"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Monday, April 6, 2009

Peri's Diary gets more exposure

Another entry from my trusty heroine's diary. This is noteworthy because it talks about the Needles family. Benny, her client in Freezer Burn, is the son of a woman who was Peri's first housecleaning client. Some more insights into Peri and Benny below:


Sad news today. Mrs. Needles died last night. Heart attack, I think she was in her late 60's, early 70's. She was my very first client – I looked it up on my records out of curiosity, my first appointment with her was June 7, 1987. Wow, 20 years. I had just quit my job at the newspaper. It wasn't a bad job, but I'd been working there for 5 years and was still writing the one-paragraph traffic accident fillers. Skip says I get bored easily.

Her son, Benny, was only 15 when I started cleaning her house. He was always an odd duck – still is. I usually look at people and think, they may not be attractive by society's standards, but I'll bet there's someone out there for them. Not Benny. He never seemed to have that many friends, went through a lot of jobs, lived with his mom, but doesn't act unhappy or depressed. And girls – no. At first, he could barely speak to me, which made it difficult if I came to clean and his mom had run to the store. Took at least a year for him just say hello. It's been 20 years now and he still doesn't look me in the eye.

I was going to call today and express my sympathies, but I'm afraid Benny might freak, so I called his aunt, Esmy, instead. She told me about the services, said she's having people back to her house afterward. I feel like I should go, maybe not to the house, but at least to the funeral.

Being a housecleaner, you develop some weird relationships. I know everything about Mrs. Needles, probably even things she wouldn't want me to know. The first day I cleaned, I suspected her husband hadn't passed away, the way she told Benny. There were no mementos of him, no pictures, no trinkets, nothing. Being new to this business, I asked if she wanted me to pick things up and put them away or just dust around them. She told me to use my judgment.

So when I found a receipt on her nightstand, I opened the drawer to put it away and saw a note, scribbled in bad handwriting, saying good-bye. It wasn't signed, so I knew it could only be from her husband. I also knew she read it every night before she went to sleep. It's the kind of thing one woman would like to discuss with another, but housecleaners can't cross that line, so I left the receipt on top of the nightstand and dusted around it.

That's the weird part about housecleaning – I know these people so intimately, but I might as well be the vacuum. Everyone treats me well, but they have their conversations like I'm not in the room, and they don't seem to mind that I know whether their husbands wear boxers or briefs because I'm not another woman, a possible rival for their hubby's affections. So when something happens in their households, I'd like to be happy for them or sad for them or offer some kind of assistance, but I'm just the woman who mops their floors, so I keep my mouth shut.

Of course, I learn a lot that way.

I also remember what Mrs. Needles told me about Benny's room that first day. "Just keep the door closed and it won't be so bad." The door was open one day and I understood what she meant. Now that she's gone, I'm afraid the rest of the house will look like his room – dear God, what chaos!

*** Holy crap, Benny just called me! SPOKE TO ME! ON THE PHONE! Is the Apocalypse around the corner? He sounded kinda strange, like he was in one of those 50's, Las Vegas swinger movies. Told me he wanted me to continue cleaning the house once a week. I said how sorry I was about his mom dying, and he said the funniest thing. "Yeah, it's a pity, but at least she got to celebrate Dino's birthday."


Well, gonna make out my list of things to do tomorrow, then sit down with a bowl of popcorn and my favorite movie, The Big Sleep. Love Bogie, almost as much as I love mysteries.


I'm beginning to see that, not only does Peri like mysteries, she can't help but try to find them in real life as well as in books and movies.

How about you? Do you ever look at a situation and try to guess what's going on in the shadows?

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