The Squeak

Anyone who knows me well understands how much I despise paying for “temperature.” My little corner of heaven will be 67 degrees with a light breeze and zero—I mean zero—humidity.

In that wonky Indiana U.S.A. period between spring and summer (and likewise again between Fall and Winter), where the cycle goes from frost one day and 90-degree swelter the next—and where the open-all-the-windows period lasts long enough to open them all then run back through the house and close them all before the temp swings—I’ll drag a box fan or a tiny space heater around from room to room to avoid “flipping the switch.”

Flipping the switch: Turning on the main AC/Furnace to Cool/Heat the domicile. I may as well leave a window open—screenless—and stand and toss money into the great outdoors. Fistfuls of dollars at a time. And we all know, once that switch has been good and flipped, it stays that way for months on end because we get spoiled.

Then, when the next temp change comes, I have to wean my peeps (humans and critters) back to my 67-degree happy place.

It’s a struggle. (Yes, I know it’s a first-world struggle, but we bloom and complain where we’re planted.)

I despise paying for temperature.

Well, that wonky period happened while I was recovering from Covid. Me and my little space heater enjoying our cozy, isolated nest on the couch and me completely oblivious that the rest of the gang was freezing to death in the nether-regions of the house that I was trying to stay out of.

Waking up with blue lips and frostbitten toes.



Until I finally gave the okay to flip the switch. Ah, well.

Poor Stella Marie hates the flipping of the switch. The growl of the furnace and the breeze from the floor vents freaks her all the way out. She cried and complained for three days, flipping her bush tail in our faces and taking off down the hall like she’d been shot out of a rocket to escape the noise, only to find her favorite spot at the end of that hall also had a floor vent.

First-world cat problems.

As I started feeling better, I spent more time in the office. More time at the screen writing/plotting/dreaming of publishing—you know, what we all do when we have the time, right? Well, my office shares a wall with the utility room. Where the furnace is. The furnace that kicks on every quarter hour it seems…

And you know that squeak that happens when you’re driving down the road and someone’s water bottle or change holder or something in the dash starts rattling around? And you go berserk slamming the vents and rearranging items in cupholders to JUST GET IT TO STOP?

Something, on the office side of that shared wall, started that annoying squeak like Styrofoam against plastic.

I tried to ignore it. But that took too much away from my already depleted brain. I had better things to do with my energy than to force an ignore of a situation I could handle.

The next time the furnace kicked on, I smacked the wall. It didn’t stop.

Twenty minutes later, on the next cycle, I moved all the items away from the wall. Secured the loose pens and paperclip jar and books that may have leaned too far off the bookshelf. It didn’t stop.

I stomped the floor. It didn’t stop.

I went in search of Amara’s rogue cat toy springs behind the desk, but found none.

“Where’s it coming from?” I yelled at my office full of cats and Little Miss who all four went scrambling down the hall. (I’ve always hated the sound of someone crunching ice or crackling plastic or clicking pens—my husband says I could hear a flea belch from across the room—but never have I been so enraged over the furnace. And I’m paying for that sound… urggg. It’s like a spin-off from The Princess and the Pea, only with sound waves.)

So I stood and waited until the next furnace cycle. I put my ear to the wall next to my hanging gallery display of twenty-plus treasures sourced from multiple comic conventions, artwork from my kid, and a minuscule blue embroidered bunny patch that I found and framed after Grandma died (don’t ask… that’s a story for another day).

And I waited.

Bingo! One of my twenty-plus frames was jiggling against the wall.

The furnace kicked off before I could find which one. I only had enough time to rule out an Ewok, one unicorn and Wonder Woman.

Back to the computer to wait until the next cycle. Got a few more words in. Then ear to the wall one last time to rule out Willy Wonka, that little blue bunny, and a second unicorn (yes, I know I have a problem, but it’s a consistent problem, so there’s that going for me…).

Then I found it.

At the very center of my gallery in the largest frame—a ‘70s molded plastic deal found at Goodwill and repurposed just for this wall to house one of my favorite characters.

Big Bird was the one complaining every time the furnace came on. I scored this print from a talented artist to commemorate the day I met Caroll Spinney, the puppeteer, at a comic convention.

Now the yellow marvel hangs over my workspace, just squeaking away. Ungrateful fowl. I secured the corner of the frame with sticky tack and all is well once more.

You could see Kermit, E.T. and Wizard of Oz gang, who hang just on the other side of Big Bird, reach up quickly to wipe the sweat from their brows as they narrowly escaped such serious accusation as to dare tinker with the sanity of the one not-quite-right-in-the-first-place. Big Bird took his scolding like a man, the cats returned one by one as they realized their human wasn’t going to blame them or set their tails ablaze, and Little Miss Muse floated in on a wave of lavender sparkles.

The writing resumed, the only sounds the clicking of the laptop keys and the ticking of the clock.


“Where’s that COMING FROM?!?!?”

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