Flash fiction by Jessica Murphy
Prompt: from the point of view of a motel/hotel chambermaid
Blood and Guts and Five Dollar Bills
The motel I work at is a nice mom-and-pop operation in a small town.
So, no excitement, no pressure. Perfect. I don’t particularly like cleaning rooms, but I hate strolling by the river even more—those bloody noisy ducks—so, for exercise, I turn mattresses, and whatever
else needs doing on a daily basis. Keeps me fit. And attitudinal—is that a word? Anyway, it keeps me up on humanity, and all of its foibles.
Love that word—foibles.
I have my list for the day, prepared last night by Irene, my boss and friend. I am assigned my usual eight rooms. The first, Room 10, is a stayover. The guest is staying over tonight—hence the expression,
duh—and so no linen change, no fridge clearance, not much really. The average cleaning time for a stayover is ten minutes. In this job, I am under no time constraints but I still like to be professional. If they can do it in ten minutes in the big cities, I can do that here. And this
guest is a lady. I mean a capital L Lady. The bed is made, although I still have to give it the totally tucked in and flat maid-must-have-done-that look. Her clothes are hanging in the closet. The bathroom is immaculate. She even put her make-up and toiletries back in their bags, which are neatly aligned on the counter. And she left me five dollars. Yes, mine. She was courteous enough to place a post-it note on the bill, addressed to “Housekeeping”.
You know, when Canada went to loonies and toonies, the cleaning staff of hotels, from coast to coast, cheered silently. We didn’t want our glee to be perceived as greed. But we knew that a lot of guests do not like to leave coins. It looks so….well, cheap, as though you cleaned out your pockets, and this is what appeared. So, nice guests, who want us to feel properly appreciated and thanked, now have to leave a fiver.
Perfect. And we can get away with advising the taxman at the CRA that our average tip is still only one dollar. Anyway, I spend more time than necessary, dusting everything and making sure that bathroom is beyond sparkling, because I like this person. And I am still within my self-imposed ten minutes. Then I move to Room 12. From my list this is a new rental so a full clean out. Could be anywhere from thirty to forty-five minutes, depending. Yeah, you guessed it. Depending on what the last guests did. There is no “Maid Service Please” sign on the door knob, so I knock. It is past check-out time, but you still knock. “Housekeeping,” I yell out cheerfully.
Knock one more time, then use my pass key, and enter. If there had been anyone else there to revive me, I would have fainted. My first step into that room chilled me. Started me shaking. And got my heart rate up above what is probably healthy for someone my age. I hate the sight of blood. And in Room 12, I could not avoid it. There was a thick trail of red gore leading across the carpet into the bathroom. The mattress was off the bed, the sheets pulled partly off, and again, covered with congealed blood. A handprint—a red handprint—was on one wall, and it was smeared downwards, as though someone had failed at his attempt to stay standing. Lamps were toppled, glasses were smashed, couch cushions thrown about. I don’t really mind broken glasses, I remember thinking, accidents happen.
But this was a crime scene, obviously. I knew not to touch anything. I made no attempt to open the bathroom door. Hitchcock’s shower scene from Psycho is too deeply implanted in my mind’s eye. I didn’t
want to see something that might give me new nightmares. So I stood in the room’s entryway, and with my hands shaking, pulled out my cell phone.
Before I could call 9-1-1 the phone played the opening bars of God Save The Queen, my ring tone for Irene’s number.
“Hello,” I said. My voice is quivering.
“Hi, Liv. It’s me.”
It was Irene.
“I meant to call you earlier. Hope you haven’t got to unit 12 yet. Our daughter’s theatre class was using it as a set for some film project, yesterday. And apparently didn’t finish.” With a hint of irritation she continued. “As she has just now informed me. They need it left as is.”
I stepped back into the hallway, and closed the room door.
“You still there, Liv?” Then she sighed. “I take it they left a real mess. You know how kids are. But I’ll make sure they clean it up. Apparently everything is just theatre goo; it’s all washable, she said, but that it would frighten anyone. I’m glad I haven’t seen it. So skip Room 12,
okay?” “Sure thing,” I manage to say.
Then I smile.
Not a bad day really. I was now up twenty-nine minutes, one from Room 10 and now twenty-eight more from Room 12. And my tips are still above average. I cheerfully move onto Room 14, and not for the first time, wish the rooms here included mini-bars, which would mean my cart carried a stock of small–but very strong– drinks.