Today’s storytime is a departure from my usual far-fetched tales of fantasy and speculative fiction. This is a tragic, gritty, realistic microfiction that has nagged at me these past few weeks demanding to be written, and so I hope I did it justice. Thank you for taking the time to read it. I’m eager to read your reactions to this piece. Happy Sunday!
Her grip on the toilet brush faltered and the bristles fell into the commode. She could hear her husband, Angel (an-hel), whistling in the living room, no doubt finishing the dusting before he vacuumed. Their last house of the day, but Leti didn’t have the strength to swish the final toilet.
Instead, she placed her head on the cool, clean rim, and told herself it was okay to rest, take a tiny break.
“Leti, Leti,” Angel gently shook his wife, a heap of arms and legs on the bathroom tiles. He pressed his ear to her mouth. Warm breath hit his lobe. She was breathing; thank God she was breathing. Checking her pulse, he noticed the tub and sink were scrubbed, the fixtures wiped clean, gleaming like the grill of the Mercedes parked out front. The tip of the well-worn toilet brush barely visible above a spotless rim.
Angel whispered into his wife’s ear. “Leti, my love, wake up. Please.” They’d lose this job if they were in the house when the owners returned, these being the kind of people who preferred their hired help efficient and invisible. But Leti didn’t stir. Every day she grew weaker. She wouldn’t let on but he’d seen her energy fall off like a shelf break after a shallow. Dropped her fork at dinner last night, barely able to hold her own utensil. Now this.
They’d paid for the tests. Even taken time off; but in the cleaning business, there’s no way to stop working. Besides, the answers had been vague. Possible autoimmune. Possible long-term Covid. Possible spider bite, but nothing certain. That is, until the voicemail last week.
Leti had carried on as best she could, but cleaning was demanding. She didn’t have the stamina anymore to make it to the end of the day. How would he tell her what the doctor’s message said?
Angel fanned Leti’s face. He couldn’t do this without her. Any of it. Leti was all.
Finally, her eyelids fluttered. Overjoyed, Angel scattered kisses across her face and neck.
“I was there, Angel. I saw it.”
“Saw what, Leti?”
As if awakening from a spell, she picked up where she left off, squirting blue cleaner into the bowl and swirling.
“Heaven. There’s deep blue sky, and light, a ball of it. You dance with it on the clouds.”
There were bubbles in the blue liquid of the bowl. Was that what heaven was like? Angel wondered.
“That’s nice, Leti,” he said, but he was nowhere near ready to let her go.
“Don’t worry, dear. They told me there’s more to do. That I needed to return.” Angel gave his wife one more kiss.
“I’m not sure how to tell you this, but your wife’s results came back yesterday. She has ALS. Call to schedule a meeting so we can discuss treatment options.” That’s what the voicemail had said.
How could he tell her she’d have to go through hell to get back to heaven?
“We’re all finished here. Let me cut the lights.”
“Thanks, my Angel. I know I’ll get my strength back soon.” She blew him a kiss and continued to scrub.
Angel went room to room, reviewing their work. Most of the lights were remote-activated. It was the kind of house he’d imagined him and Leti owning one day. Before the illness.
He paused to wipe the dust on a petrified sculpture of Adonis, the lad smiled as he reclined away the afternoon on a fallen log, and Angel wondered if he had the strength to watch his wife undergo the same fate.
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