He Is A Shelf Cleaner

Oliver, never Ollie, deems himself as a perfectly normal perfectionist. All is well in his tight, germ-free world, that is, until the new cashier at work starts to pry herself in and disrupt his perfect world with absurd accusations.


"Dust," I mutter softly, cautious of breathing in any floating particles. I dig my hand into the front pocket of my green apron, my fingers lightly skimming the synthetic, soft and rubbery material of latex. I pull out a pair of latex gloves and nimbly snap the porcelain white barrier over the pale, exposed skin of my hands, left hand first, then right, with a familiar twist of my fingers. The security and comfort of a shield against harmful bacteria almost releases a momentary sigh of relief.

I carefully watch the dust floating precariously over the empty cereal shelf, my eyes shifting over the expanse of the 2 mm thick layer of neglected dust packed on the surface of the shelf. "Disgusting," I hiss, reaching for the bottle and rag, "Dirty and diseased."

To anyone else, it's a job, however, to me, it's a mission. I scrub with a vigor a determined maid could only muster. My actions are robotic and precise with every stroke of the rag scraping and dissolving the layer of grey dust. I sweep away the dripping and foaming cleanser, my tall, thin body hunched over so my spindly arms can reach the farthest corners of the shelf. A final spray of multi-surface cleaner is wiped along with the evidence of green solvent and shiny streaks. 

I straighten my posture, a smile bubbling on my face at my victory. I feel almost all-powerful and god-like in my extermination of viral infections and disease. I scan my work for any traces of smudges or spots left behind on the gleaming white shelf, satisfied that, yet again, there isn't anything to redo. I squeeze the rag in my palm, a substitute congratulating pat on the back, and cradle the solvent bottle in my hand by it's plastic neck.

"Oliver," Mr. Anthony calls, ten meters down the dry cereal aisle. His jolly prance around the corner of the aisle and shout startles a shopper into dropping a box of dry oatmeal. I wince as my employer's short, round, jovial body almost kicks the box from the lady's reaching fingers. The oatmeal is undoubtedly contaminated and inedible, I chastise, itching to just throw out the dirtied box and its germ infested contents.

"Oliver," he calls again, the high pitch of his voice surging an uncontrollable twitch to my right eyebrow. I nod in acknowledgement and wait for him to cross the ten meters between us. He doesn't stop his progress, however, and instead, leans into me as he scans the shining, clean shelf.

Mr. Anthony whistles a sharp note and tosses his arm in my direction. I quickly dodge the incriminating arm, wary of the sweat stain climbing down the underside of his shirt sleeve from his armpit to his elbow. His short trek from his office to aisle five couldn't possibly be the culprit for this man's excretion of bodily fluids, but I note that not everyone is as conscious of their well-being as I am. Mr. Anthony stares at the space I had momentarily stood in but otherwise ignores the rejection of his gesture, instead smiling. "Nice job, Ollie," he chirps, "Never thought I'd see the plastic under all that grime."

The rag in my hand squeezes at the mention of the nickname, and when I attempt to relax the hand, my other hand clenches. Ollie, I wish to spit, is not my name. Mr. Anthony, oblivious to my irritation, animatedly chatters about his son's basketball game, I believe, but I wouldn't be sure however because my focus in the space of two minutes and ten seconds is focused solely to the fresh yellow blob, that smells sharply like mustard, creeping down the heart of Mr. Anthony's over-washed, brown shirt. There are so many ways to clean his shirt, I imagine, starting first with a couple sprits of detergent directly on the incriminating stain. The latex glove squeaks as it tightens and relaxes around the trigger of the multi-surface solvent bottle in four second intervals, matching synchronization with my slow shallow breaths.

I can almost see the dried mustard dissolving in a heavy dose of foaming soap and hot water when the stomping of impatient soles stamp rhythmically on the vinyl tile flooring of the grocery store. After three years of working in a grocery store, I have recognized this sound to only be the result of one cause, and as soon as I lift my head and lock eyes with a flustered cashier with a very distinct red name tag, I know today's her first day on the job.

"Mr. Anthony," I sternly start, instantly cracking through Mr. Anthony's intense discussion of his son's stubborn eating habits, "Cashier one." I don't wait for his response and march towards cashier four. Cashier three may have been closer, actually right across the dry cereal aisle, but odd numbers aren't as safe as even numbers. And anyways, four is my favorite number.

The End

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