Ella was glad to come on her annual visit to house-sit for her son while he and his family took their two-week summer holiday and she was looking forward to it. She had arrived a few days before so as to give her time to spend with her two grandchildren, Tom, aged six and Helen, aged nine but after a few days, she was exhausted. It was the untidiness of family life that got to her. Now, after waving good-bye as they drove off, she shut the front door firmly and leaned back against it.
Signs of a hasty departure met her gaze and she wandered into the kitchen. She needed a cup of tea. Taking it into the lounge, as she passed the sideboard, she automatically ran her finger along the top, then, inspecting the tip and wrinkling her nose, she grunted, “Ugh, dust.” It was always the same. Every time she visited, she wanted to clean the house from top to bottom. It wasn’t really dirty, she had to admit, but it wasn’t spotless. She liked ‘spotless’. That’s the way she had been brought up and that was the way she had kept her house all of her married life. ‘A place for everything and everything in its place.’ It had driven her late husband mad. He was a patient man but one day, he grabbed the cleaner, wrenched the dust bag open and tipped the offending dirt out on to the middle of the lounge carpet, saying “There, there’s a bit you’ve missed.” With that, his paper tucked under his arm, he retired to the potting shed. Helen was dumbstruck but put his uncharacteristic behaviour down to a mid-life crisis and proceeded to clear up the mess.
Nowadays, no dust had the nerve to settle in her house. Everywhere shone to sparkle, even the empty milk bottles that used to sit on the doorstep, had glinted like cut-glass. The milkman no longer called and she was deprived of polishing the bottles to perfection as milk was now in plastic bottles from the supermarket. She hated plastic. You couldn’t get a shine on it.
During the first week, she scrubbed and cleaned and sorted to her heart’s content. She washed the curtains and re-hung them, tidied the cupboards and generally spent a happy and rewarding week. Then she started on the garden. It seemed that all the weeds shrivelled and the snails and slugs ran for cover the minute she stepped out of the back door.
On the Wednesday of the second week, she decided she had done all she could and feeling a bit tired, after all she wasn’t as young as she used to be, needed an early night. She fell asleep almost at once and slept the sleep of the true workaholic.
In the early hours, she was woken by the sound of a terrible crash. She was in the back bedroom and struggling out of bed, donning her dressing gown and slippers, she opened her bedroom door to find that lights were shining into the hall from outside. The front door’s open, she thought, then glancing towards the lounge she realized that the dividing wall between the hall and the lounge was no longer there. In its place was the nose of a large truck, gently smoking and exuding petrol fumes. Staring at her through the windscreen was the startled face of the driver. She promptly fainted. When she came to, she was being carried down the stairs on a stretcher. Descending, she automatically ran her drooping hand along the banister and grumbled weakly through the oxygen mask, “Ugh..dust.”
She was suddenly struck by an agonizing pain in her chest and promptly passed out again.
A couple of weeks later, the vicar, standing by her newly dug grave, was befittingly and reverently intoning “Dust to Dust…
© Marion Sharville