STORYGLOSSIA    Issue 33    April 2009


Toy Box


by Cortney McLellan



Six months gone, and there I was cleaning houses. Whenever I bent over to get at socks or hairweevils, the baby crushed the air out of me. Sometimes I could put my feet on a table and rest. But usually the people were home, guarding their necklaces and stereos, making sure I used bleach in the bathrooms. Some loved watching, eyes hard as if they were grading a test. I sighed louder for them. A big, fat merry maid, I was.

The day I got stuck with the Gibber house, life was sucking from all sides. Ever since Matt got cut from the road crew he wouldn't even look at me. He just holed up in our room, hunched over the laptop. Said he was searching for a job. But pop-ups for Big Titty Latinas started covering the screen whenever I checked my email. So I was pissed when I pulled up to the Gibber's house. It was huge, and I was tired. The order sheet said Full Clean, but gave me only one hour. You could full clean my house in an hour, but not that mansion. The grass was long and weedy, so right away I was afraid of the inside.

When the man, Drew, opened the door, he looked at me as if I'd been sent by the government. He pointed to some empty boxes in the living room and said please be done by two o'clock. Then he disappeared, so I broke down those boxes and started spraying my cleaner all over the place. Five minutes later Drew was back, yelling what on earth was I doing, can't I follow directions? It's funny, without thinking, I stuck my belly out, as if the baby would make him chill, and said, "Just cleaning, sir." It must've worked because he said, "Sorry. Didn't they tell you about this job?"

There were toys all over, on the fireplace and bookshelves and table. Fire trucks, cabin logs, army men. I didn't notice how neat everything was until Drew pointed to them. How no way had some kid put them away. Then Drew took me upstairs, to a blue room, and said he wanted it emptied before his wife came back at two. He said take it home for my baby, for all he cared, just get it the hell out. Don't clean, he said, just pack it up, even the clothes. I wanted to say we weren't a moving service, but a maid one. But mostly I wanted to be done, so I started filling the boxes.

I tried to be neat at first. I folded a dinosaur blanket and put it in a box along with a rocketship pillow. There were matching T-rex sheets, and I put those in there too. The clothes had grass stains or holes in the knees, but I folded them nice anyway, and packed them away. Then Drew came in and said hurry please, she'd be home soon. I didn't ask. The vibe was too weird. So I threw the balls and animal books and stuffed race cars into boxes, and Drew took the full boxes out to the service van.

When she got home, I was wrapping a picture of their boy. She yelled from the living room, and Drew just mumbled. In the picture the boy was about four, curly brown hair sticking up all over, and holding a fish. He looked happy. I didn't want to think of where he was, so I wrapped the frame fast and put it in the stuffie box.

"What the hell?" the woman screamed when she came into the room. She honed right in on that picture, pulled it out of the box and unwrapped it. "Get out," she yelled to me. Then to Drew, "He's coming back, they'll find him, and what will this do to him?"

"I can't live with these things anymore," he said. Snot was running from his nose, and his eyes were red. It's hard to see a man that way. He tried to hug his wife, but she elbowed him hard and held the picture of their boy up, right in his face.

When he wouldn't look, she turned to me, eyes evil and jaw all squinched up. She grabbed my arm and I thought she was going to hit my stomach, the way I've heard some crazy people do, but she just shook me and asked, "Where's Colin's stuff, where's Colin?"

Drew pulled her away from me. He said there were pictures in the albums, baby clothes in the basement, but this stuff had to go. He shoved a hundred-dollar bill in my hand and said take the last box and leave. With her there I couldn't take that last box, but I took the money.

Those things, the boy's toys and clothes, they were cursed. I knew that. So after two more jobs, I headed straight to the Goodwill and let the men there unload the boxes. I could hear Matt moaning about getting rid of free stuff, but still, I wasn't going to let my baby touch any of it.



Copyright©2009 Cortney McLellan


Cortney McLellan writes from Anchorage, Alaska. Her stories have appeared, or are forthcoming, in cream city review, Mud Luscious, and Dogzplot. She studied writing at the University of Michigan.