The bleeps come at intervals just long enough that after each one I think they’ve stopped for good. No such luck.


Hekate the laptop sits on a lap desk laid across the arms of a small easy chair. I am working. I don’t want to get up. “Shut the fuck up!” I yell from behind the keyboard. Trav doesn’t like the bleeps, but he likes this even less. When humans go off the rails, the world’s foundations wobble. He looks at me, anxious.


The object of my distraction

Shut the fuck up. The smoke detector battery needs replacing. The smoke detector is located in the hardest-to-reach corner of my high ceiling. Its cover has been hanging by an electrical cord since the last time I replaced the battery because I got exasperated standing on top of a rickety step ladder reaching above my head trying to align the cover with the screw heads that hold it in place.

I get up. I find a nine-volt battery in my top junk drawer. This is good.


This corner of my ceiling is hard to reach because the floorspace underneath it is occupied by another small easy chair that hasn’t been sittable for many years but, covered with a blue sheet and several articles of clothing not quite dirty enough to wash, it serves as a place to pile frequently used reference books, papers, and folders, not to mention my telephone. I sit the phone on top of the scanner, which rests on a small table just to the right of the chair. I pull the chair away from the wall, very very carefully because there are wires and cables going every which way. A few of my computer peripherals are wireless. Most of them are not.


Dust lies like a light gray carpet upon the dark blue carpet. Most likely I have not vacuumed back here since the last time I changed the smoke detector battery. I summon the Miele from the closet and we go to work. Fifteen minutes later, the carpet is dark blue and there are no cobwebs on the computer cables, the Rinnai heater, or the windowsill. Since I’ve got the vacuum out, I proceed to vac the rest of the apartment. When you live with an Alaskan malamute, your house always needs vacuuming, even if you did it yesterday, and even if your dog is not currently blowing his coat. I did not vacuum yesterday. Fortunately my apartment is very small.

I bring the rickety step ladder in from the deck and set it up under the smoke detector. Battery between my teeth, I climb.


Standing on the next-to-top step I manage to extract the old battery and insert the new. The smoke detector finally shuts the fuck up. I, on the other hand, have just begun to cuss in earnest as I reach above my head and try to make the screws in the ceiling align with the slots in the smoke detector. At last one screw complies and that is enough. The cover is no longer dangling from the ceiling.

Now the vac is back in the closet, the step ladder is out on the deck. The carpet behind the chair is dark blue again, and the bleeping smoke detector is no longer bleeping.

“Pretty good day so far . . .”

With a nod to Loudon Wainwright III


About Susanna J. Sturgis

Susanna edits for a living, writes to survive, and has been preoccupied with electoral politics since 2016. She just started a blog about her vintage T-shirt collection: "The T-Shirt Chronicles." Her other blogs include "From the Seasonally Occupied Territories," about being a year-round resident of Martha's Vineyard, and "Write Through It," about writing, editing, and how to keep going.
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2 Responses to STFU

  1. Now Susanna if you changed your batteries when you changed your clocks in the spring (or fall) that wouldn’t happen!


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