that. I’m calling him Sin for short because I feel like I’m committing a sin when I use him,” I said laughing.
“Let me guess, it was love at first sight. Well maybe this time I’ll leave a dime after I test drive him.”
“I’ll bet you leave a quarter.”
Eleanor arrived Saturday morning. She handed me a small box.
“What’s this?” I asked taking the box from her.
“It’s a vacuum warming present,” she said smiling.
The box contained a beaded bracelet with Sinclair’s name spelled out.
“Since you love your vacuum so much, I thought he should have his own name band. I made it last night.”
“Very funny, but thank you.” I said, giving her a hug. “Do you want to give him a try?”
Eleanor opened the closet and pulled out the vacuum cleaner.
“Wow, I’ve never seen a vacuum look so new before,” she said admiring his shiny exterior.
After plugging Sinclair in, she vacuumed the living room. Pulling gadgets from the caddy she vacuumed the blinds, the window sills and then the cushions on the sofa. She continued down the hall and into the bedroom.
Richard walked in after his morning run. Eleanor turned the vacuum off after finishing the blinds in the bedroom.
“Hi El, did you just clean the entire apartment?” asked Richard looking at the floor.
“Yeah,” she said reaching into her pocket. Handing Richard a quarter she grinned and said, “Here’s my contribution to Sinclair’s upkeep. I want visitation rights.”
Richard said, “You know Fannie, I guess I wasn’t kidding when I said the vacuum would pay for itself. If you can convince 999 other people to pay us for the privilege of cleaning our apartment, we might break even.”
We all laughed.