So, it goes something like this:

Mackenzie is a self-employed cleaner. Her mantra is top to bottom, right to left. The handbag she carries her cleaning products in is made from one of her old felt sweaters sewed together with bright-coloured buttons. She has been cleaning houses for, oh, ten years now. Usually when she cleans a house the client will ignore her, make chit-chat or leave for a while. In this case her client, Sir Tomás, is dead. She doesn’t mind as long as she keeps getting paid.

“Good afternoon, Mister,” says Mackenzie, nodding at the skeleton on the suede couch. The couch looks dusty — she’ll need to clean that later.

Her routine begins in the bathroom and kitchen, or the ‘wet rooms’. Mackenzie squirts Extreme Green Toilet Bowl Cleaning Gel in the toilet and lets it settle while she moves on to the other tasks: dusting the light fixtures, baseboards and cabinet fronts; spraying the counters, tub and sinks with Ajax; sweeping the floor with Long Life Mop & Glo. Mackenzie never uses the same rag to clean both the bathroom and kitchen, no, skeleton or not, you never want to poison the client with Escherichia coli.

The ‘dry’ rooms (living, dining and bed) come next. Here it’s about dusting furniture, picture frames, changing the bed sheets. Some occasional spilt milk, but nothing to cry over. While dusting the fluffy handcuffs on Sir Tomás’s bed, Mackenzie has an asthma attack — a minor one. Her preventative medication Flovent only works for a certain amount of time, so she whips out her Ventolin Aerosol, inhales, and goes right on cleaning.

What a gal.

“Excuse me,” she says, threading her Quickie Flexible Static Duster through Sir Tomás’s ribcage. After finishing with the couch she collects her pay from the coffee table and leaves.

The next day she returns to find Sir Tomás, still dead, slumped over the kitchen table holding a Coca-Cola. He’s wearing sandals even though it’s winter. She finds this odd but says nothing. Her pay is on the coffee table again — with a thank-you note and a bonus tip.

Mackenzie smiles.

This unexplainable movement continues for the rest of the week. Skeleton lying on the mattress. Skeleton sitting on the toilet. Skeleton taking an invisible shower. Skeleton making a sandwich. Skeleton reading the instructive book: How to Make HER Notice You. The tips get larger. The thank-you notes nicer, more flattering.

Then it all stops. Sir Tomás is lying on the living room floor, bony hands reaching for his throat. There’s dust everywhere. There’s no money, no tip. Half a note.

“Erm…” She reads the note.

Help, it says.

Mackenzie coughs. She coughs again. She feels through her handbag and realises she forgot to bring the Ventolin. Airways constrict. Dizziness. Bright lights appear.

“Help,” she chokes.

She topples over with hands on throat. Cut to black. Top to bottom, right to left. She reaches out to grasp Sir Tomás’s collarbone. Yes.

Together at last.

T. Donlon serves his flash fiction (@CaptainEmbro) entrée first, followed by daily novel updates with a side of interrobang. His current project involves an optimistic taste of apocalypse, on the house. Here: have some hydrogen isotope dessert.

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