Storytime: Tidying.

April 12th, 2017

“It’s my fridge, you see.”
The man behind the counter looked unimpressed. It came naturally to him, but he worked hard at it anyways. He stood as a corpse.
“I uh uh I spilled some ah orange uhm juice and it went under and gosh y’know I just thought well I’d wipe it out with toileetttttttt paper and then it well it just fell apart and now I’ve got a cl, a cl, a clot of garbage wadded up under the fridge and do you – do you think you could-?”
“Here,” said the man at the counter. “Scrubby on a stick. Here. Soap for your scrubby on a stick. Here. Extra disposable scrubs for your scrubby on a stick. Pay me.”
Herb smile beamed, or at least warped. “Thank you. Thank you!”
“Pay me.”
“Oh. Uh. Right.”

The fridge was hard work, and the terrain was to its advantage but it was vanquished in the end.
Then, because there’s nothing worse than a scrubby on a stick without a target, Herb cleaned out his fridge too.
“Sparkling!” he smiled.
Then he stopped.
The counter could use a bit of a scrub.
Halfway through the counter, his eyes drifted to the cupboards.
And then, as the cupboards were behind him and his last disposable scrub was falling from bloodless fingers, his gaze fell to the stove, and turned bleak.

“I’m, uh, very sorry to just come back again and b-b-b-other you like this, but you see, well, but it’s the thing is the thing is the stove is just, just grimy, and, and…..and. And.”
Herb’s sentence trailed off into the deep woods and vanished forever.
“Boy, I could’ve warned you,” said the man at the counter. “You wanted to clean just one thing. Know what comes after one? Two.” He plunked down an ominous cylinder (spray-nozzled, with extendible hose) on the counter. “Here. Now scoot.”
Herb scooted. And ten minutes later, he sprayed. And ten minutes later, he woke up on the floor and opened all the windows immediately and then read the fine print on the spray bottle more carefully, or in fact at all.
“Wow,” he said.
He opened up the stove and looked inside. The gleam blinded him. Dark spots danced in front of his eyes.
“Wow,” he said. “Ow. Ow. Ow ow ow ow ow ow OW.”
The world faded back into view. But the dark spots were still there. Dancing on the windowsill.
Herb’s brow furrowed. The rest of his face followed suit, like an accordion.

“I well I know I’m sorry to cause a fuss, a fuss you know but well I was just wondering if it was possible, not too inconvenient, if you had a moment, of your time, not too busy, uhhhhhhh-”
The man at the counter stared into the space beyond Herb’s ear. It was a familiar space to him, if an empty one, for it was all that stood between him and the building’s exit. Some days it felt so very much larger than others.
“Flies!” blurted out Herb. And then he giggled.
“Flyswatter.” Whack. “Tissues for fly gut wiping.” Whack. “Fly gut stain remover.” Whack. “Newspaper in case flyswatter is too small for the king fly.” WHACK.
“Thank you! Lots!”

“More stain remover?”

“Something to, well, wipe off a, wipe off a, a couch, maybe?”

“You know I just vacuumed and uhhhh the uhhhh floorboards could use a p, polish, and I was wondering if-”

The clock crawled on the wall like an insipid inbred spider, and the shelves grew emptier. And as the shelves grew emptier, Herb’s abode grew cleaner.
And as the man at the counter had noticed, Herb grew filthier. He looked like something that’d been found at the back of a septic tank, but stickier.
“SO IT’S A FUNNY THING,” he said. “BUT do you maybe have anything a bit….tidier?”
The man at the counter reached under it. Under the counter was a box. Inside the box was a small safe. Inside the safe was a featureless sphere. Inside the sphere (velvet-lined) was a tiny bottle suspended in a web of fine-linked titanium chains, each able to hold an automobile aloft indefinitely.
He threw the tiny bottle in a plastic bag and handed it to Herb.
“Here,” he said. “Dilute it in an Olympic swimming pool and go nuts.”
“Thank you thank you thank you THANK you thank YOU thanks bye.”

And the problem occurred at home, as Herb hadn’t seen the Olympics since he’d been old enough to choose his own news.
How big WAS an Olympic swimming pool anyways?
Well, it was big enough to swim in. But what did that mean, anyways? A full stroke without touching the bottom? Herb could touch the bottom in the local gym’s swimming pool when he was ten years old, even in the lap lanes. It wasn’t that important, obviously.
And when you got down to it, swimming was just kicking. And paddling. And that meant you just needed enough water to fit your arms or maybe at least one leg in. Really, when you thought about it, everyone was swimming with their lips whenever they had a drink. Wow. That was deep.
Herb blinked. “Ahahahahahahahhahaha. Pun.”

And then, with the best intentions, Herb filled the sink with half an inch of water and poured the bottle into it.

He really was remarkably clean when the team pulled him out.
And, even in a dinghy old lead-lined vault, he stayed that way for at least forty years. Didn’t even need to dust him.

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