Every day it’s the same action. Pulling large sized nylon gloves on smooth, sometimes damp, medium sized hands.
Medium-sized gloves squeeze tightly between fingers, preventing thorough scrubbing. Blood refusing to go to fingertips. Tearing cleanly between knuckles. Medium-sized gloves don’t fit on medium-sized hands.
Mornings run smoothly, effortlessly. The Maid enters the store, gathers the equipment, and loads the car. Phone on the dash, GPS on, The Maid travels to their first job.
The Maid unloads the equipment. Rags, chemical caddy, carpet vacuum, hard-floor vacuum, flat mop, and a bucket to collect dirty towels. Every single house uses the same equipment, the same motions, the same large-sized gloves.
Knock. Wait. Knock again. Enter.
“Hello! The Maid is here! We’ll get out of your way for you.” The family leaves. Leaving The Maid alone. Alone to clean.
Master bath. Kid’s bath. Kitchen and dining. Master bedroom. Two kids’ bedrooms. Living room and stairs. An hour to complete, or else.
The Maid sets down their stuff. Grabs the gloves and pulls them on. They grab the rag bag and pull out the orange bundle, specially named “poop rags”.
Master bathroom. Spray the mirror, spray the counter, spray the bathtub. Scrub the shower, scrub the toilet. Wrap the rag in a pair of gloves. Mop the floors by hand. 50 minutes remaining.
Kid’s bathroom. Spray the mirror, spray the counter, spray the bathtub. Scrub the shower, scrub the toilet. Wrap the rag in a pair of gloves. Mop the floors by hand. 40 minutes remaining.
Kitchen and dining. The Maid grabs the four solid blue rags from the rag bag, changes their spray to the degreaser, and begins. Every kitchen has a different approach. Is the microwave extra dirty so it needs to be sprayed and run for a minute? Did the families just use the stove, so it’s hot enough to melt the nylon gloves onto their hands? Are the counters covered in small piles of jelly or jam, making it impossible to get the work done with only four rags?
No. This kitchen is kept tidy when The Maid is away. Spray inside the microwave, scrape out the crust, wipe down the outside. Remove all fingerprints from all surfaces, fridge, dishwasher, windows, and sink handle. Degrease the counters, remove and put away all signs of life. Feed the crumbs to the ground. Lastly, the sink.
The kitchen sink is one of the most germ-infested areas in the entire house. Spoiled greens. Rags not washed in eons and sponges forgotten. Pink mold on the nozzle and more down the drain. Frozen meat sitting to thaw and collect bacteria. Nothing will ever sterilize it forever.
The Maid sprays germicide within and around the sink. It doesn’t become black with grime and dirt disintegrating. It just sits there, quietly breaking the battalion of bacteria building itself on the walls. Boiling water rinses the chemical and dead organisms down the drain. With a swipe of a clean rag, The Maid dries the sink. 30 minutes remaining.
Master bed. Two kids’ rooms. Living room and stairs. They are all treated the same. The Maid uses the yellow disposable duster to wipe away the dead skin and dirt. Everything big and small gets lifted and set back. Lift the vases, set them down. Clean the picture frames, lift, and set. Lift and set. Nothing goes un-lifted or unset. Blankets get rolled and pillows get fluffed. Clothes get tossed in bins and toys get tidied. 10 minutes remaining.
Every floor in every room gets vacuumed in some way. Hard floor gets hard vac-ed. Carpet gets carpet vac-ed. Hard floor gets mopped. Furthest floor from the door, moving towards the outside. Always mop with the grain, or else it gets streaky. Or else it looks dirty. Or else The Maid must return. 0 minutes remaining.
The door closes. The Maid is out. Out of the house and out of time. The Maid loads the equipment back into the car. Puts their phone back on the dash with the next address. Pulls out of the driveway and does it again.
House after house, The Maid scrubs and sprays. Vacuums and mops. The Maid loads the car the last time of the day. They drive back to the office to unload the equipment.
Three other cars pull in, each carrying a maid with their own equipment. These maids enter the office in rotation, bringing rag bags and chemical caddies inside. They start laundry and gather. They talk and laugh. They rant about their houses and cleans from the day. Sigh about the plans for tomorrow.
Each maid leaves the office at their own pace, until only one maid remains. The lone maid looks around, walks out the door, and pulls it shut.
The door locks and stays that way until they arrive tomorrow.
OLIVIA GRIGGS is a second-semester MFA student at Ashland University. She has been previously published in You Might Need to Hear This and looks forward to future publications.