A couple of weeks ago, the owner of the antique market where I work came in. I was with a customer, and when I finished, he called me over. “Come here, Susan,” he said. “I need to talk to you.” I immediately went into panic mode, thinking I was going to get fired for writing a short story about the antique market (it’s called ‘Revenge of the Juggernaut’ and you can read it in At The End Of It All, which is a totally shameless plug for my new short story collection) and he must have realized that I looked like I was about to run out of the building, because he followed up with, “Don’t worry, it’s good news.”
Good news? Was I about to get a raise whilst at the same time my hours were being reduced so that I could work less and make more? Was there a secret office hockey pool that I hadn’t known I’d entered that I had just won? And if you know anything about me at all, you know that I know nothing about hockey at all, but I still managed to do incredibly well in my last office hockey pool, even though I picked my players solely on the basis of them having cool last names (I’m looking at you, William Nylander, whose name rhymes with Highlander, and as legend tells us, there can be only one). But no, I hadn’t won anything, and then I got even more nervous when he told me the news.
Owner: I wanted to tell you that we hired a cleaner.
Me: (air quotes) A ‘cleaner’?…What kind of ‘cleaner’?
Owner (befuddled): Someone to clean.
Me: Clean WHAT exactly?
Maybe I’ve watched too many mob films, TV dramas, and John Wick movies, because to ME, a cleaner is someone who cleans up, like, dead bodies and whatnot. And I was pretty sure that we only sold antiques at work, but maybe THAT was just a front for something much more insidious, which would explain why my young boss quite often gets hedgy when I ask him questions like, “What happened to that vendor on the third floor?” or “What were you doing here so early this morning?”
But the owner quickly (maybe TOO quickly, which is exactly what a mob boss would do) clarified that he had hired a person to clean the bathrooms, vacuum, mop the floors, sweep the stairs and so on, and he would be coming every Wednesday. “Isn’t that wonderful?” he said. “Now you don’t have to do it any more. Of course, there will still be weekly maintenance but the majority of the cleaning will be done on Wednesday, so you don’t have to mop the floors or scrub the toilets any more.” And he said this like he honestly thought I had EVER scrubbed the toilets. I have, however, probably once a week, mopped the floors in the bathrooms, so it was a pleasant surprise, even though I had literally just finished mopping the floors and now all I could think was “Damn, if I’d only waited until Tuesday.”
Nevertheless, on Wednesday, we were all very excited for the cleaner to arrive. Which he did. And almost immediately, one of my co-workers leaned over and whispered to me:
Co-Worker: THAT’S the cleaner?
Me: Apparently. He looks like…a cleaner.
Co-Worker: I know, right?! What do you think he cleans, when he’s not cleaning here?
Me: I couldn’t begin to say, but he definitely looks like…a cleaner.
And what we meant was, we had never seen a person who looked more like a person who cleaned up murder scenes and mob hits in our lives. If there was an epitome of someone who ‘cleaned’ for a living, that was this guy, who looks kind of like Chazz Palminteri’s cousin. We spent the morning expecting to see large white trash bags, or at least rolled-up carpets being hurried out of the building by a team of his henchman, but sadly, all he did was wash down the toilets, vacuum up all the rock salt from the carpets, mop the floors, and sweep the stairs. And he did an amazing job–almost like he was a…PROFESSIONAL.
In other news, my Canadian publisher recently sent me the cover mock-up for my new novel, the sequel to The Seventh Devil, called The Devil You Know. And I couldn’t be happier about it. The book won’t be out for a while–I just got the printer’s proofs to check, but here’s the cover if you haven’t seen it on Facebook or whatever: