Personal Assistant Needed

 This story is part of the Haibun Challenge    


“All I need you to do today is vacuum the living room,” my prospective employer says, “perhaps a bit of dusting.” When I walk into her living room, there’s an old-fashioned gas lawnmower covered with one of those French Maid doll covers, complete with a cloth-stuffed broom.

personal assistant needed
for elderly woman
independent living

I uncover the lawnmower, set the French Maid doll on the sofa, arranging her skirts around her while my prospective employer watches. “Her name is Mary,” my employer offers, and I reply, “Nice to meet you, Mary,” with my most engaging smile.

tufts of brown carpet
scatter throughout the room
acrid scent

“Perhaps you’ll sweep the kitchen, too? There’s a dear.” My prospective employer points to the broom closet, where assorted rakes rest against cans of gas. There’s a rag bin, too, overflowing with evening dresses, a cashmere sweater, wool pants, and silk shirts, their pearlescent buttons hanging by thin threads.

blue-green tiles
glisten beneath the skylight
scraping sound

“I think you will work out splendidly,” the woman says. “Can you come tomorrow, dear?” She hands me a jar of peanut butter, chunky, and a bottled water. “Of course,” I say, making sure she locks the door behind me, promising to be there at 11:00am.

evening walk
how my spine
tingles

When I arrive the next day, there is another woman in the house, a much younger woman, and yet there is definitely a resemblance between the two. “You passed my first test, dear, and now I have something special for you to do.”

dark hallway
at the end
a locked door

The woman reaches into a pocket, pulls out a misshapen key, unlocks the door. The room is filled with mirrors, some hanging, some leaning against the walls, covered with sheets and decorative cloth. There’s a single chair in the middle of the room in which the woman sits.

“Would you like me to clean these mirrors?” I ask, to which she just shakes her head.

“Just one. Choose one,” she replies, and so I do.

a hand reaches through
the rippling surface
I take it and step through

  • Ron Sparks

    Lovely – I was wondering where this was going until the very end. I liked the blend of the mundane and surreal throughout the entire thing. How did you come up with this idea?

  • tlrelf

    You know how sometimes people will say one word or two and they mean another? Well, a friend said lawnmower instead of vacuum – and voila! I didn’t know where I was going to go with this until I got there. . .I did want to do something surreal or magical realism, something with a twist. I was working on another story about stepping through a mirror and then thought, hmmm. . .that could work here instead. Love the photo, Ron!

    • Ron Sparks

      I thoroughly enjoyed this. I want to see more like it. 🙂

      • tlrelf

        Thank you, Ron.

  • PatrickW

    Nice atmosphere – the story sucked me in right away and kept me throughout!