Humor Magazine

Someone Here Smells Hard-Working

By Pearl
“Smell my fingers.”
“No.”
“Come on! They smell like bleach. Smell ‘em. They’re gonna stink for three days.”
I refuse to smell her fingers, although it’s not without its temptations. We are sitting at Zantigo’s, our You-Worked-Hard-And-Deserve-A-Treat Spot; and the teenagers across from us would be both disgusted and amused, I’m sure, if they were to witness me smelling her fingers.
Something perverse in me plays with the thought and dismisses it.
I’m not smelling her bleach-y fingers, even if doing so would mess with the kids.
I have my dignity, after all.
Mary closes her eyes and sniffs her fingertips. “Mmmm. I smell like an indoor pool.”
Our eyes meet and we laugh, just a wee bit hysterically. In the last several hours we have swept, mopped, vacuumed, and shook. We have washed. We have folded, straightened and rearranged.
But mostly, we have scrubbed.
“Scrub”. I like that word. To me, it looks like what it is. I just want to grab on to that word, rub it vigorously, back and forth, back and forth, over some stained bit of writing.
Mary is talking, and I struggle to focus on her. It’s the end of the day, a day in which I worked at my regular job and then tacked on a cleaning gig. I would very much like a nap.
“One of these days,” she says thoughtfully, lips curled around a drinking straw, “I’m going to discover, bleach-y rag in hand, that all the flesh of my fingers have fallen off, and I’ll think, Well I’ll be. The bleach done et it all away.”
She sets her glass down. “Truth be told, it won’t be an entirely bad thing.” She stands up, groaning, and totters her way to the pop machine for a refill. The poor woman spent the first hour and a half of the job hunched over the bathroom tub, scrubbing the hard water deposits from it, giving the grout on the shower walls the what-for. She hobbles back to the booth, and I am reminded of Tim Conway’s old man on The Carol Burnett Show.
“So losing the meat on your hands won’t be a bad thing?” I love playing straight man when Mary’s got that look in her eye. It’s been just the right combination of bleach fumes, cat hair, dust and cigarette smoke, and her bright blue eyes have a twinkling, Mad Hatter quality to them.
She holds her right hand up, curls it into a claw. “See, once the meat’s gone, what we have here is a scraping tool, the perfect scraping tool for the truly crusty bits at the bottom of the oven.”
“Always thinkin’,” I observe.
“Yep,” she says. Her eyes go unfocused and dreamy, and she sucks more Diet Coke up into her straw. “That’s us,” she whispers. “We’re always thinkin’.”

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