12 March 2009

Cleaning Up

Late Summer/Early Fall 1989
Miami, Florida

I've already unloaded the truck and I've got all the equipment and supplies prepared, but first I take a look at the job. I won't have to worry about the carpet; they usually just tear it up and throw it away, but the walls and the bathroom floor and the tile and the grouting will have to be soaked and scrubbed and soaked and scrubbed again and again.

I remember reading about this one in the paper a couple of months ago; I saw the live-cam report when they pulled her body out of the apartment in a black bag strapped to one of those ambulance trolley-beds. For a murder like this, the cops usually keep the place completely sealed off for at least a month, often more, and when it's finally released to the owner, the owner calls Tate or someone like Tate and Tate calls me or someone like me to clean the place up so someone like who used to live here can come and live here again. I guess it's one of those "somebody's-got-to-do-it" kind of jobs and I guess I mind cleaning up blood and brains more than I thought I would but a lot less, I guess, than I ought to.

They'd been drinking, I could see that from the garbage still scattered through the kitchen and the bedroom--brown bottles that once held beer, now long evaporated, and one of those giant plastic jugs of cheap vodka the DrugMart liquor department always has on sale. The blood starts there, in the kitchen, as a few spatters on the wall near the table, like she'd been slapped or punched while sitting down and then a small, streaked pool in the sink like she'd leaned over with her hand to her mouth or her cheek or the side of her head as she moaned and tried to daub the wound and a few smears along the short hallway where someone had dragged a hand like maybe she was stumbling or not wanting to be dragged toward the small bedroom.

Of course, the landlord will repaint the walls so all I really have to do is make sure he doesn't have to use two coats. That's means bleach from a spray bottle and a good scrub down to the dry-wall with scouring pads, maybe some more bleach, and a quick once-over with sandpaper to even out the texture.

I wear latex gloves, of course, and knee pads and sometimes I have to wear a mask because of the smells that may have accumulated especially in the summer like in this apartment, like old meat and pennies, like something sweet hovering inside a mouth full of the worst breath you could imagine in the morning only worse and stale air built up since all the windows and doors have been sealed for weeks and weeks and weeks.

In the bedroom, I just push the bedclothes into black plastic bags without even looking because I will leave them by the front door for the cops or the landlord to take or throw away. I don't care. Sheets and blankets and pillow cases and one of those comforters they sell for twenty dollars or so at the local discount chain store--blue and green stripes in a synthetic fabric overlaid with a chaotic mass of black, red, rust colored blood. They used to all match. I might use the steam gun on the wall above the headboard to make it all soft and scrubbable. Why break my back?

I will definitely use the steam in the bathroom since it's mostly tile and porcelain and can take the heat. The sink where someone tried to clean himself up, clean her blood from his hands and forearms, will get blasted and the towels, the same sad blue and green, go into more black bags like the bag the former tenant went into and I'll have to really get out the tools to scrub the tiles and especially the grouting around them under the sink and around the toilet. It will take some hours, here, and Tate will swing by around lunch time to see if I want to eat, which I won't, and if I get done before six o'clock he'll want to know if I want to go with him to take a look at another job, which I won't but I will, and maybe it will be somebody's flood-damaged basement or somebody's tenant-damaged trailer home or somebody's child-damaged formal dining room or maybe it will just be somebody's damage, which I hope it isn't, and we'll talk a little about the best way to clean it all up.

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