The Cleaner came first in the Short Story Category of the Scribe Writers ‘Short Takes’ Literary Awards in 2018. It was my first story to win an external prize and I hold it dear to my heart.
The cleaner is a quirky short story that has all the elements I love – humour, a hint of darkness, sexy times (but only a little), a twist and characters you can’t help by love (or I can’t).
“Fuck, man. It’s one am!”
“Yeah. I know. That’s why I’m callin’. I got a slight problem.”
My eyes track the shadows from the bedside lamp as they crawl across the bronzed body of the girl lying next to me. A body I’m planning to do my own crawling over in the coming hours. I roll my eyes at the ceiling. This had better be good. “Please don’t tell me you need me to come pick you up again?” There’s a pause. Nothing but the crackling of a bad line. “Davo, you still there? C’mon mate.”
“I just need to borrow your car. I’ve got a body to get rid of.”
“What?” I can’t have heard him right. I turn to face away from the girl and whisper into the phone. “Did you say body?”
“Yeah. Aren’t you listenin’? I told you I was gonna off that loser landlord of mine if he tried anythin’ funny again.”
The rustle of sheets distracts me. I twist to see the girl getting out of bed and slipping into the little red dress she’d been wearing at the pub I picked her up at. Fucking Davo. I’d kill him for this, except… then I’d have two bodies to get rid of. She blows me a kiss and slips out the door faster than a rabbit at the greyhound track. I clench the phone to my ear. “What the hell were you thinking, you moron? You can’t go around just killing people.”
“Look, I haven’t got time for one of your lectures. Are you gonna help me or not?”
I can’t say no. We’re practically brothers, having known each other since before our mothers couldn’t stand the sight of us, which is pretty much since we started to walk. He was, and still is, a magnet for predators with his curly blonde locks and girly blue eyes. I was and still am a magnet for the wrong side of the law. Back then I would take defending his honour into my own hands. I got into my first schoolyard fight after some little tosser called Davo a pansy. I threw that loser into a tree, breaking both his arms. Got expelled for my efforts. My first bar fight didn’t end any better. Some meathead said something about Davo’s arse which saw me with my fist through his face and the beginning of a brawl that landed me in gaol. Got five years for that. Well, not just for the fist in the meathead’s face. Could also have something to do with the knife I slipped through his ribs.
We went our separate ways soon after but every now and then we still catch up, usually when Davo has a tiff with his friends and has no lift home, or is short a few bucks. But this… this is not something I saw coming. I didn’t think he had it in him.
“Frank, Frankie. Are you helpin’ me or not?”
Davo is starting to get whiney. Sounds like he might have had some help from Mr Jim Beam in offing his landlord. “Of course I’m with you mate. Just one question.”
“Sure man, anythin’.”
“Is there much blood?”
I hear Davo’s breathing get heavier, a few grunts and then a thump. “Ah… Yep, there’s a little bit.”
Mmm… A little bit, with Davo, probably means the floor, walls and ceiling are covered in it. “So, how did you kill him?”
“With a kitchen knife. The one I use for carving up the ham.”
“Okay. Good. No more ham at Davo’s. And… is he dead in your kitchen?”
“Great.” That makes clean up easier. “Don’t touch anything. I’ll be there shortly.”
“You’re a lifesaver, man.”
“Yeah, yeah. Just sit tight. I’ll be there in five.”
I pull on my work gear. Black cargo pants, black t-shirt and boots. Opening my top drawer I slip a knife into my front pocket, another one into the sleeve at my ankle and a 9mm Glock into my back pocket. My hand hovers over a roll of duct tape and I think about the girl. Shame. I had such plans for her. Damn Davo. I leave it. Everything I need for the job is in the car. A roll of black plastic, metal chains and iron weights to make sure what is wrapped in the plastic stays buried at the bottom of the river. It was only last night that I did an urgent disposal job. Lucky for Davo I’m in a perfect position, as cleaner for the local mob, to help him with his little problem.
© Karen Lieversz 2018