Rated: E · Short Story · Comedy · #1543099
If cleanliness is godliness, then dirt is the Devil - and must be eradicated . . .
|NEXT TO GODLINESS |
Clean. I love the sound of the word. It makes me feel safe. Washed. Cleansed. Immaculate. A little island of purity in a sea of filth, that's what my house is. It's not easy, of course, keeping up the proper standards. I get up at five in the morning, and often I don't finish till near midnight. I go through the entire house, top to bottom, cleaning and polishing, floors and windows, paintwork, everything. Wash all the bedding. Beat the rugs on the line outside, like my mother always did. We used to have fitted carpets, but how can you get them really clean? Cedric offered to buy me one of those vacuums, that suck everything up, but you can't be sure they've captured every particle of dirt. It must sift down and collect underneath, and then there's mites living off it, breeding - ugh! So I've got wooden floors now, not so warm, but at least I can mop them and polish them; and the rugs are synthetic, I pop them in the machine every day.
I take after my mother. Fastidious. Her house was a wonder, everything shone. You could have eaten off her floors (not that she would have allowed such a thing, think of the mess!). "Cleanliness is next to godliness" she used to say, and she was the godliest woman I ever knew. She never let me have friends to play (they might have brought in dirt), or stay for school dinners like the others; she said you could never be sure of what went on outside your own home. I'm the same, I never liked eating out.
Not that we do any more. The last time was a few years ago on our anniversary. Cedric persuaded me against my better judgement. It was not a success. I'd taken along a packet to those microbial wipes to give the cutlery and glassware the once over, and he got all embarrassed and bothered that people were looking at me. Then after the starters I went to the loo, and on the way back I noticed the door to the kitchens was open . . . I insisted on leaving, of course. I'd read about the state of some of these places, but to have it confirmed by my own eyes . . . !
You see, it's not the dirt you can see which is the real problem. It's the invisible stuff, microbes and bacteria and suchlike, creeping up on you, proliferating, that's the danger. That's why you can't let up for a moment. Cedric never understood. "What are you washing that for?" he'd say. "It's clean enough already." It wasn't, of course.
He was no help. He would keep touching things. Did you know that ninty per cent of household dirt is shed human skin? I swear sometimes I could see it, wafting off him. I kept him out of the house as much as possible. He'd got his garden, he spent most of his time there or in his shed, but he had to come in for meals, and at night. I never knew such a messy eater, tea slopping in his saucer, drips of ketchup, crumbs everywhere, it took me hours to clean up after him. Then one day he got something on his shoe. Walked it everywhere. The stink of it! And he couldn't tell a thing was wrong, no sense of smell, you see. I had to clean the house six times, right through, before I felt comfortable again.
I had to do something, I couldn't live with the prospect of him doing something like that again, my nerves wouldn't stand it. I had this new cleaning stuff under the sink, 'Cleans and Freshens Inside and Out' it said on the label. I thought it was worth a try. He never noticed. Ate up his rhubarb crumble and went back down the garden to his shed. No sense of smell, as I mentioned.
He hasn't come out. It's a few weeks now. There's a bit of a whiff if the wind's in the wrong direction, but not enough to bother me. The shed was his sphere, the house is mine. And it's a lot easier to keep clean now.