Nothing Clean by Joey To

Push and pull. Push and pull. Push and pull…

Margot felt pretty dirty. Unfortunately, she’d rather just ‘pretty’ although she would have settled for ‘pretty and dirty’. After all, in a house where three children lived, how clean could the place be? And how long could it stay clean? Oh, and there was the tinnitus due to the constant 75.1dB of vacuum-cleaner-turbine goodness.

Without ceasing to push the cleaning head, Margot picked up the TV remote from the glass coffee table with her free hand and pressed the red button. The Young & The Restless flashed onto the 60″ screen. Or it could have been The Bold & The Beautiful. She could never tell the difference; it always seemed to be a perfectly clean mahogany lounge room where some man in a suit is arguing with some blond woman.

Margot gritted her teeth and thumbed ‘2’ followed by another ‘2’, then the orange button for the teletext subtitles and tossed the remote onto the couch beside her. A seated lady with four inches of makeup appeared.

[ …deaths of two members of the jury, there will be a delay to the commencement of the murder trial of Mister Teppista, who allegedly gunned down Mister Babkov, a member of the Everton crime family. In finance, the dollar has dropped… ]

There was a buzz in Margot’s pants. She sighed.

She tapped the vacuum cleaner with her foot. Now it was just the tinnitus and the TV. She glanced at the phone display: Robinson, Gale. Margot sighed again and hit the ‘Answer’ key.

“Hello Missus Robinson.”

Hi Margot. How’s it going?

“What?”

I said ‘How’s it going?‘”

“Oh, I’m vacuuming. Just finished prepping the schnitzels and wiping the kitchen before.”

That’s great. Just wond’ring if you’re picking up your kids at four o’clock?

“Actually, no. Natanael is going to pick up my daughter today and my sons don’t need a lift. You need me to pick up your children?”

Well, you’re not obliged to but that would be lovely. Sorry, something came up.”

“Sure. But you have to be here by 5:30 at the latest. I still need to cook for my family.”

Not a problem. See you later.”

“Bye.”

Margot ended the call and pocketed her phone. A low rumble faded in and, through the window painted with streaks, she saw a white helmet and fluorescent yellow jacket cruise up to the front gate and stop.

“Might as well collect the mail while I’m at it,” she mumbled.

Outside, she smiled at the postal worker on his chugging motorbike. “Hola, buen dia.”

The postal worker nodded with the slightest curl on his lips. “Sorry ma’am, I don’t habla the Español. Do I look Spanish to you?”

“No, you look Anglo with a touch of job dissatisfaction,” answered Margot cheerfully. “Do I look Spanish to you?”

The man frowned momentarily… handed over a few envelopes, then answered “You look Germanic with a dash of boredom.”

“Correct. Thanks for the mail, God bless.”

The postman smirked, shook his head and accelerated away as Margot peeked left, then right. The street was lined with parked cars on both sides. She glanced at her watch: 12:37. She shrugged and assumed there was a Tupperware party in the neighborhood as a black sedan slowly cruised by.

As she walked up the driveway, Margot cycled through the envelopes… a phone bill, a gas bill, another bill, and another one and ooo, a letter from the Justice Department.

Back indoors, Margot slapped the mail on the coffee table and literally kick-started the vacuum cleaner. She worked her way down the short hallway and into the kitchen.

“I don’t believe this,” she grunted as she thumped the off-switch on the vacuum cleaner and yanked the cord from the wall. “I just wiped this bench twenty minutes ago and there’s dust on it already. Oh well, at least I finished the vacuuming.”

Margot grabbed one of the many cleaning agents on the bench and—

Click.

She replaced the can on the bench, stuck her head out of the kitchen doorway and into the hall. A man in a sleek black suit with olive skin and dark brown hair was standing a few paces away from her.

The man grinned. “Hello.”

“Huh? What the hell?” answered Margot.

“I’m an associate of Teppista Constructions and I’m here to offer—”

“Huh? What the hell?” Margot knitted her brow, glanced at the man, then at the mail on the coffee table, then at the TV, then at the coffee table again, then back at the man.

“I said I’m—”

He didn’t get to finish repeating himself as Margot had grabbed a spray-bottle of bleach and gave it a few good squeezes. He staggered backwards with his face in his hands and collapsed to his knees.

Despite the ringing in her ears, she heard soft padding from behind and instinctively brought up her free hand to prevent the attempted headlock.

“You’re useless, can’t even handle one housewife,” the second assailant grunted as the first was rolling on the floor.

Margot whipped her head back and jabbed her thumb backwards right passed her ear. She felt the squishiness of an eyeball followed by “Ahh!” but he didn’t quite let go; they tripped and continued the struggle on the floor. As she gouged the attacker’s face with her right hand, her left reached and reached and reached… then grasped the vacuum cleaner tube and wrapped it around his neck.

Unfortunately, that was not as effective as Margot had hoped. The man gagged but rose and lurched, dragging her up by the collar and shoved her into the bench. By now, she was mentally reciting a prayer for herself. This was because she thought it was probably a good time to mentally recite a prayer for herself.

Morgot elbowed hard—”...for Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff…”—and reached again… finally, something, then wheeled it around. CRACK. The guy’s knees gave way and he dropped like a dummy. As Margot caught her breath, she noticed a suspiciously massive indent in his temple and a shiny tenderizing mallet clenched in her right hand. “Well, close enough to a rod or staff. Thank you Lord.”

While she placed the mallet in his hands, hoping that people would believe he had somehow did it to himself, she caught a glimpse of brown hair bopping just outside the kitchen window.

“You bitch! We’ll… get you.”

Margot spun around to see the first intruder tottering toward her, wiping his eyes with his sleeve. He seemed quite upset.

“Screw this, I’m leaving,” she grumbled as she grabbed a saucepan and gave the vision-impaired assailant a Steffi-Graf-single-handed forehand, then tore open the microwave door, swiped half a dozen cans of cleaning agents off the bench, shoved them in and slammed the door shut. There was even a can of Pledge Antibacterial.

She pushed the ‘Start’ key on the microwave, then bolted down the hallway toward the front door but paused when she came across the storage cabinet…

• • •

The sirens certainly didn’t help Margot’s hearing.

She watched the flames roaring out of the windows while she tightly hugged four thick booklets. Firefighters were running by her, yelling and dragging their hoses.

“Honey, you alright? The cops told me to get down here.”

Margot actually heard that and turned around. A man still in his scrubs and a teenage brunette in school uniform rushed to throw their arms around her. “I’m fine. Really, I am… a shower would be nice though.” She kissed her husband and daughter.

“Mom, tell me what happened.”

“Later, Prudence, later,” answered Margot.

Natanael nodded at what his wife was holding. “You saved the photo albums?”

She peeked down. “I thought it was the right thing to do.”

“I’m sure Missus Robinson will appreciate that,” said Prudence.

“Not sure how she feels about her house though,” added Margot as her eyes glimmered in the firelight, the flames still licking the walls. “I don’t think she’ll pay me for today’s work.”

“At least you won’t have to clean this place ever again,” quipped her husband.

Prudence rolled her eyes. “Dad, there’s always cleaning to be done somewhere.”