Candelabrum by Sherri Turner
Yvonne is polishing the candelabrum. She has a new yellow duster, silver polish and as much time as it takes. It was only done last week, but a smudge caught her eye this morning. She has polished it away and now the shiny part makes the rest look dirty, so she must clean the whole piece.
The cloth is slowly turning black. It must mean that there is still dirt. She takes the corner of the duster and winkles it into every crevice, every join, until her wrists ache.
Yvonne is wearing a cream linen dress. She was supposed to go out today, a lunch, and she tried to ignore the smudge she had seen earlier, but it called to her through the closed door and wouldn’t let her leave the house.
Her yellow rubber gloves are black with polish and the cream linen will soil if she doesn’t take care. The polish tin is on newspaper, on the table, and both will need to be put away. Yvonne has places for everything and worries that she will forget where things go if they don’t go back quickly. She never does, but still she worries. There is a plan for this, for the cleaning of the candelabrum and the putting away of things, which she has practised many times. She worries she will forget the plan and do things in the wrong order, then the black from the gloves may spread onto the tin or the tin may be knocked over and spill or she will pick up the candelabrum with her bare hands and leave a fingerprint and have to start again.
The candelabrum is spotless now, gleaming. Even Yvonne could not find fault with it. She goes to the sink and washes and dries her hands with the gloves still on them. Then she removes the gloves, washes her bare hands and dries them on a different towel. The gloves are put away in their special place. She returns to the table and puts away the tin, then carefully lifts the candelabrum and places it back in the exact centre of the dining table. She throws away the newspaper, washes her hands again and returns to check that all is well.
There is a mark on the candelabrum. Yvonne has forgotten to replace the rubber gloves before moving it and now her bare fingers have left a print.
She goes to her bedroom mirror and checks her cream linen dress. There is a small, barely visible mark on it, so it is unfit to wear. She undresses and places it in the bag for the dry-cleaners. She reaches for another dress, still pale so the dirt can’t hide, but less expensive than the linen one, and puts it on.
It is not a dress she would wear to lunch but there will be no lunch today. Yvonne has a candelabrum to clean.