I’ve spent that last few days deep in thought, pondering over what point I should introduce you all to the Housekeeping saga. I finally made a decision this evening. To paraphrase Bilbo Baggins, the most adventurous of all Hobbits, it is best to begin the telling of all tales at the beginning.
I work for a company called Spic ‘n Span Cleaning Hands, which employs 5 -10 people at any given time. Turnover at Spic n Span is very high. It would appear that most people do not have an affinity for work as a mobile domestic servant. Although, given the state of the economy, you would think they would give it more of a chance. With unemployment in the double digits for African Americans in this country, you might imagine that my people would welcome a real check for real work. But we’re a proud folk, so I do not begrudge anyone for not wanting this job. It is difficult and looked lowly upon.
Harriet Bookman started the company for her mother early this year. I told you about her before. At 26 she has a Master’s degree and has accomplished more in her few years than many women decades older have or possibly ever will. She employs her sister Hillary as a cleaner as well. Louisa Bookman – whom we refer to as ‘Big Lou’ on account that she stands at 5’ 11’’ and weighs well over 200 lbs – is a sweet but no nonsense character. She named her two daughters after strong Black women in hopes that they would emulate them. Harriet was named after Ms. Tubman, as you might have guessed, and Hillary was named after Mrs. Clinton. Technically, Hillary Clinton is not a “black woman”, but her husband WAS the first Black president of the United States. It’s more of an honorary title than anything else. The women of the family are light skinned, and not particularly attractive. However because of their statuesque builds, it’s difficult not to notice them. Perhaps that is what Yolanda’s problem was.
Some people just have “yellow girl hate”, as Big Lou put it to me one day.
Yolanda Jones is Harriet’s next door neighbor. With her petit build and toned body, she might actually be pretty if it weren’t for the perpetual scowl she wore on her face. She snarled every time she rode past in her silver Toyota or peeked out of her curtains to ‘spy’ on the neighbors, and looked away when anyone tried to wave in greeting. The ‘I love Jesus’ bumper sticker affixed to the back of her car is bewildering to all who know her. She truly is a miserable person. Perhaps the state of her blackened heart had something to do with her two teenaged sons robbing and raping a number of our neighbors in recent years. I don’t know; that’s just my suspicion. It became the subject of conversation one early morning when I went to go pick up my cleaning supplies from Harriet’s garage.
The summer air was thick and stifling, and a light mist hovered all around us. Now that I think about it, the atmosphere was quite apropos. Very Braveheart-ish, if I could describe it that way.
Harriet pointed to her neighbor’s garage door. There was dirt and leaves flung all over it, clinging to the wood in a most unbecoming manner.
“I threw that sh*t on her garage door last night,” Harriet whispered loudly.
She proceeded to tell me how she had parked her car outside of her garage, only to discover a few hours later that a heap of potting soil had been dumped by her tire. A note was affixed to her windshield as well. Park in front of your OWN garage it read. Yolanda was the assumed culprit. I stood listening to the details with wide eyes. I have never met this woman, and didn’t know there was a history of bad blood between them. I just showed up that morning to get a vacuum bad and a new broom.
“Excuse me,” said a voice from the balcony above. When it went ignored, it became more insistent. “Excuse me!”
I motioned towards Harriet and pointed at Yolanda’s slippers. That’s all I could see of the woman.
“Your neighbor wants you,” I informed her.
“Yes?” she said with irritation.
“Uhh, look,” the feet said with attitude, “I don’t know what it is that is y’alls problem, but you keep disrespecting me!”
“Who’s disrespecting YOU, when you the one out here causing trouble?”
The feet weren’t listening.
“You know, you come out here and let your children draw in my driveway with their chalk, and it’s just rude!”
“You better read the Home Owner’s guidelines again, chick,” retorted Harriet. “You don’t have a driveway. This stretch of road is public property!”
Clearly there was some history here that I didn’t know about. I gathered my supplies and sat in my vehicle, preparing to leave. There was a house to clean at 8 am, and I had 30 minutes to get there. Upstairs the feet were still talking trash, hurling a torrent of insults to no one in particular. We had both stopped listening.
“I’ll see you later, Harriett,” I said.
“Wait a minute. I have a new shirt for you to wear.”
She went inside to gather it. When she came out, Yolanda was still talking.
“…and it ain’t even you I got a problem with. It’s your momma.”
“What about my momma?” said Harriet stonily. Her eyes flashed and the tips of her ears got red. This was a side to her I’d never seen. When she spoke next, her accent had completely changed. She had gone Memphis on her neighbor. It was as though the Sword of Omens had summoned the rest of the ThunderCats. Big Lou and Hillary came filing outside of the garage next.
It’s hard to accurately describe the melee from that point on, but I can share with you that the words “raggedy a**” , “b*tch”, “your unemployed a**”, “ratchetness in 3D” and “why did you raise a rapist?” where thrown out there. There was an invitation for Yolanda to come down from her porch, which of course she declined by rolling her neck and declaring she “won’t scared”. That’s when I laughed.
“What you laughin’ fuh?” she snarled. “You better hope your kids don’t rob nobody either!”
I said some things to her that made her pause and take a quick breath. They weren’t nice things. They weren’t nice things at all.
“You might have Jesus on your car, but you got the devil in here,” I said in conclusion. “Come down here so I can slap the Hell outta you!”
Of course, she didn’t.
By this time it was 7:30 am and I had to leave. There was a house that needed cleaning and I was determined to make my friend’s company a success! As fate would have it, the adrenaline rush I got from partaking in that dawn ghetto showdown prepared me for what I was about to encounter in my very first client’s home that day.
What was it? I’ll tell you tomorrow.