She plunked the scrub brush back into the filthy bucket of water that still reeked of bleach with undercurrents of, what was it? Mouse? Mouse poop? Something vile and disgusting. She’d swept her hair back into a tight ponytail, but a wisp had escaped and now fell over her brow, just a solitary ebony strand that she brushed away from her eye with the back of her hand. A single bead of sweat followed the shallow valley in the middle of her back, first gathering momentum between her shoulder blades but then losing substance as it rolled down, down, down, before it finally disappeared into the soft, hollow spot just above her buttocks. It made her shudder a little.
Glancing out a window at the stale afternoon light, she wondered how long she’d been stooped to this thankless task. You couldn’t even see the fruits of her labor, she thought: the damned linoleum was so yellowed and worn that no amount of scrubbing could ever restore it. The only purpose of this toil, then, she told herself, was the satisfaction of knowing the floor beneath her bare feet had been scrubbed to a fare-thee-well. And liberated of all the mouse excreta, there was that. The hell with it. She’d had enough for one day. She peeled off her rubber gloves and carefully doubled them over the side of the bucket. The old tap at the kitchen sink was encrusted with mineral deposits, probably the same minerals that had destroyed the heating elements in the water heater, she mused. Washing her hands under the ugly glare of the single fluorescent tube, and shaking them dry, she grabbed a beer from the fridge and offered up a silent prayer of gratitude for the new water heater in the basement.
Outside the air felt cooler and smelled so fragrant. There was not much to see in this scrappy little yard until you walked around the side of the house and headed down a slight incline toward the back. And there was the prize, unfolding before you: two glorious acres of jonquils! Cheerful yellow daffodils marching from the top of this forlorn little bluff and down to the river in obedient rows, like sunny little platoons. A late-day breeze swept up the hillside and made the flowers dance crazily. So many flowers! How long had it taken laborers to put in these bulbs, she wondered? But wait: didn’t bulbs split? She wasn’t absolutely certain, but visualized a schematic of a cell dividing, an illustration from a leaflet her mom had given her as a child explaining where babies came from. Little bulbs splitting apart in the earth, she decided, making new baby daffodils. After nightfall she’d walk down the hill towards the river and marvel at the full moon in the sky, and the light—so luminous would be the moon’s glow as reflected in this magnificent field of flowers that one could read the pages of a book by it. That would finally be the thing, the moon and all those flowers, to make her reconsider this looming decision.