The Last Task
by Timothy Garner
After the end of a long day, an aged woman came to her final task. The new job she acquired left one room to be cleaned in this home of extravagant size. With her grayed hair matted and plastered to her head with sweat and grime, she wiped her brow and rolled her stained sleeves past her elbows. As her wise eyes surveyed the room, she thought this would be the quickest of all the rooms she’s cleaned thus far and her day would end shortly.
She filled her trusty metal bucket with warm water mixed with cleaning solution. She placed her moistened rag to the mirror and wiped the stained, spotted glass. As she scrubbed, the room began to appear brighter as the light from above reflected. A pair of lips creased into a smile and met the gaze of its owner. She spoke a sigh of completion. She next moved to the counter, the sink, under the soap dish, around the stainless steel faucet. As her rag became dirtier with every wipe she realized this dirt had been here for a while and it took a little more effort to release it from its resting place. She moved to the tub.
She drew back the curtain and realized her quick thought job would be much longer. She knelt down; scrubbed, polished and made things shine like before; clean. Her task was almost complete. She swept the floor and then removed the rug from its place. As she did, she realized that the floor use to be pristine white but now was an off color. Her shoulders dropped. She was tired. Sweat poured into her eyes but she pressed on. As she ran down the bristles of her brush upon the tiled floor, she knew it would never be as white as it originally was. She was so worried that it wouldn’t be clean. Her long job was not yet complete and how could she call her work complete. On a stroke forward, her brush slipped through the suds on the floor and her body collapsed on the wet soapy floor. She began to pick herself up when she heard footsteps in the hall. The owner of the house was returned.
Before she could think, he entered the bathroom. He bent down and grabbed her elbow and helped the woman to her sore feet. By now, she was crying. He wiped the tears from her worn eyes and asked, “Why are you crying?” She looked at him and did not know where to start. But without thought, she said, “ This floor will not be any cleaner than it is now and I’m very worried that you would not have me in your house any longer. I have done all I can.” His smile made her heart stop and then he replied, “Please, leave this floor for me. I will replace every tile. The floor will be white again and made new.” Her worn eyes sparkled as he guided her out of her last task.