On the New Yorker's website, Beller tells the story of moving out of a sublet house in New Orleans, only to have the landlord reach out weeks later to say he needed two thousand dollars to atone for massive Popsicle stain on the nine-foot Restoration Hardware white linen couch.
The bill was an amount that, Beller writes, "made a mockery of nearly every financial consideration of the summer: How much summer camp we could afford? Would we be able to rent a place in the country for a week, or a weekend? What about Whole Foods?"
And the bitter truth is that, much as things would have been simpler to blame on Beller's two young children, they had nothing to do with it.
In a manner, the expensive red stain had more to do, Beller admits by phone, with James Harden and the Thunder, who Beller was watching in the Western Conference Finals when it all went down:
If you have little children and find yourself subletting a place that has a long, white, linen-covered couch you should throw sheets on it. This is obvious. And yet we did not take these precautions. Why not?
I lamented this oversight for about one second before moving on to the real issue, which was much darker—it was my fault. I have a weakness, indulged only occasionally, for sugar-free Popsicles. I like them in combination with N.B.A. basketball. I had watched the playoffs during that month in his house, and, once, (once!) had bought a box of these Popsicles. I must have let one slide down between the cushions. Then, at some impossible-to-determine point, an hour or a week later, while we were innocently going about our lives, a silent bomb exploded and incinerated two thousand dollars.
Our life in the sublet place had been mostly happy. The house was located on a prim, pretty street in New Orleans right next to Audubon Park. Sometimes, in the morning, I would stroll out into the heat shirtless, my baby boy on my hip wearing a diaper and nothing more. In the park, with its birds, water, and sweating joggers, we fit right in. I rejoiced in the feel of his skin on mine, and in the smiles his baby fat elicited. But now, hearing of the Popsicle, this indiscreet shirtlessness felt like a rationalization for being a slob.
Part of the horror of the two-thousand-dollar Popsicle was, naturally, the money. But another part was the fact that in my marriage, my wife is the neat, fastidious one worried about germs, and I am the easy-going one who doesn’t mind a little dirt. She finds this tiring. And now this happens.