Barbara was tidy from an early age. As a little girl she enjoyed having all the books on her bookcase carefully arranged from big to small in gradual incremental steps. She kept her bed neatly kempt, her hair brushed from her face and pinned up in berets. She was a model child her parents beamed.
The day Barbara met the man she would someday marry, the first thing she noticed were the dark stains his coffee cup left on the cafe counter, and his careless unkempt tie. She’d change all that– in due time.
And so they were married after the appropriate length courtship, with Jim asking her father’s permission. And after a modest ceremony they saved and scrimped and soon enough’ they bought a house. A tiny place that Barbara kept clean.
“Could we do something today?” Jim would ask as he pulled the drapes back and open to the bright morning sun pouring through the spotless glistening glass.
“We can’t“ she’d reply with a sigh. “What if we have company? My folks could drop by.” There was just so much to do. So they’d spend their weekends cleaning. On their knees scrubbing with the spray of Basic Green drying out her hands so the skin cracked in between. And they’d have house parties once a month and her friends would marvel at the spotless upkeep of’ the place.
“Could we do something today?” Jim raised his upturned face to the morning rays. “It’s a perfectly enjoyable Saturday” he exclaimed. But there was cleaning and laundry, and the ever encroaching dust. “What will people think of us?” Barbra sighed gesturing to her slightly unkempt house. So they cleaned. And that’s the way things went for many years.
Until, the cough. First as murmur at dinner, dismissed as Jim eating too quickly as was his nature. But in the growing months he would shift and turn in bed, unable to lay comfortable as his lungs kicked up spittle. Unchecked, it spread through his crackling blackening lungs, until he finally succumbed– doubled over at his desk.
Rushed face-up mask-on with nothing but the overhead streetlights through streaked glass. Oh Barbra would have something to say if she saw that. Tires on asphalt giving way to pavement and then rows of fluorescent above and linoleum lined below as Jim was checked in to the hospital. Barbra arrived in a panic, the all too familiar smell of antiseptic Basic Green. Barba practically lived at the hospital as her husband lay weakening, weekly in bed. The flowers delivered by friends lay drooping by his headboard.
“I think… I would like to go outside today.” He wheezed. But he never did.
Barbra returned home, to her empty house with the drapes pulled closed. The sun sneaking beams through the seams and cracks, as if searching for the man who loved the sun. Dust had accumulated everywhere in a find mist, sparkling and glittering in the dying rays. Barbra reached under the kitchen sink for her cleaning supplies. An empty bucket, and her spray bottle of Basic Green.
“I wish… we did something today.” She whispered. But it was too late.
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