Cleaned The Dirty Clean…
By Gloria Faye Brown Bates/aka Granny Gee
Scrub, scrub, scrub. The little hand took the butter knife, stuck it in the corner to pry matter that had accumulated there… out. It must have been there for a million years… it didn’t let go easily.
The little hand pushed, pried…put the knife underneath the black, hard dirt. She began stabbing the knife at it… the ‘damn’ mess was going to come out.
‘Damn’! The little girl thought that word often. She’d learn it prior to coming here… to Hell; being thrown into Hell. In fact, she’d learn this one word while visiting… here… in Hell.
She was trapped in Hell, now. Only… she didn’t know she was trapped… she didn’t know it… yet. She was just a little girl… her eyes hadn’t even begun to open …
She didn’t know a lot of things… yet. She did know she said the word ‘damn’ more often… out of fear, pain. She was in a scary world like she’d never known. She didn’t know it, but… ‘it was fixing to get worse’.
Mama had tried to wash that word out of her mouth with Ivory soap… she didn’t know that Faye had hidden it… so, it wouldn’t be found. Now… she used that word whenever she wanted to say it.
‘Damn’ was her word… her mama had almost ‘killed’ her, choking her on the white, Ivory soap bubbles. Her throat had burned from the stinging, soapy water as some went down her throat. Coughing, gagging, crying as she struggled to get away. Her mama had held her until she thought, she’d ‘cleaned the dirty’ out of her mouth.
Grandma Alma was wishing the kitchen floor was clean. The floor had white tiles. Faye didn’t say anything as she listened to Grandma Alma… she walked to the kitchen door, looked down.
Grandma Alma couldn’t clean the kitchen floor. But… she used to keep her floors clean. She was saying so, in the background as Faye stood there. Grandma Alma had tears in her eyes… that’s what reached out, touched Faye.
Tears… tears that meant pain from something. Grandma Alma couldn’t walk anymore… she was paralyzed. Faye didn’t understand exactly, wasn’t old enough to understand how horrible it was to have a stroke, wake up from a coma, paralyzed.
The one thing Faye was learning in her young life was… tears meant something was wrong. Pain. When she cried… it was the end of the world, until it was alright again.
She decided she would try to clean Grandma Alma’s kitchen floor. She was just a little girl… she’d seen how it was done… Faye was the sort of little girl who watched, learned… then, she’d do the best she could.
Sometimes, it wasn’t the best… but, it didn’t seem to be the worst, either. She always learned the hard way… doing it wrong until it was right. Learning the hard way was bad… she kept on …until she learned right.
Sometimes, when she heard someone wish something… if at all in her little girl power… she’d try to do without saying anything… then, call someone to look, so… they’d be surprised; happy.
Truthfully, sometimes, the surprise would be on her… someone wouldn’t care at all… it made no difference. What she went to such trouble to do, just wasn’t appreciated at all. She’d just hold her little head down in disappointment, go her way. No one would know how hard she’d tried… to please… them.
Finally, the mess loosened, let go. The little hand took an old rag, wiped it away. She got up, went to the trash can, shook the hardened, black material in. She’d heard her mama say, ‘if you are going to clean something, then… clean it good’.
She had a bucket full of very warm water, sudsy water. The scent from the water was… CLEAN. Lots of stuff was in the water to make it smell good… a lot… was needed.
The little girl had been taught to mix Clorox, Pine Sol and whatever else was needed… into the cleaning water. Never mind one should never do that. This little girl didn’t know the difference. She just remembered… watching. She did the best she knew how.
One thing this little girl, and her first cousins who were around the same age, knew how to do… was to try to clean the dirty clean.
They were taught, made to do it. Each would grow up to be a good housekeeper… dirty things would drive each… crazy, until it was scrubbed clean… until the dirty was clean.
In Hell, things were very dirty… as each person came through there, it was up to them to… clean the dirty… if anyone ever did. It looked like no one… ever did. Maybe because many were small children who had no concept of how to clean the dirty.
The only difference was… now… her dresses were worn, not the cleanest, old. Her clothes was washed by … a blind man. George.
He was the only grandfather she ever knew… she loved him. He was loud; as loud as his voice was, his hand was just as gentle to a little child. She loved George. She loved George, and Grandma Alma. She didn’t know they didn’t have anything; were poor; lived in Hell. Everything in her young mind… ‘just was’.
George cleaned all the time. He washed dishes. George cooked, made biscuits, baked. He made coffee in the percolator. George used an old wringer-type washing machine to wash clothes… run the clothes through the wringer, piece by piece. He’d rinse them the same way; gather them up in a basket, go to the clothesline outside, hang them up. He would put clothes pins in his mouth as he used one by one.
She would watch him, wonder how he did that. Could he really see, and just not tell anyone he could see. She swore he could see everything… he knew everything. He never knew it… sometimes, when she was held by him on his lap… she’d put her little hand up to his face. He never saw it… he never blinked.
Her little hands scrubbed the corner clean… it wasn’t perfect, but… at least… she’d cleaned the dirty clean.