This story is for a challenge on the Terrible Minds website: a 1,000 word flash fiction that begins with a dead body.
A long time ago she gave me a key so I could let myself in, so she wouldn’t have to get up and come to the door and maybe miss part of one of her programs.
Usually when I got there the first thing she wanted was a cup of coffee. I got the pot off the counter, opened up the cabinet, pulled down a can of Folgers and a filter. While it was brewing I sat down at the table to think, wondering what I ought to do. It was the first of the month. Her check came on the third and that’s when she always paid me. I was two days away from payday. She owed me for a whole dam month, and now she was dead.
She spent most all of her time in front of that big TV and that’s where she ate all her meals. Now she was stretched out in the recliner, head throwed back, mouth open. I knew she was dead right away. Dead people get that gray slack faced look real fast. I’d seen more than one corpse back when I was cleaning every day at the hospital.
I figured she passed on natural like. It wasn’t totally unexpected, she was old, at least eighty. If it was any of my other ladies, I would be on the phone right away to let the family know. Someone would come and take over, even pay me for the month. But she didn’t have any family. She was a spinster lady, worked in some kind of an office in her day. There had been a brother, he was the one that hired me. But he was already dead. I took her to the funeral home to make the arrangements.
That’s how alone she was.
Who would get that check, now? Who would let the bank or retirement fund or whatever know she was dead so they would stop sending it? No family..
While I was thinking I started doing the stuff I always did on Monday. I washed up the plate and other dishes from her Friday supper and put them away. I had another cup of coffee and used up all the half-and half in the fridge, telling myself I’d have to get more on Wednesday. But then I remembered – I won’t be here on Wednesday. This was my last day here.
I got the vacuum cleaner out and started in the bedroom like I always did, cleaned the bathroom and put out fresh towels. Then I moved on into the family room with the vac and plugged it in. Usually, when I did this I had to wait until a commercial and ask if it was alright. She didn’t want me startin’ up the vac in the middle of Bold and the beautiful or even Price is Right.
But, of course, she wouldn’t complain today. After a couple of minutes it occurred to me that I could even turn the television off if I wanted to. So I walked over to her chair looking for the remote. She had it in her hand, of course, her skinny fingers still curled around it where her hand lay in her lap. She wasn’t stiff, though, so I just pulled it away from her and clicked it off. My goodness, it was quiet all of a sudden. I dropped the remote back in her lap and started the cleaner again. I did the whole room, working my way around the recliner. When I got up to it, I didn’t know what to do. The room would never look clean, or smell clean, with her sitting there like that.
But where could I put her? I couldn’t very well ask her if she wanted to take a nice bath like she did sometimes while I was there. Or see if she’d like to sit in the kitchen and watch the little TV in there. No. That wouldn’t do.
There was the basement, though. There was lots of room down there.
I got a blanket out of the closet. It was soft pale pink one that she was real fond of. I spread it out on the floor by the recliner. It might have been awkward, picking her up, but I had picked her up out of that chair before when she was feeling poorly. She didn’t hardly weigh any more’n a flea. So I gathered her up and laid her down on that pink blanket. She was wearing her powder blue sweat pants and a flowered t-shirt I helped her put on Friday. That blue outfit and the pink blanket put me in mind of a baby almost, and I wrapped the blanket around her real gentle, just like she was a baby.
I picked her up and sort of slung her over my shoulder, not too lady like, but if I kept thinking of her as a big baby to carry it wasn’t so bad. I went down the steps to the basement, not knowin’ what I would do with her when I got there. I didn’t think about that big old chest freezer until I saw it standing there against the far wall. It even had a lock, the key was hanging on the nail next to it. I flipped the lid up, laid her down in there just as gentle as I could, and started to close the lid. Then I noticed the bucket of Central Dairy butter pecan she had me buy last week. I pushed her blanket wrapped legs aside and pulled the bucket out, then gently closed the lid. I plucked the key down off the wall and turned the lock.
I do love ice cream. Especially butter pecan.