We can put a man on the moon.

But we can’t build a shed that cleans itself.

My wife thought it might be fun for me to clean the shed.

That was wrong.

I was prepared to make the worst of the opportunity. Why should I clean the shed? What had it done for me lately? Would it cause the shed to grin from ear-to-ear? Why clean a shed if we’re going to continue using it? I don’t shovel snow during a blizzard. The only thing that could have made cleaning that shed fun would have been to have watched someone else do it.

I tried to convince her that the shed didn’t welcome human intrusion. “It likes being left alone,” I claimed.

She’d have none of it. She was insistent the shed needed shedding. I didn’t want to have to subdue her with a taser, so I agreed to shape up the shed. Besides, I had no escape route. I was conflicted. I share the genes of my father, who threw nothing away, and my mother, who wanted to throw everything away. It has been suggested by people I’m married to that I have my father’s propensity to collect the frivolous and the useless.

Before anyone starts playing a violin on my behalf, sprucing up the shed was a task that needed to be done.

A dumpster was obtained from the Dumpster Institute of North America.

There was no way out.

I threw open the large door to the shed with a grunt and a groan on both our parts — the door and me.

One look at the vast Serengeti of flotsam and jetsam inside and I could see that I was overmatched.

A second look gave me goose bumps. It wasn’t a crime scene, yet I had an urge to string yellow police tape around it.

There were things in that shed I didn’t want to see. They weren’t so much scary as they were heavy. There was our junk and the junk once owned by the people who had lived on the place before us. Persistent and purposeless oddments — the junk, not the people.

One man’s junk can be another man’s treasure, but most of it is another man’s junk. It may have looked like rampant vandalism, but the shed had been well organized into disorganized piles. It was filled with things that had outlived their warranties. There were no family heirlooms, but a few useful items were found. Cleaning a shed is like having a garage sale without having a garage sale. There were broken boards with nails in them — primitive paperweights. It’s nigh impossible to finesse the carrying of broken boards with nails in them. I also found gizmos, thingamabobs, thingmajigs, whatchamacallits, gubbins, whatsises, widgets, doodads, doohickeys, doojiggers, whatnots and a few things I couldn’t identify.

Stuff accumulates, especially stuff without use. Such things are like mustard stains on a sweatshirt, difficult to remove.

I was steadfast in my donkeywork. I was all swalloops and plewds. Swalloops are the curved or straight lines that precede a character’s motion in comic strips. Plewds are the beads of sweat that drip from characters in comics.

I recycled what was appropriate. If something couldn’t account for its presence, into the dumpster it went. I wore a trail into the ground hauling worthless things from the shed to the dumpster. It was more work than tossing a dirty sock near a hamper. Unimportant parts of our lives became history. The impact on the mess in the shed was negligible. As I paused to wipe the sweat from my brow, I told my wife that if she were Samantha on “Bewitched,” she could twitch her nose and send unwanted objects to the dumpster. She gave me a stern look and twitched her nose in my general direction.

The dumpster went from being too much to being not big enough.

I discovered something important about myself. I don’t enjoy cleaning a shed, but I’m happy to have a clean one. At least, I think I would be. I’d lost something while cleaning that shed — momentum. The shed was still a mess, but the dumpster was full.

When I was a young man, a familiar boast of young men was, “I do the work of three men.”

I had all I could do to do the work of one slow-moving man with a definite tendency toward shiftlessness. I couldn’t do the work of three men. I knew that.

I learned that one dumpster couldn’t do the work of three dumpsters.

Al Batt is a writer, speaker, storyteller and humorist from rural Hartland, Minnesota. He can be reached at snoeowl@aol.com.

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