Mary’s at my house today.
And the dust bunnies are running scared.
We set it up last week.
“I can give you a discounted rate,” she had said to me.
“Are you kidding? And not be able to hold my head up around the neighborhood? I insist upon paying the household help a living wage.”
“So what do you want done?”
I’d been thinking about it for weeks. “In order of appearance,” I say, “Bathroom, kitchen, front stairway. Anything after that is gravy. Hairy, hairy gravy.”
I can hear her nodding. “You’ve got one dusty house,” she says.
It’s true. At just a little over a hundred and eight years old, the party the previous owners threw for the signing of the armistice still rumbles through the over-head vents.
“What about the cats?”
“They’re supposed to clean themselves,” I say. “Don’t let the little buggers talk you into anything.”
“No,” she says. “I mean will they be okay with me coming in like this?”
“Liza Bean has spoken of nothing else.” I pause. “Don’t lend her any money no matter how many times she asks. And don’t let her mix you any drinks.”
“No loans to Liza Bean Bitey – “
“—of the Minneapolis Biteys—“ I interject.
“—for any reason. Check.”
“And don’t take anything she mixes for you, either.”
Mary sighs. “There go my plans for the afternoon part of the job,” she mumbles.
“I’m sorry. What’s that?”
“Nothing!” she chirps. “No drinking with the cat, no loaning the cat money. Anything else?”
“Yes,” I smile. “Remember how you made the bed all pretty at the house in Edina?”
Mary and I regularly clean houses together, and I’d been witness recently to a spectacular, showroom-level bed-pillow display on her part that had left me shaking my head with admiration.
The woman is a craftsman.
“Can you do that for me?”
I hear her smiling again. “And would the lady of the house care for a chocolate on her pillow as well?”
“That would be divine,” I murmur. “Thank you so much.”
“My pleasure,” she says. “And with that, madam, I curtsey in your general direction.”
“And I, in yours.”
“Madam," she says, a brisk nod of a word.
“Madam,” I say.
And we hang up.
I can’t wait to go home. It's clean -- and someone else cleaned it.
15 hours ago