Spring Cleaning
by P.S.Gifford
forum: Spring Cleaning
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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Spring Cleaning


        Edna Willington stood there quietly admiring her just completed task with a satisfied expression upon her tired face. She was dressed in a purple polyester floral dress and a knee length pink apron neatly tied about her waist. Her grey shoulder length hair was tied back with a brown scarf. On her hands were bright yellow rubber gloves which extended all the way up to her elbows. Directly by her side sat a large bucket of warm sudsy water, a heavy duty scrubbing brush, several bleached white towels, a mop, and a sponge. There was a strong, but comforting, scent of disinfectant permeating throughout the generously proportioned Georgian house. A house that was perfectly perched in the most fashionable part of the Oxford countryside on a three acre lot. Edna continued to sit there contently examining the hallway. The mock marble tiles shone, the baseboard sparkled and the recently painted beige walls were completely spotless. After several days of scrubbing, cleaning, polishing and buffing, the whole house was now finished… and she could finally relax. Well, at least until tea time. Edna, always one to maintain a spotless home, took particular satisfaction in, as is traditional at this time of the year, a complete clean out.

        At sixty-four years old, she had never had a career of her own, despite fanciful schoolgirl dreams of being a financially independent modern woman. She, like so very many of her generation, had in her late teens married and quickly bore two children. Children who had seemed to Edna to have grown up all too quickly and were now married with children of their own and leading successful and independent lives… She could not quite recall the last time that she had seen them, and apart from the occasional telephone call had very little to do with them. This she understood, but still hated. While the children were living at home she had a clear sense of defining purpose, there was validation for her existence, but they had left twenty plus years since… Over those years maintaining an immaculately clean home had been the only satisfaction she had derived… This all was working rather well up until two months prior. Edna will not soon forget that particular Friday, as that was the day that the unthinkable happened. Yes, as that was the fateful, life altering day her husband of the last forty-nine years, Alfred Willington, retired from his position of senior managing director with a large international building society. Edna, please appreciate, had found it an acceptable dilemma taking care of him for breakfast and in the evenings. Breakfast was a structured routine; she simply presented him with toast, marmalade, fresh orange juice, a pot of tea and his morning paper. He would occasionally grunt, quickly consume, and then be gone, without even a wave goodbye. Nine hours and twenty later he would arrive home to a now spotless house and the customary large dry gin martini will be chilled and awaiting him with three olives. She remembered the day that she had ran out of olives… How he had yelled and raised his hand to her. But it was a lesson learned, as she never forgot again… Then she would run his bath, making sure it was the perfect temperature, and as he soaked and enjoyed a second martini, Edna would make the evening meal; Alfred always insisted on home cooked meals and regarded dining out as folly and an unneeded luxury… And besides, Edna knew precisely how he wanted everything and what he liked. Even the weekends were more-or-less bearable for Edna; they always did precisely the same things, and every Sunday Alfred would attend his Golf Club as Edna completed the laundry and spent the afternoon ironing. Alfred insisted that everything was ironed, from the shirts and towels right down to his vest and underwear… This was okay with Edna, as she always fully understood that Monday was just around the corner and that Alfred would be going off to work in his classic Mach 2 Jaguar by precisely 8:20, with his financial times tidily folded under his arm and a briefcase which carried barely more than his cheddar cheese and tomato sandwiches, (on whole wheat bread, naturally, with the crusts trimmed off) and a flask of tea that she prepared for him, and that her organized cleaning routine would soon be running along smoothly.

        What compounded matters further was the new hobby that Alfred had seen fit to adopt to fill in his new found spare time—gardening. For whatever reason, Alfred had decided to let the gardener go and take up the task of maintaining their substantial gardens himself. And what is more, he expected a continuous supply of pots of tea… This also meant that Alfred was continually traipsing in and out the house (his bladder not being quite what it once was).

        As Edna stood there, her contented look was to be short lived, as all at once the front door swung open to reveal Alfred standing there. He was dressed in a dress shirt—a shirt that the night before had been painstakingly hand washed, starched and pressed perfectly. He was also wearing a pair of light brown corduroys which were covered in stains of varying hues and intensity… Some were green, others were brown and others still she couldn't even bring herself to imagine what might have made them. On his size eleven sized feet were his favorite pair of Wellington boots which were, as usual these days, caked in thick mud.

        "Put the kettle on please, dear," he said confidently as he marched in the door and plodded along the hallway. "I am parched, and could murder a decent cuppa."

        Edna watched on in complete horror as he tore of his boots… at the foot of the stairs, and promptly continued to march up them.

        She studied the mud trails on the mock marble tile. She studied the mess he was leaving as he walked up the stairs. Then she studied her heavy duty scrubbing brush. Suddenly an overpowering urge transformed her and, without thinking and with an uncustomary sparkle in her eye, she abruptly grabbed the brush and stormed with remarkable agility and speed after him. He was halfway up the stairs and on the landing when she cudgeled him over the back of the head. He, being understandably startled, swiftly swung around to confront her. He opened his mouth to speak, and the perfectly manicured moustache trembled over his pudgy lips, but before he could utter a single syllable, she hit him again. The brush this time landed directly onto his temple with considerably more force than the previous blow. There was an agonizing moment of silence as Alfred's expression transformed from confusion to anger and then finally to an empty dazed stare. The silence was broken by a series of thumps as Alfred fell downwards. Edna looked at the bottom of the stairs. Alfred lay there silent with his arms and legs unnaturally contorted. His head had met with considerable resistance the cold hardness of the mock marble tile floor. It was only then that the complete and utter horror of what had just unfolded and the dire implications infiltrated her befuddled mind. She studied, with disgust, the blood gently easing out from his balding head over the freshly cleaned tile. Her next move was urgent and purposeful… She skipped furiously down the stairs and back to her bucket of sudsy water and picked up a towel and a mop.

        "Another mess to clean up," she said out loud in a calm, methodical matter of fact tone.

        Then she began to whistle cheerfully, just as she used to as a schoolgirl.


The end.



copyright 2006 P.S.Gifford.

P.S.Gifford is a transplanted Englishman who lives in the O.C. California. When he is not soaking in his Jacuzzi, eating at fine restaurants, walking his dogs on sundrenched soft-sanded beaches, driving up to the mountains, getting a manicure/pedicure, racing about town in his Jaguar XK8, flirting with fashion models, shopping for designer clothes, or explaining to the house cleaners precisely how he wants his house tidied, he writes the occasional story. For more information, you could do worse things than check out his quite extraordinary website, www.psgifford.com