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The Cleaner Chapter 2

Tyron is a short Italian man but is a monster of muscle from his stanchion legs to his thick shoulders and bulging arms. He has a thick grey moustache and black eyes that always look angry. I have never seen him smile. A white scar runs around the base of his chin giving the illusion that someone had unsuccessfully tried to slash his throat.

Whats up? I say. My voice quivers.

The girls complain. Their vulvas you know.

Eh? No, I don’t know any of their vulvas. Maybe he means cars?

He must be drinking.

They are sore after pole dance last night. Not good for late night business. You know what I mean. Bad pussy not good for my income.

The poles. Oh shit.

What you been cleaning them with?

His dark eyes narrow and he clenches his fingers into large red fists.

I feel my face colour up.

Um..ah..just the usual stainless steel polish.

He takes a step closer. He’s been eating garlic. Lots of it.

The poles had been real smeary yesterday so I had added a bit of bleach to the polish to help clean them faster. I might have to cross that hack out.

Well you make sure to buy new polish or it will be more than sore pussy around here.

I swear he’s going to head butt me, but quickly turns and stalks off. Stamp, stamp.

Close encounter of the Italian kind.

I get back to the vacuuming with my reliable Pacvac. I have a wide head on the end so I can get around fast. More fast more dollars as Aroha reminds me. She thinks I daydream too much.

I’m on the stage and give a wiggle, a jiggle, a hip thrust and a pelvic tilt.

Oh bravo, calls out a girl's voice.

It’s Angel, one of the bar girls. A lovely lass. I don’t think her real name is Angel. She’s more of a Beth or an Abby. She has sparkles in her red hair which catch the down lights making her locks look alive.

I do a couple more thrusts revealing my hidden talent.

I heard you caused some issues for our dancers.

She laughs teasingly.

No not me. Simply the last thing I would do.

I shine the poles just using detergent. Mild. My reputation at stake.

My phone rings. Oh shit. That number I didn’t call back. I let it ring out, playing a Beatles tune.

I don’t feel like coping with enragement right now.

I finish off mopping the floor of the bar. Angel vanishes out the back. She knows about me and my mop.

My phone goes off again. It’s Aroha.

Yep, what’s up?

Cal I need to see you tonight.

I’ve been up since 5, my first job at 6am and now it’s 6pm and have even forgotten lunch. All I want to do is sleep.

She must sense my hesitation. 

It’s important. I want you to meet someone.

She has such a nice voice. I wish she was my girlfriend again. She had kicked me into touch as yes, she said I daydreamed too much and was unmotivated except for sex and alcohol. Well I also clean I remonstrated. But, she said that’s just a means to an end, ie sex and alcohol. Women expected way too much from men these days.

I guess. 

Sounding reluctant.

Aroha does not notice. She is not a study of voice inflection.

Be here by seven then?

Only if you feed me, I negotiate.

No probs. I’ll order chinese.

Just like being at moms.

I muscle my way back to the car as all the insane are now leaving work after drinkies and hitting the town. My dying Ford is full of cleaning paraphernalia. Some I haven’t used for years. Like the second hand floor polisher I picked up at a garage sale. A bargain the garage owner told me. He had been cleaning for thirty years. Turns out the motor was burnt out and I was ‘still’ taking it in to be fixed. The traffic is glue. Half an hour to get over the bridge and another half to Aroha’s. Thank god I smoke weed to calm myself down.

She has a top flat in a block of ten. The car park is full of beat up cars, overfilled jumbo bins, car parts, wrecked strollers, scrambled drying racks, needles,(not knitting) litter and broken beer bottles. Everyone drinks here. Heavily. Must have been the landlords requirement. The old guy next to Aroha likes to try and land his empties down below in his open jumbo bin. The fact that he is ninety percent blind does not put him off. I have cleaned his flat. Just once. I can’t describe the horror of it.

I park out on the road. No one steals cleaning gear. Work allergy.

There’s a flash black Merc parked beside Aroha’s little Honda Civic. I sense trouble like a mighty lion smelling a lone wildebeest. Gross exaggeration, but who cares, I’m high.

I skirt around the debris and clamber up the moss slippery steps. Aroha is number 9, though the number has a screw missing and has flopped to number 6. The resident at number 6 often complains at this clearly hostile number takeover but Aroha is yet to sort it.

I don’t knock like I belong there and barge in.

The place pongs of incense and pot. I step through the cluttered kitchen into the condensed living room.

Sturdy Aroha is sitting on the homemade sofa smoking a ragged joint. Her youthful and pretty Maori face smiles welcomingly, almost in relief. She has long eyelashes stuck on, a ring through her nose, rich lip gloss, short cropped hair (so it doesn’t swish around toilet bowls) and a tattoo on her chin. She looks gorgeous. 

Opposite her sitting on a cable reel, such is the meagre income of a cleaner, is a nervous looking Indian bloke. Seems about mid forties, greying temples, thinning and receding hair and a ferret face. He has a pathetic moustache growing which looks more like a retired caterpillar. 

He stands and proffers his hand. He is very tall and as he unwinds to full height.

This is Mr Patel, says Aroha.

We shake.

Call me Moz, he says.

Short for mosquito? I quip.

He politely laughs.

Call me Cal, I say.

Short for callisthenics? He requips.

Okay we’ve got a smart arse here.

Aroha titters. 

What Mr Patel is really saying is that he is not going to be bullied by a young charger such as I. Fair enough.

I wonder why he is here.

Aroha says. I guess you're wondering why Moz is here.

I sit on the floor as that is the remaining option. Aroha passes me her joint.

Not at all, I just presumed you felt somewhat eastern.

Moz Patel I can already sense does not like my humour.

His brown eyes are inscrutable.

I have a business idea for you to consider, he says.

He magically slides a gold cigarette case out of thin air and extracts a fag that has a filter half the length of it.

Let me tell you so.