the cleaner clears out
Home sweet home Latest site info Poetic stuff Serious stuff Funny stuff Topical stuff Alternative stuff Shakespearian stuff Musical stuff
  click here for a "printer friendly" version

by KJ Hannah Greenberg



I used to be a prep cook of sorts. Every second Thursday, Manya rang my bell to announce that she had arrived to scrub my toilet and scour my kitchen sink. The problem was that I had to tidy the house before she cleaned it.


Hubby laughed at me, freely pointing out that it was silly for me to give up my early morning writing time to wipe, sluice, and lave so our charwoman was comfortable working, and that it was silly for me to pay good money for someone to dust, sponge, and disinfect surfaces I’d already polished. Husbands don’t understand everything; especially they don’t understand the needs of creative folk.


I’d answer by: pouring him a second cuppa, wishing him well on debugging his source code, and telling him to lift his feet so that I could swab beneath them. Usually, he sniggered as I guided the mop back and forth under his chair, kissed the top of my head, and then returned to fumigating his software.


Notwithstanding Hubby’s opinion, Child One and Child Two’s disproportionate contributions to our home’s disorder, and Quella’s fleet, four-footed, weekly disappearances, Manya continued to be part of our homemaking rituals for years. In fact, until the “incident with Quella,” I welcomed the squat Russian lady, who never bothered rubbing her shoes on my doormat, who always poured herself a cuppa without asking, who sat with Hubby to drink it while I kept cleaning, and who wouldn’t get near anything that was actually covered with grime.


Given Manya’s sensitive disposition, I had to forego mentioning to her: one of our children’s puke stains in the toilet, the discoloration Quella left on the carpet, and our many streaked windows. Manya was far better at talking about cleaning than at actual engaging in housework.


Nevertheless, as long as I stayed focused on why Manya was part of my life, I was okay with taking part in weekly bouts of scurryfunge. Truly, if the event involving Quella hadn’t occurred, Manya would still be visiting us regularly.


As it were, one warm October day, when: Hubby was eradicating software bugs in Zürich operating systems, the twins were in school, and I was busy wrestling with a manuscript in my home office, Manya rang the bell. After I let her in, she helped herself to a cuppa and watched while insisting I remove the baked on grease on our range top. Every few minutes, she pointed out a missed splatter.


That task done, I left Many and her cuppa in the kitchen and returned to my office to my new draft of an old story. I meant to rescue a villain from the jaws of a particularly hungry two-headed, gelatinous wildebeest. Since: Manya’s to do list was sitting on the table next to her, since I had already reminded her to leave her empty mug in the sink, not on one of the kitchen counters, and since I had already pretreated the range top, I felt it was safe to return to work.


Somewhere between a beauty contest held for intelligent, Jupiter crustaceans and a human protagonist’s wedding to a space bandit, I heard noises that emulated neither vacuum cleaner nor garbage disposal. However, the sounds stopped just as quickly as they had begun, so I once more attended to how many suitors the contest winner enjoyed, and to the nature of reward any intergalactic bounty hunter could glean for rescuing the chosen bridegroom.


Sometimes later, I smelled something smoldering. We lack a burn barrel and have no compost pile, so I figured the odor was related neither to my family nor to Manya’s yard chores. Besides, the large oak tree in our back yard had only begun to shed; it was unseasonably warm.


Finally, the kids came home from school. Up until that day, they adored my helper. They’d linger with her before giving me hello kisses and would insist that their homework could wait until her shift ended.


Nonetheless, that afternoon, when our front door opened and shut, instead of happy squeals, I heard screams. I pressed “save” and left my protagonist’s lover in the clutches of the Horseshoe Galaxy’s best fugitive tracker. Moments later, I wished I’d hung back with him in outer space.


Quella’s body lay splayed on our living room carpet, seeping with the sorts of fluids that even I couldn’t remove. Her tail was burnt. Her body reeked of that ozone smell that follows sticking one’s finger into an electric socket. As well, our dear critter’s blood was splashed everywhere.


The twins, who were huddled together, were crying on the sofa. Manya was kneeling by our pet. She looked up at me, then down at the dead animal, and then at our hysterical twins. Immediately, she left our home. She didn’t even bother taking her coffee cup off of our counter.


A trauma scene cleaner took care of the mess. The vet took care of poor Quella’s remains. Hubby insisted on returning home from Zürich three days earlier than planned and I did nothing to dissuade him.


Subsequently, the twins spent a year in play therapy, I scheduled a year of monthly spa days, and Hubby, for a year, drank two cuppas in the morning, instead of one. On the anniversary of the affair, we adopted Violet and said nothing more about it.


These days, dust bunnies roam in packs beneath our furniture. Cups, bowls, and spoons breed on our kitchen counters. The stains left behind by Violet have forever become part of our flooring’s design.


The grandchildren, who inherited from my original space opera heroine and her spouse, conquer new worlds and eat day-old bologna. I’m up to my tenth title in that series.


At present, I’m fairly devoted to speculative fiction, having given up on more mainstream fare, especially having forsaken novels about immigrants trying to acculturate to North American culture. Whereas live models are useful for drawing classes, they’re disastrous when left unsupervised in writers’ homes.




Rate this story.

Copyright is reserved by the author. Please do not reproduce any part of this article without consent.


© Winamop 2019