$5.25 an Hour
The day was broiling hot and I was not happy. I didnt have a boyfriend
to fuck. God, how I wanted and needed a boyfriend to fuck in a cold lake in a
in a walk-in freezer on the clock with the cooks grumbling, “These plates
are getting cold. Where the fuck are those fuckers?”
I did not have it like that. I was solitary. I needed to make some money so that
I could buy instant coffee and tampons.
My employer was Better Than Your Mother Cleaning Service. I lived in San Marcos,
Texas. It was the summer of 1998. I had returned to college after failing at
various entry-level jobs, Job Corps, the Army, and motherhood. I was going to
eventually become a kindergarten teacher, marry a brother in Christ, have four
children with Jewish-Irish names, and live Tupperware party to Avon party in
a blissful small-town bubble of smug piety. I was war torn and bitter. People
Men, women, girls, boys. Babies sucked. The world had not done me any favors.
The world had fucked me up the ass one time too goddamn many with a poisoned
carrot. I was in no mood for any amount of bullshit.
I entered the rent house with my co-worker and mentor. Maybe her name was Betty.
I dont remember. She was an older single mom who looked like someone who had
smoked and drank for decades. She taught me how to clean with efficiency and
attention to every detail. No shit specks in the toilets. Not on our watch.
“You have got to be fucking kidding me,” I muttered.
I followed Betty through the house in a stupor. Two or three fraternity guys
had abandoned the house, the owner informed us. They had left a black labrador
retriever tied up in the backyard without any food or water. The dog had run
free through the house at some point, leaving healthy turds on the ratty cheap
carpet. There were piles of trash in every room. The freezer and refrigerator were packed with rancid rotting meat.
I thought of Texas Chainsaw Massacre as I eyed the streaks of blood.
I gagged. I ran out the back door and gulped fresh air.
“Um. I’m not breaking my back in this hell hole for $5.25 an hour,” I
“This is our job. We’ve got to do it,” Betty said.
I had walked out on many jobs and been fired from many jobs. Thanks to my parents
and grandparents I was never homeless. I could not afford to lose this job. I
clenched my fists and gritted my teeth. I kicked the wall.
“Fucking assholes. Spoiled rich white boys with mommies to wipe their asses
fucking time they fuck shit up,” I ranted.
“No doubt. Well, we can keep anything we want. Except for the furniture,
I spied a framed Beatles poster and an 8-ball. I also found a spiral notebook
filled with notes scrawled by girlfriends. Hmmm. Interesting. I carried my treasures
out to my truck. When I walked back into the house I eyed the suede beanbags
with longing. There were three of them in the shit-strewn den. The colors, camel,
chocolate brown, and cerulean, would look amazing in my apartment.
“Do beanbags count as furniture?” I asked Betty.
“Yeah. People sit on em. Come on. Let’s get this job over
That was the hardest I ever worked for an American dollar. I felt righteous blue-collar
pride course through my boiling blood as I sat on the back stoop during my lunch
break drinking a Budweiser longneck. I looked forward to a long cold shower.
I finished my beer and drank another. Then I said, “What the hell, I’ve
earned these fuckers,” and drank three more. Betty eyed me with disapproval
as I wove my way back into the house. She had taken a short, beer-free lunch
and was breaking her back scrubbing the kitchen floor.
“Are you drunk?” Betty asked.
“Oh, no. Ive got an extremely high tolerance. I’m Cherokee and Irish,” I
assured Betty, pulling down my jeans. I squatted down in the den. Betty’s
eyes widened in horror.
“What in the hell are you doing?” Betty asked.
“The toilet is filthy. I should’ve pissed outside. Sorry. Too late
I pissed a puddle on the carpet then stood and pulled up my jeans. Betty was
too shocked to do anything. I didn’t want the job that goddamn bad. Sears
was always hiring. I grabbed my favorite beanbag, the cerulean one, and ran to
my truck before Betty could gather her wits.