Friday, September 9, 2016

Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles

Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles is a slaptstick movie in book form, a book-long definition of Murphy's Law. Although he is a neat freak and a control freak, Oskar asks a rather lackadaisical friend to housesit his elegant East European apartment while he spends several weeks in the United States. He should realize he is asking for trouble. Since their college days at Oxford, Oskar and the unnamed narrator have known that they are opposites in temperament and taste. Nevertheless, Oskar extends, and his friend accepts, the invitation. Oskar is gone by the time his friend arrives but has left notes, multiple detailed notes with instruction regarding virtually everything in the ultramodern apartment: the bed, the couch, the dishes, the books, the piano, the care of the two cats and most particularly, the care of the pristine, elegant, expensive custom-made wooden floors on which nothing, particularly red wine, should be spilled. The reader can see what's coming and so, apparently could Oskar, who leaves many notes where one would look only if there had been an accident. On the first day, a few drops of red wine spill on the floor. Later there is a big splash. As the week goes by, a cat rakes the leather could with his claws and vomits under the bed. An entire bottle of red wine leaks across the kitchen floor. The cleaning lad chastises the narrator in a language he cannot understand. One death occurs in the apartment, then another. Finally, the narrator must call Oskar and confess to most of his transgressions. This book consists of one surprising twist after another, and the biggest shocker is the last conversation between Oskar and his house-sitting friend. Emotions run high but not the emotions the reader expected.