No Pane No Gain

“What’s a window deck?” asked Myra-Jean. I was cleaning fingerprints off of the glass replacement slat I’d just bought for our broken jalousie window. We’d been out all morning. I was hot and tired. I wanted to finish this task quickly and get MJ down for a nap. Then perhaps I could squeeze in a few minutes of reading. My new book — a history of Byzantium — beckoned.


“I’m sorry, honey?” Carefully, I slid the new slat into its vacant spot. Done! Stepping back, I looked over the result. Beautiful! Window fixed! But also — wait — not so beautiful. The rest of the panes looked filthy in comparison.

Sighing, I took the next one out, sprayed it with cleaning fluid, and wiped it down. The paper towel came away filthy. Ugh.


Brushing a hair out of my eye, I turned to her. “What?”

“What’s a window deck?”

I took a breath. “Honey. I need to get this done. Can you go play?”

“But what’s a –”

“Sweetie, I don’t know. I don’t know what you mean.”

Standing on Myra-Jean’s wooden chair, I cleaned one of the upper slats. I hate jalosie windows. They’re the bane of my existence. They provide no insulation — from cold, sound, or dust. They chip. Securitywise they’re a joke. As Mina proved just the other day,  a household pet can dislodge one in their sleep. But I knew this already; our ten-pound cat did the same thing in our last apartment. I’m not sure those louvres could contain even a canary.

This house, of course, is full of them. But if I won the lottery the first thing I’d do, bar none, is to make sure every single set of them was torn out, smashed, ground into a fine sand, and burnt in a nuclear kiln. If they even make such a thing. Then I’d put in new double paned, energy-saving glass. With aluminum frames. Or wood. No nylon for us. I don’t want my windows and my pantyhose made out of the same thing.

But I digress. The worst thing about jalousies? They’re a nightmare to clean.

Today, though, I had gotten a start. I wasn’t going to stop until it was done.

I brought MJ into the bathroom. Ran water in the sink. Gave her some creatures to “bathe.” Set her on a stool. In my house this buys you twenty minutes of silence pretty reliably. Maybe thirty. And no cloying soundtrack. Who needs TV?

I went back to my task.

Ten minutes went by. I went outside to clean the large pane. Up went the blue bottle. Over went a paper towel. Off came water drops, bird shit, fruit-juice-sweetened fingerprints. Amazing what all was gathered on that surface. And pretty gross.

I came back in. Just a few panes to go. The end was in sight! I hoped no major floods were ensuing in the bathroom. Even if there were, though, they’d be easier to clean than this.

Myra-Jean returned. “Mama, is that window deck?”

I was on the bottom left quadrant. Used paper towels lay everywhere. I stank of Win —


I spun to MJ. She was pointing to the bottle of blue liquid in my hand. “Do you mean Windex?”

She smiled brightly and nodded. “Windex!”

I kissed the top of her head. Funny. I must have mentioned the product’s name under my breath as I pulled it out from under the sink. “Windex is this stuff. It smells yucky. We — grownups — use it once in a while. On windows, and stuff. Even though we should be using vinegar. Which works just as well and is far less toxic. But makes the house smell like salad dressing. We’re bad environmentalists. Mama is. Anyway…”

MJ contemplated the bottle. Then she turned her face upwards. “Are you all done?”

“I am,” I said proudly. “Mama is all done. The windows are fixed. And look! They’re clean.”

“Wow,” MJ said, unenthusiastically, casting barely a glance in their direction. Then she spun and ran off, shouting, over her shoulder “my horse is in a swimming pool!”

For a moment I stood and admired my work. The windows glimmered like the Aegean on a clear day in June. OK, maybe September. Anyway, they looked pretty good. There, for a moment, shining above their “window deck,” they appeared almost dignified. Almost beautiful. I felt almost fond of them. Almost.

“Some day we’ll have double paned,” I muttered.

And I hurried off to clean up the next mess.

2 thoughts on “No Pane No Gain

  1. Carrie

    Our house is full of them and I’ve never cleaned them in two years. The other day the kid and I were playing with water through the kitchen ones (he sprays me with his squirt bottle from outside, I shoot at him with the sink hose thingy from inside)…anyway, they look REALLY awesome now.


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