"Cleaning Job" by Zachary Aszalos


“So then I had to kill her,” said the driver.


“I see,” replied the passenger.


They were in a white car, rushing down Main Street. They passed a Walgreens on the left, and then a Burger King on the right. Several department stores went by without notice. The car shook as the driver accelerated. It had a faded Obama/Biden 2008 sticker on the back, with a nearly whitewashed Bush/Cheney 2004 sticker beside it. The paint was peeling in several spots, revealing the swollen, rusted body of the car. The back passenger side door was missing a chunk of metal toward the bottom, leaving orangish-brown chips of rust.


The driver was a tall, slim man. He wore a brown three-piece suit along with a pair of white New Balance tennis shoes. The passenger was a short man with ample degrees of both body muscle and body fat. He wore a wrinkled white Oxford shirt. It was only buttoned halfway up, revealing a Metallica shirt underneath. He had on a pair of cargo shorts, also wrinkled, that looked about two sizes too small.


“Now I have this body in my apartment just sitting there,” said the driver.


“She was sitting when you killed her?”


“No, man. She was standing. I meant that the body is just there now.”


“So she was standing. And then she fell?”


“Well, yeah.”


“Was it more of a crumble or more of a smash?”


“It would’ve been a crumble, but then the coffee table got in the way and it was a smash. Blood all over the goddamned newspaper circulars too.”


“Oh, Lord!”


“Yeah man.”


They passed a McDonald’s on the right. The sign that usually announced deals on food read NOW HIRING ALL SHIFTS. The passenger noticed that a man was digging in one of the dumpsters behind the restaurant. He almost mentioned it, but decided not to.


“So, What circulars were they?” the passenger asked.


“I don’t know. Walmart, JCPenney, Sears…”


“Wait—there’s still Sears around?”


“In some cities I think.”


“Any around here?”


“Nearest one in Pittsburgh I think.”


“Ahh, shit. We don’t have time to make it there and back before the body starts to smell.”


“Hold up.” The driver allowed the car to slow, as though for effect. They were approaching a red light. “Are you really suggesting shopping when I have a dead body in my house?”


“I just thought there might be some deals. I mean, they’ve gotta attract customers if they want to stay open at all.”


“Fuck me.”


“Hey man. I’m just saying. Don’t you think you might need some new rugs after this?”


“I’ll deal with that later. Right now we just need to do this cleaning job.”


“Lunch first though.”


“I told you, lunch after. Whatever you want. After.” The light turned green, and the driver applied his foot to the gas.


“Lunch first or no help.”


“Fine. Your fat ass hasn’t changed since penitentiary; I’m not going to bet on you changing now. What you want?”


“Chili.”


“Chili? Really? Chili?”


“Yeah man. I want some chili. Wendy’s chili. This whole thing got me real hungry.”


“Fine. But it’s drive through and then eat it in the car. Reach into the glove compartment, I think I have some Wendy’s coupons in there.”


“Let me see. Here they are. Oh shit! What’s all over these?”


“Call it barbecue.”


“I don’t even think there’s a Wendy’s coupon in here. Are you sure this ain’t that lady’s blood?”


“I’m sure.” The driver grunted. “Look harder.”


“Men’s Wearhouse, Pizza Hut, Sephora...really?”


“I see it. Give me those.” He turned into the Wendy’s.


The driver made the order and got the passenger his meal of chili. He pulled the car back out onto Main Street as the driver slurped up his lunch. He continued another two miles down the road until he reached his apartment building. It was the kind of building where the individual apartments opened up to the outside rather than an interior hallway. His apartment was on the third floor, west side. The structure was made of cinder blocks, trimmed in red. It reminded the passenger of their days together in penitentiary.


The driver’s apartment was carpeted in maroon shag. The walls were brown, with orange baseboards and crown molding. The front door opened to the living room, which evolved into a kitchenette toward the back. On the left were two doors. One opened to a bedroom, the other to a bathroom. The living room was furnished with brown leather furniture. It was worn, but not tattered. The coffee table was in the center of the room, with two large bookcases to its right. Between the bookcases and the coffee table, there was a body.


It was a woman’s body. She had probably been in her late twenties. The flesh was white, like a child’s teeth after his annual dental cleaning. The eyes were ajar. The neck was sliced open from side to side. Surrounding the body, the maroon carpet was a slightly different shade and was crusty, as though someone had spilled red baking soda all over it.


Upon entering the apartment, the passenger had resumed eating his chili. Not noticing where he was walking, he tripped on the body and dumped the chili all over it.


“Oh, sweet shit!” said the passenger.


“Are you fucking with me right now?” asked the driver.


“No. Why?”


“Because you just spilled a whole container of chili all over the body!”


“Hey! It was a third of the way gone. And this is a whole human body. What’s a bigger mess: one whole body, or two thirds a cup of chili? Now, say I had come here, into your home, right. And say I’d had a whole, unopened, uneaten chili. And say I spill it all over this nice body you got here. Then I’d say, ‘Go ahead! Be mad!’ But I didn’t. It’s only two thirds, man.”


“You know what? What makes a bigger mess: to add one body to zero bodies and get one body or to add one body to one body and get two bodies?”


“Come on man. What are you talking about?”


“What I’m talking about is this: either we start cleaning, or this ends as a double murder suicide.”


They began to clean. The driver moved the coffee table into the kitchen, and situated the furniture so that he could unfold a large, blue tarp. He had gotten it at the pool and hot tub supply store before he’d picked up his helper. Then, they carried the body onto the tarp. As they set it down, the body let out a gasp of noxious gas that smelled like an infected wound.


“The body smells worse than the chili,” said the driver.


“Thanks, man,” said the passenger. As they continued the cleanup, he began to laugh.


“What’s so funny?”


“Have you ever heard of the story called ‘A Shocking Accident’?”


“I’m not really interested in hearing the story of how you were conceived. Not again.”


“No, it’s not that. Come on, man. It’s a short story about this guy and this pig…”


“Sounds a lot like the story of your conception.”


“You take that back.”


“You’re right. I’m sorry. So there’s a guy and a pig?”


“Well, the story starts out before that. This boy, right, he’s in this like boarding school or something. And the headmaster calls him into the office. And the headmaster says that there’s been an accident, a shocking accident. It turns out the boy’s daddy died. Sad story.”


“And the pig?”


“Oh, that’s the crazy shit. So, the daddy died because a pig fell on him.”


“A pig fell on him?”


“Yeah. Right outta the sky.”


“How, dare I ask, does that happen?”


“It says in the story. I don’t remember. Anyway, the pig fell somehow and killed the guy. And when the son finds out, the first thing he asks is what happened to the pig.”


“What did happen to the pig?”


“They never say. I guess it must’ve died, too.”


“Sad state of affairs.”


“Yeah. So then years later, the boy’s all grown up, right. And he’s looking for some pussy.”


“Does this end up being about bestiality?”


“No. Shut up and let me tell the story. So he’s with this woman, and he finally tells her the story of how his daddy died. And what is her response?”


“She asks what happened to the pig?”


“Exactly. And after that shit, he knows this girl is the one.”


“Great for him. One question.”


“What?”


“What does this have to do with anything?”


“I never said it had to do with anything. I just thought it was a nice story to get us through this mess.”


“You know what? I thought it sucked.”


They finished wrapping the body in the blue tarp and sealed it by wrapping it with white duct tape.


“Great, the goddamned thing looks like a mummy now,” said the passenger.


“Well, that’s good news because we’re donating it to Museum of Natural History,” said the driver.


“No shit! That’s awesome. But wouldn’t it be easier just to take it down to the dumpster?”