“I need your help,” I say.
“Mmmm,” she muses. “And so the tables turn and now I am the master.” I hear her close her eyes, rub the tips of her little fingers together. “Speak freely, neophyte. There are no stupid questions. Just stupid answers.”
I consider the many ways this conversation train has already jumped the tracks but chug on. There will be time for playing into Mary’s soft, freckled hands another phone call.
“How can people leave a public bathroom knowing full well that they just dropped, say, a paper towel on the floor and not be bothered to pick it up? What’s it mean? Is it, like, hey, someone else can pick this up?”
I narrow my eyes at her, something I am certain she can pick up over the phone. “Heeeey.”
“You crabby today?” she says.
“No. Yes. No. Shut up.”
Mary chuckles again, a bit indulgently, if you ask me. “How did this come up?”
I shake my head, the memory still vivid. “Well I was in the bathroom, and I look down and someone’s pulled off this huge entanglement of black threads from something and just left it on the floor. I thought it was a spider.”
“And you picked it up and threw it away, is that where we’re going with this?”
“Have you considered,” she says, “that because you and I clean houses that you may actually be feeling protective of those in the janitorial services?”
I had not considered this connection. “I hadn’t really thought of that,” I grumble, “although this explains why I’ve been shopping for a shirt with my name embroidered on it.”
“Do you rinse out the sinks?”
I nod. “And wipe down the counters.”
“Do you push down the overflowing paper towel baskets?”
I frown. “Somebody’s got to.”
“Tsk, tsk,” she says. “You know people put hypodermic needles in there, don’t you?”
Mary’s laughs. “And LSD, man! There’s liquid LSD hidden in the trashcans, man!”
“I should be so lucky,” I mutter, a small smile forming.
“You know, I’m fresh outta LSD,” she says. “But I can pop by with a pair of Jon’s work socks. A whiff or two and that’ll dilate yer pupils.”
“You feel better now?”
I nod. “I’m gonna keep doing it, you know. I’m going to keep picking up.”
Mary sighs. “That’s why we’re here,” she says.