Thursday, December 19, 2019


The Vacuumer
By Eric Suhem

“Vacuum this, vacuum that! I’m not a machine!” yelled Timothy, nude and perched in a tree in front of the office building, vacuum accessories in his hands. As he screamed at the passersby, the asylum van’s siren could be heard in the distance.


Dr. Hoover stood in the hall addressing Sylvia. “I am glad you have applied for the position of ‘Office Vacuumer’, the job is yours,” said Dr. Hoover. “This position will help you to clean the impurities from your consciousness and cleanse your soul. Vacuuming my office will give you a sense of purpose, a dedication of spirit. Don’t listen to that voice inside of you, as its views are steeped in an archaic, narcissistic, navel-gazing, self-involvement that will repeatedly drop you into a psychological null pit of need and greed. The benefits to your soul of simple service cannot be overestimated.” Sylvia looked forward to the work, somehow wanting to be around vacuuming.

On the first day of therapy in the asylum, Timothy noticed crumbs on the floor under the couch, so he volunteered for a vacuuming work shift.


Sylvia started work at Dr. Hoover’s office. As she was vacuuming, Dr. Hoover walked in, clutching papers in his hand. “Now Sylvia,” he said, “if you are able to use each of these diagrams to disassemble and reassemble your vacuum, you will be freed of all anxieties, self-doubt, and feelings of victimization.” He handed her the drawings depicting mechanical details of various vacuum components and then left the room. Sylvia put the diagrams on the floor in a mandala pattern and began to disassemble the vacuum.

During his work shift at the asylum, Timothy was vacuuming the hallway when a man in a white coat approached. “Come with me, Timothy, we need to discuss how to vacuum the shag carpet,” said the man.


“Why are there crumbs all over the carpet?” Where’s the vacuumer?” demanded Dr. Hoover. Sylvia was frantically trying to reassemble the vacuum she had disassembled the day before. Dr. Hoover found her and said, “Sylvia, do you understand that you are a co-conspirator in your feelings of self-doubt and anxiety, perpetuating them as a comfortable integration of your self-identity, giving you license to not have to undergo the efforts of psychological growth? You must start taking more responsibility for your feelings, as this will help you to function more effectively and responsibly.” He then left the room, scowling at the crumbs on the carpet.

Timothy’s mind flashed on what seemed to be a dark room with a movie screen. He was strapped down to a chair, watching a film of a woman trying to assemble a vacuum in an office. People in white coats hovered near him as the screen faded to black.


Sylvia arrived early at the office but wasn’t making any progress reassembling the vacuum. She left the office and drove out of the city to the forest, where she wandered amidst the redwoods, inhaling the crisp clean air. Sylvia happened upon a meadow full of flowers. Each of the flowers resembled the mandala of vacuum cleaner diagrams she’d created on Tuesday. Staring at a flower, she realized, “I need to follow that voice inside of me.” She returned to the office and found the disassembled vacuum parts, strewn on the floor. Following the instructions in her mandala of diagrams, she assembled the pieces.

Timothy finished vacuuming the reception area, and sat on the carpet, visualizing a woman using a mandala of diagrams to reassemble her vacuum. As she put the parts together, snapping the last piece into place, he felt something click in his own mind, his tattered psyche beginning to reconstruct.


“Timothy, you experienced a nervous breakdown on your last vacuuming job. Fortunately, my technique combining hypnosis, psychotropic drugs and subliminal suggestion worked to accomplish your recovery!” said the psychiatrist. Timothy mulled this over, as faded images of Sylvia frolicking through a forest and assembling a vacuum drifted through his head in a residual mist.

Later that day, Timothy was given his belongings, mainly vacuum accessories, at the exit desk. The psychiatrist waved to him. “Goodbye Timothy, and happy vacuuming.”

- - -
Eric Suhem lives in the orange hallway (

Help keep Farther Stars alive! Visit our sponsors! :)

- - -


The Thunderune Network:


Weirdyear Daily FictionYesteryear Daily FictionClassics that don't suck!Art expressed communally.Von Singer Aether and Steamworks.Resource for spiritual eclectics and independents.Pyrography on reclaimed woodartists featured weeklySmashed Cat MagazineLinguistic ErosionYesteryear Daily Fiction