Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Original Fiction: The Making of Beds

Esmeralda Gonzales made beds for a living. That was what made her happy. She loved the cool sheets in their ivory packages. Opening them reminded her of the shiny presents under the Christmas tree. So luxurious, yet so simple. Her friends mocked her; they said she wasted the intelligence God had given her. Esme listened to the critics, nodded her head, and politely thanked them for their advice. They simply did not understand.

Rain or shine, she walked into the halls of the Tremont Hotel at exactly 6 A.M. Bobby the doorman held the main door open for her. "Good morning, Esme," he greeted. "How are you?"

"Good, thanks," she replied. His uniform buttons gleamed in the rosy light. "Did you sleep well last night?"

He blushed and cleared his throat. "Um...yes, I did. It was very restful. Hope you have a good day."

"The same to you, Bobby." He saluted her, and the dawn shone on his new wedding band on his left index finger. Esme chuckled to herself at the energy of youth.

The revolving doors transported her into the hotel. Lights danced off the gold-leaf mirrors and the hardwood floors. Soft classical music floated from overhead speakers. Clients wanted to check in; clients wanted to check out. They all stood in a tight knot in front of the reception desk, and demanded the staff's attention right now, at this very moment. Esme felt pity for those unfortunate souls. They made lives too complicated.

The desk clerks spotted Esme and flashed her strained smiles. Their crisp rose-colored silk shirts wilted under the lights and the growing frustration. Esme crossed herself and whispered an honest prayer to Saint Jude, the patron saint of lost causes.

She slipped into the employee lounge. Within moments, she was in her own uniform: dove gray, edged with black. She should have been a nun, but piousness was never her forte.
The freshly washed sheets lay folded on the cart, right beside the starched pillowcases and the fluffy towels. She touched the pile of linen with a reverent hand. Nice and pure, innocent and clean. Cleanliness was indeed next to Godliness, and this was close to perfection.

She went into the rooms and changed the sheets. It was amazing what one could tell from soiled sheets. Esme amused herself by imagining the people, who had used these sheets. She removed a bedsheet and held it to the light. Her sharp, whiskey-colored eyes noted the stains and creases. The guests materialized before her, phantoms of the immediate past.

A family of five-mother, father, two children, one infant-on vacation. One child overly fond of sweets and overly curious, judging from sticky fingerprints on the bed. Talcum powder from the baby, and the clean smell of tear-free shampoo. Esme held the sheet as carefully as the babe itself.

A smoker, trembling with fear, left a stink that laid testament to his habit. Esme wrinkled her nose and coughed as the scent clogged her lungs. She tossed the blankets into the hamper without delay.

The clues gave away the identities of each guest as clearly as a lighthouse beacon. Esme's imagination built new stories around the scant details. She amused herself by seeing them in her mind's eye and tracing their movements. Perhaps she would find a crucial item that solved a mystery, like a heroic detective.

Spilled wine and food crumbs from a couple celebrating an anniversary. Esme saw them on the bed, toasting their long years together. Her eyes misted as they embraced and pledged their love.

Juices of love from a forbidden affair, perhaps like Romeo and Juliet, two lovers doomed from the start. Esme felt their desperation and their terrified exhilaration.

A businessman, clean and crisp, wore forest-scent aftershave. She turned her head and he was there, reclining against the headboard. His papers were scattered all over the mattress. The buzz of the conference calls echoed off the walls as deals were made and broken.

Quickly, efficiently, she erased all those signs and brought them to oblivion. The ghosts faded into the ether as she skimmed the grimy fat off the beds and replaced it with creamy cotton. She was a thief who destroyed evidence of events in the night. Yet her mission was perfectly legal. Soon the new sheets captured other memories and held them till morning. Then Esme looked forward to capturing them, visiting them, and setting them free.

As Esme closed the last hotel door, she headed for the laundry in the basement. Her self-imposed mission was over for today. She made beds for a living, destroyed them, and made them anew. It was her calling, and she could not imagine doing anything else.

Copyright 2006 by A.Dameron

All writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

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