Dust to Dust

I’ve been housekeeping for the old boy for 20 years, ever since his wife ran off with a lawnmower salesman. He’s always been very pleased with my work – and so he should be too, with the hours I put in cleaning up after him. Some of my friends teased me that I was in line to be the next Mrs Winthrop. Well, I don’t know about that, but I’ve certainly outlasted all the women who’ve tried to ensconce themselves at No. 41 so far.

This one, though, was different from the start; cunning and small-eyed. I could tell she would be a handful when he introduced me as his housekeeper. “Oh, Harold,” she’d laughed, touching him on the arm and not looking me in the eye, “What on earth do you need a housekeeper for? I’ll be taking care of you now we’re getting married.”

When they’d left the kitchen, I could hear a furious argument coming from the living room; he described me as ‘indispensible’ and she banged the front door shut behind her, muttering about there being more than one way to skin a cat.

She didn’t come back for a few weeks and I’d just about breathed a sigh of relief when Mr Winthrop sat me down and told me he was moving her in. “I hope you’ll be very happy together,” I told him through gritted teeth. He smiled like a fool.

Straightaway, this woman started on her cat-skinning. She was itching to catch me out and get me the boot. I couldn’t clean a window without her checking the glass intimately for smears, she hosted regular oven inspections and I once caught her examining the grouting in the bathroom at some length for mould.

She realised after a few months that she was on a wild goose chase and so she upped the ante and started setting me little challenges in the hope of a slip-up. My dusting was in the firing line first; apparently she’d been collecting fragile figurines that practically crumble into air if you so much as look at them for years (though they all looked brand new to me) and I had to clean them every day. A disappointing lack of breakages led her to install a fish tank prone to algae deposits and leaks, and several sets of fine bone china that wouldn’t go in the dishwasher. And then this.

It’s worth a fortune apparently and she gave it as a birthday gift to Mr Winthrop; a great big slice of rock with crystals in the middle. It was religiously inspected every day, what with being such a precious and sentimental gift – and it’s an absolute bugger to dust. I thought she’d got me at last – until I came up with dunking it in a bucket of water and blasting it with a hairdryer.

It became clear that we couldn’t possibly live under the same roof, the hellcat and I. But she proved utterly inept at trying to oust me and so I had to take matters into my own hands. That precious rock of hers turned out to be mighty handy, it’s so heavy it can give a very nasty blow to the head. As the lady herself might have said, there’s more than one way to skin a hellcat.

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Alex Jury

Alex Jury

Alex Jury is a retired cowgirl, now working as a copywriter in London. She loves working with words but misses all the lassoing.
Alex Jury

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