March 11, 2021
I am giving you the first four chapters of my new short story ‘Lyndsey and the Drunk Cleaner in Lockdown’ below.
It is a dance with sanitiser, one woman’s journey into the mist.
Available on Amazon Kindle for US$0.99 about GBP£0.77. (This was the cheapest I could do it for). I would have liked to make it free and accessible but have been forced to put it up for the minimum amount required to publish. It will also be available for free on Amazon Kindle Unlimited after it is released on 15th March 2021.
If you enjoy this, please do like and share it around so that it reaches more people and we can all stay safe.
©ADSanza 2021 ASIN: B08Y93L8
Lyndsey and the Drunk Cleaner in Lockdown – a dance with sanitiser
I carefully place the small, red, wooden block on the table before me. The block is about two inches square. I turn it slightly so that it was in perfect alignment with the edge of the old wooden table. I then turn it slightly to the right and turn it slightly further, so that it was at about a quarter turn.
I pick up an identical block, only it was a different colour, green, and place it on top of the red block. This time I left it in perfect alignment with the edge of the table.
I look down, from directly over the blocks, and saw that they now made a shape with eight points.
I take a third block, this time orange, and place it on top of the green block, with a quarter turn to the left. So that the corners fill in the remaining gaps to make a twelve-pointed star shape, when it was viewed from overhead.
I was pleased that I had used different colours to those I had used yesterday, and felt this proved I was not reliving some sort of ground hog day horror. Tomorrow I will choose different colours again in the hope of bringing some variety to life. I wonder what the cat is up to?
I love that Max tidies the house so much. But more than that, I love that he tidies by shoving everything into the cupboards. At least I always have a cupboard to sort out.
Hmmm….. 10.43am, the postman may come soon. The flip of the letter box being the most human contact I have these days, beside Max. I might go on the internet and order something, just so we have another visitor in the form of the delivery person. Not that we speak but a wave from the window breaks the boredom.
Lockdown continues ….
My waist and thighs seem to have doubled in size. Oh, look the neighbour is out gardening. Just a sec, I’ll wave over the fence.
What has happened to me?
The news reports that we are only allowed to leave the house to get groceries, go to work (if you still have a job to go to) and take an hour long walk each day for exercise.
I’m so sick of walking up the hill, through the fields, under the archway of trees. I’ve done the same walk so many times now. I am beginning to see the exquisite rolling country side and rambling flora as painful. Years ago, I used to holiday here once or twice every couple of years because I thought it was so beautiful and fun and desirable. Now this town seems to be stuck in its own boring ground hog day with only changes in the weather or seasons to identify that it is not yesterday.
I enrolled in an online course thinking I would use my time constructively and learn something. My brain is so dull now, I really can’t quite be bothered. It’s an effort to logon.
The supermarkets are empty of people. Occasionally, there may be a few other people shopping but they step around me afraid I might be diseased. I can’t tell if they smile at me under their masks but I get a feeling they are frightened by my presence.
However, I can rely on the person at the till to be bright and cheery from behind the clear plastic screen. They are so lucky to get out every day, do something, smile and chat to people. Lucky them.
I miss my clients. I miss my work. I miss running into people in the street and having a laugh and a gossip. I miss going to festivals and the theatre. I miss dinners out. I miss the beach.
My cat has caught a Shrew. Today’s highlight: chasing her around the house to rescue the Shrew before it ends up slowly rotting under the sofa, or in the back of a cupboard. Well at least that was some exercise.
I have bought three pairs of fleecy pyjamas from a supermarket and am proudly calling them my new winter wardrobe. It’ll make a pleasant and exciting change from my tracksuit pants.
Max gets off a facetime call with two of his friends, he is laughing. A few of his mates, who have amazing careers, have picked up local jobs. One is working in the local post office. The other has a job at a Covid-19 test centre, after his wife suggested it may be better if he left the house every day. Max, at the age of 55, has his eight-year-old son who stays with us half the time, at our house. He has grabbed this excuse to stay at home as he had to do home schooling with his son until school went back.
I tried putting yoga classes up on the internet and following along. It worked for a while, but as soon as the top of my knee became sore. I grabbed the excuse to stop.
I look down at the twelve-pointed star which is in perfect alignment with the edge of the old wooden table. I have used blue, white and purple blocks today. I am quite pleased with the effect. I don’t think the post man has anything for me today. It is getting a little late for him to arrive.
I start to pull at the lengths of my hair. Some strands break away and I stare at them fascinated. I see the smile on the supermarket checkout persons face in my mind and I think of how much fun it must be to have a job in the post office. Well, a lot more fun that being here with my wooden blocks.
Hmm, should I use blue, red and yellow blocks today? What do you think? Decisions, decisions.
And something snaps in my head. I switch on the radio and dance wildly in my kitchen. Until the news comes on and we are reminded that we on a permanent state of alert. My spirits plummet and I quickly switch it off. I don’t want to hear any more about death.
‘Oh, Amanda! I am dying inside!’ I moan to an old friend who owns a recruitment agency in the next town.
‘I’ve got a list of candidates as long as my arm and no jobs to offer them. It’s a tough time for me too.’ I’m not used to hearing anything bleak from Amanda. She is usually outrageously vivacious and laughing.
I have now taken my building blocks and began shoving them in odd holes around the house. I don’t mean the house has holes in it. I mean gaps in the furnishings. Like between books on the book shelves and interspaced between the coffee cups. I have a neat stack of them between the washing machine and the dryer reaching about ten blocks high. Initially, I considered the colour options carefully, but still find myself regularly rearranging them.
‘I have some work going on at the local school if you’re interested,’ comes Amanda’s restored bubbliness down the phone. ‘It’s cleaning.’
‘Will I get to drive my car?’ I have already factored in the exercise it’ll give me and am doing some calorie counting in my head. ‘Will I get to speak to other people?’
‘It’s washing down desks with sanitiser for three hours each evening. 6pm – 9pm. So, take your headphones and listen to some music!’ Amanda’s response includes the essential fact that I will have to meet other people at the beginning and end of each shift, so I will have time to say hello whilst I’m signing in and out. ‘Minimum wage. Start Monday.’
It’s early November and I am sitting on a cold concrete bench outside the doors to the school building. Dave points out Mars in the dark sky to me. I can see it, bright orange in colour. I tell him it is currently the closest it has been to the planet in thousands of years and the closest it will be for thousands more.
I wonder if that is why SpaceX have launched all those thousands and thousands of satellites. ‘Are they trying to build a stairway to Mars to live out Elon Musk’s dream of settling there?’
Max and I have spent much of the year laying on the outdoor sofas, that we have on the decking at the back of our house, looking up at the sky in the evenings. Looking for any movement or anomalies up there.
‘Max nearly fell of the sofa when the first satellites started shooting out from beneath Orion’s Belt back at the end of March. Did you see the sky train? Max has a thing about watching the heaven’s and got well rewarded for his search that evening. He stayed there for hours mesmerised. I went to bed as soon as I got cold. I figured if it was an alien invasion there was little I could do about it, so I may as well be warm.’ My laughter bubbled through my words. I loved speaking to my new colleague, who is also interested in astronomy. Well, I am happy to talk to anyone really.
I get home and soon the agony sets in. I’m rolling on the floor trying to massage the muscles in my shoulder blades, but I am exhilarated. The rush of endorphins, from the exercise, has bought my body back to life. I lay my knotted shoulder blades on a castor oil pack, and begin telling Max how exciting it is to wash desk after desk, in classroom after classroom, for three hours and he doubts my sanity.
Questioning all my years of studying and training, then building a successful business, to end up a cleaner I think of my wooden blocks and smile. I think I am smart; I have been able to breakout of lockdown. I take two Ibuprofen tablets to sleep that night.
It’s the beginning of December and the government announce all the schools are closing and they probably won’t open till March maybe longer. Bye job, hello wooden blocks.
‘There’s a job going. Cleaning offices about twenty minutes’ drive from your house, if you’re interested.’ Ah, my lovely Amanda is thinking of my mental stability, good on her. It is late February. I have now finished my online course and am considering painting flowers on my wooden blocks.
‘Count me in!’ I cry, whilst contemplating the feasibility of going to the job wearing selections from my new winter wardrobe of pyjamas, as none of my jeans will fit.
I was to be employed by Amanda’s agency for the first week, then begin as a permanent member of staff with the company.
6am and it is freezing outside. I had laid my clothes out the night before, and sneak past the sleeping Max, to the hallway, where I have left them. I feed the cats and with cup of tea in hand contemplate making toast, but don’t want to be late on my first day. I pop the cats into bed with Max just before I leave. I know they will pester him for pats and drive him crazy.
I look at the black and damp outside. My heart stands still as I panic that the car might not start, I haven’t driven it in months! I am relieved when the good, old, reliable car starts first turn and it is not frosted over. I berate myself for making up stuff in my head, as I navigate the dark wet roads. There was no need to stress out over imaginary incidents that didn’t even happen. The car tells me it is one degree Celsius outside and I prefer to worry about black ice.
I arrive in the tarmacked carpark and look at a long row of warehouses with an office block at one end. The complex is located in the middle of a field, which seemed both incongruous and delightful amongst the surrounding trees. Though I couldn’t see far, as it was still pitch black, save for the brilliant security lights shinning from the warehouse over the car park.
I am ten minutes early and wait in the still running car with the heating on. Why had I accepted 7am starts? I have an ominous feeling about this whole situation.
Inside, I find a perfectly empty reception foyer and venture further into the building searching for humans. Down a corridor, in a room to the right, I find a chap in a lab coat surrounded by a multitude of small bottles and it all seems rather like a mad scientist’s lab.
He phones upstairs and announces my arrival. I return to wait nervously in the still abandoned foyer. Soon Lyndsey’s masked face enters the room accompanied by her entire person and, again, I am relieved that all is well.
I get a quick guided tour of the three floors. The top has just been renovated and the builder is still working in one of the rooms. Although a quick vacuum and clean has clearly been done, sawdust covers everything including the kitchen and loo. Employees were already set up with desks and work stations. I was told to get on with this floor first, before they begin to arrive at 8am. I was to mop the stairs down to the second floor and that this entire area was solely my jurisdiction for cleaning.
The second floor was a layout of open office space and enclosed offices with a boardroom, kitchen and two loo’s. This was mine to clean on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Oh, did I mention I was only in three days a week, well I am.
The original cleaner is under a contract with a cleaning company. She only does Tuesday’s and Thursday’s and she is contracted to only clean the middle and bottom floors.
The company has decided to take on an extra cleaner for the remaining days to ensure all surfaces, touch points, banisters, loo’s and really anything exposed is wiped over with sanitiser regularly to, hopefully, prevent the spread of Covid-19.
This was not the other cleaners spec. She was employed before covid-19 and currently working out the three-month notice period, that the office had to give the cleaning company, to change her contract. So, they needed someone to do the sanitising. I am this lucky cleaner.
On the bottom floor there is the aforementioned foyer, four toilet blocks containing a total of five toilets, four wash rooms, a large kitchen, an arrangement of what looked like small mad scientist’s labs and a well-stocked cleaning cupboard, for me.
The shelves, in the cleaning cupboard, contained all the condiments an enthusiastic Covid-19 killer would require. On the floor were the essential tools to carry out the murders. Overhead is a broom handle suspended from a corner of the top shelf diagonally to the top of the door frame, with lots of cleaning cloths hung up to dry on it.
I asked about the procedure for washing the cleaning cloths. I had expected there to be a washing machine for this very purpose, much as there had been at school. I was told that the other cleaner, who works on Tuesdays and Thursdays, takes them home to wash in her machine.
I was a little taken back that I was expected to take the cloths home to wash in my machine. I said that this role was not mentioned to me in the telephone interview I had with the company.
‘Well, the other cleaner is very good,’ came Lyndsey’s reply with a heavy accent on the ‘very good’. I felt obliged to be ‘very good’ too. It was my first day and I was a little insecure. I felt that if I refused to do this, I would not get the job as, clearly, it was expected of me.
I was also told to use the Laytex gloves and these were pointed out to me. On the walls of the cleaning room was a list of duties that I was to cover each day and a list of what I was to do on a weekly basis, there was no mention of the procedure for washing the cloths.
My first clean through and I notice there were marks on many of the light switches, thick dust behind the toilets and on the skirting boards etc. ‘She is not ‘very good’,’ I thought to myself.
Quickly, I became proficient in toilet cleaning, developing my own method of transforming the bleak into the shiny with maximum efficiency. I am going to share my amazing technique with you. Perhaps, you are also totally board in lockdown, and just relieved to read anything to take your mind off your own red, yellow, green and blue wooden blocks?
Remove the toilet roll from the back of the toilet, it was their choice to keep the spare rolls here and I did not interfere with their customs choosing instead to respect and honour tradition.
Take your spray bottle of sanitiser cover everything. Spray the fine mist to include both sides of the door and door furniture, the sanitary disposal unit, the toilet brush, the top of the toilet, any window sills and locks that open the windows, if the cubicle or small room has one. The windows in the cubicles, that had them, were always closed tight, as it was cold in February. Spray to cover the tank of the toilet and the flush handle.
Moving down, cover the lid of the toilet in the pungent mist of spray sanitiser. Lift the lid and spray the underside of it, spray the toilet seat, lift the seat and spray the underside of it, spray around the rim of the toilet and inside it. Spray the base of the toilet all around, including the back. Spray all the associated plumbing lines and the skirting boards around the little unventilated room. Stand up and take a deep breath, you’ll be needing one.
Squirt the toilet cleaner into the bowl and take the handle of the now sanitiser-soaked toilet brush. Scrub off any skid marks. Never mind that the Laytex gloves quickly develop tiny holes and your hand is now soaked in sanitiser. In the event that Marigold gloves are worn, then do note, how the drips of sanitiser have an uncanny knack of entering the wide wrist area of the Marigold glove to still achieve the same ‘hand soaked in sanitiser’ effect.
Give the toilet bowl a good scrub all round especially down the bend. All the warehouse staff use the toilets on the lower floor, so the delights down there are varied and unpredictable. Don’t worry about germs as you are surrounded by the mists of sanitiser. Feel reassured that no germs could possibly survive. But can a human?
Grab your red cleaning cloth and wipe over all the surfaces associated with the toiled unit itself. Grab your blue cloth and wipe down everything else in the room. You may be breathing quite deeply by now as it is a vast area to cover.
Don’t worry about breathing in the sanitiser mist as you have your own little, thin, silk mask on for Covid-19 prevention. The company does not provide masks. Never mind the mist settling on your mask, so that with every breath you are breathing in the fumes. But you don’t know this is happening and are far too busy to stop and consider the situation. Hey, you don’t know about the negative side effects of exposure to sanitiser anyway, so all is well.
Do this in nine different toilets, and don’t forget to spray sanitise three kitchens and all the touch points, hand rails, doors, door frames and surfaces in a three-story office block. As well as clean the floors. Personally, I like to add sanitiser to the mop water to ensure the eradication of all those nasty Covid-19 germs, unintentionally ensuring I get sanitiser all over myself, especially in my gloves. Oh, and don’t forget to empty the bins.
It’s a race, you only have 2.5 hours to complete your task. Ready, Set ….. Go!
If you have enjoyed this , please do like share and comment so that others can be warned too. I really appreciate your words.
Excerpt from ‘Lyndsey and the Drunk Cleaner in Lockdown’ by Alice Sanza
©ADSanza 2021 ASIN: B08Y93L8GT
©ADSanza 2021 ASIN: B08Y93L8GT
©ADSanza 2021 ASIN: B08Y93L8GT
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