34. A Brush with Disaster

34. A Brush with Disaster

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Matters

A Brush with Disaster

It is foolish to tear one’s hair in grief, as though sorrow would be made less by baldness.


In my scientist husband’s perfect world of order, there would always be a place for everything, and everything would always be in its place. But, in our family of seven, that just didn’t happen.

Neal had many pet peeves, but having to search for his brush each morning ranked among the highest. Sometimes, he’d find it in the boys’ bathroom. Other times, it would be in the girls’ toy box with Barbie hairs tangled in the bristles. On rare occasions, he might find it where it belonged in his bathroom drawer.

While looking through our local home improvement store, he hit upon an idea, a stroke of genius in his mind, to end this hide-and-seek routine with his brush. When he came home, I noticed the small bag he carried.

“What’s that?”

“You’ll see.” His grin bothered me.

After a trip to the garage, he went straight to the bathroom. While I cooked supper, banging and drilling noises added to my misgivings. Finally, he called me to see his inspired solution.

He had chained his brush to the wall!

There, beside the sink, his brush sat on a pile of chain. He’d drilled a hole in the end of his brush and, to my chagrin, drilled a hole through my new wallpaper. It looked awful. But Neal’s motto is “practical is better than pretty.”

Every morning, the brush was right there beside the sink. His idea was working out just as he planned.

Or so he thought.

You see, spiking hair with gel was the “in” style for boys at that time, and every morning my youngest son, William, watched his brothers get ready for school. A few days after Neal attached his brush to the wall, I noticed William’s hair. It looked strange. Kinda slick.

I asked, “Honey, what did you do to your hair?”

“Gelled it.” His blue eyes danced. He was so proud of himself.

It didn’t much look like gel. “Show me the gel.”

He took my hand, passed the kids’ bathroom, and went straight to mine. On the counter was an open jar of Vaseline and, lucky for him, a brush—chained to the wall. He explained to me that since he couldn’t take the brush back to the boys’ bathroom and use their gel, he used this other jar of “gel” that he found in our bathroom right next to the chained hairbrush.

I wanted to get that stuff out of my baby’s hair. I tried shampooing it, but the petroleum jelly sucked in the shampoo like some kind of swamp monster, turning into a gelatinous mess.

Then I called my neighbor who owned a hair salon. I explained what William had done, and when he finally quit laughing, he suggested I try dishwashing soap, the kind that is supposed to cut through grease.

It did a fair job, but William still looked like a teen from the fifties. The kids came home, I made supper, and the whole thing was forgotten.

Until the next morning, that is.

While cooking breakfast, Neal yelled for me. I ran to the bathroom to find him, brush in hand, looking a lot like William did the day before. Giggles bubbled up in my throat and demanded to be let out, but I didn’t dare.

“Look at me!” He stared in the mirror. “I can’t go to work like this! What is this stuff in my brush?”


I couldn’t hold the hilarity in any longer and erupted in laughter.

“I don’t see anything funny about this.”

By now, tears were rolling down my face. But I managed to get him the dish soap. It helped—a little.

There is a proverb that says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Well, chaining his brush to the wall seemed right to Neal, and while it didn’t lead to death, it certainly led to disaster!

~Linda Apple

More stories from our partners