When I was a young girl, my dad- who was fond of pointing out odd, ugly things to his girls- showed us a fascinating specimen of slime mold growing in our back yard. While it didn’t appear to move if you stared at it, the slime mold actually crept across the yard. We came back to look at it a few minutes later, and it was an inch away from its initial spot. Over the course of a Saturday morning, it actually moved several feet. This gave me no end of nightmares. I began imagining slime mold engulfing our house while we slept, or singling us out, one by one, killing us off like characters in a horror movie. I figured my dad would be last.

My brother, however, was not as easily creeped-out as my sister and I were. He thought the slime mold was fascinating, and crouched down to watch it closely. He even poked at it, at which point my mother completely came unglued and marched him into the kitchen to wash his hands (probably with Chlorox).

Later that night, I went into the kitchen to make myself a sandwich. Ham, I think it was. I remember this because I noticed a spot of mustard on the counter, and this thought occurred to me:

Thanks, but I like my ham sandwich plain. Perhaps if it were ham salad, some mayo would great, but if it’s a slab of ham I really don’t want any other condiments getting in the way. Especially mustard. I wonder who left that bit of mustard here, thinking I might like it on my sandwich? That’s silly. Everyone in this house knows I don’t eat mustard…


Someone must have broken into the house and left mustard on the butcher block. What kind of thief would break in just to make himself a ham sandwich? With mustard??

That is what I thought. But I also realized it was totally silly. I wiped off the counter, ate my snack, and went back to whatever teen-girl things I had been doing.

A few hours later, I came back in for something to drink.

There was more mustard on the counter.

It occurred to me that this must be what my mother goes through every day. She handles a task, only to come back in to the room later on and discover that the task was not done. Either she imagined doing it, or someone had un-done it for her. In either case, it was maddening. I re-wiped the counter and vowed to be more considerate of my mother’s efforts.

Later that night, there was more mustard.

This was starting to get annoying.

As I scrubbed the mustard, using very hot water, I considered writing myself a note. “Self,” it would say, “at 8:03 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, on July 27, 1987, you did, indeed, wipe the mustard off of the butcher block. If you are reading this, do not panic. You are experiencing a bizarre shift of reality and are probably bouncing between two or more alternate realities. Relax. It’s just mustard.” As I hunted through the junk drawer for a pen and some paper that would withstand the stresses of alternate-dimensional travel, my brother wandered into the room.

“Did you make a ham sandwich?” I suddenly asked him. “With mustard?”

He thought for a minute. “No,” he answered. “I don’t think so.”

I pointed to the counter, freshly scrubbed with a wet dishrag. “I just wiped mustard off of the counter for the third time today.”

“Well, you missed a spot,” he flatly informed me.

I looked at the corner of the butcher block. Sure enough, there was more mustard there. But I knew I had just wiped it off. I reached in my pocket to see if I had written myself a note. Maybe I had already flipped to the alternate reality.

Meanwhile, my brother peered at the tiny glob of yellow condiment. “That’s not mustard,” he said. “That’s slime mold!”

You can imagine the nightmares I had after that.

This remodeling job is starting to resemble slime mold. This occurred to me last night, as DH and I were discussing the next step in our project. Before yesterday, we just needed to cut and install the new baseboards. However, after cleaning the delicious parquet floor, we decided that a light sanding might be just the thing. Followed, of course, by a light staining and a light coat of polyurethane. I mean, it will never be any easier than right now, with the room already empty, right?

And if we’re going to rent a floor sander, we might as well get our money’s worth, and sand everything that needs sanding, right?


So that’s why, at midnight, I was packing all the kids’ toys into cartons and dragging them out into the living room. Because the Kids’ Room floor needs sanded, and it’s right across the hall from my office, and it just makes sense to do it all at once. Right?


One thought on “Metastasizing

  1. Boy, did that bring back memories….. slime mold, Yikes!! Do you remember when RJ’s friend took a stick to the slime mold and it bled? Yes, real blood. That’s when your dad informed us that slime mold is a single celled, living creature and we should leave it alone. I have seen slime mold here in Florida and each time it brings back memories. Some people look at flowers or hear nice music and have memories. For me, slime mold does the trick. I think that says a lot!

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