The Scrub Woman

The Scrub Woman

A Story by Rawhide

I don't know what put this in my head. That's the funny thing about inspiration, you may never know from where it came.


The Scrub Woman


"Simkens, you're over an hour late!! Come in to my office!! Don't bother taking your coat off, I haven't decided yet if you'll get to stay or not."


Mr. Grundel was the epitome of mean, crotchety old men. He was an old school office manager who believed in motivation through intimidation. His mantra was, "your reward for working hard today is you get to come back tomorrow and do it again." Mr. Grundel didn't use words like "empowerment" or any of those other buzz words popularized by those books on mangement strategy that everyone was reading in the 90's. If he wrote a book on management, it would be titled something like Do It Now or Go Home or maybe I Want Results, Not Excuses.


I knew this wasn't going to go well, but I also knew he wasn't going to send me home. I was one of the top agents, and I knew my job was safe. Still, I didn't want to drag this out any longer than it had to be. I kept my coat on like he said because taking it off would look presumptuous, and he hates presumptuous people. It's a sign if disrespect as far as he's concerned.


I went into his office and closed the door. He liked to have closed door meetings. It gave him a look of professionalism, as if he's doing the right thing by chewing you out in private. It also gave him the staisfaction of knowing that everyone else knew that whoever was in there was getting a royal chewing out. It's the only time his door was ever closed. He made certain that people knew without a doubt what his door closing meant.


He told me to sit, and I took my coat off and sat down. I folded my coat in half and held it in my lap. I wanted to look like I was ready to put my coat back on and leave straight away if he said so. Comfortable is the last look you want to portray when having a closed-door meeting with him.


Maybe this time I should have kept my coat on. Mr. Grundel didn't like what he saw when I took it off.


Mr. Grundel looked at me for a second and then finally spoke, "Look at you. You're a mess. I don't care if you go out and party all night during your off hours, but for God's sake clean yourself up before you come to work."


I replied, "Yes sir. I thought about going back home and changing, but I was already late and figured it would be better to get here as soon as possible. Something happened on my way to work this morning."


"Something happened, huh? What is this time?" Mr. Grundel asked.


I told him what had happened this morning, "My bus stop is across the street from my apartment. I went to the bus stop, and there was a woman down on the ground. She had a bucket of soapy water and a scrub brush. She had those yellow rubber gloves on, and she was scrubbing the sidewalk. Scrubbing hard at some dark area on the sidewalk.


" I thought it was some crazy woman, and so did everyone else. People were giving her a wide berth when they walked around her. It was like they were afraid they would catch what she had or that she would attack them if they got too close. But I had no choice. She was right beside the bus stop bench.


"I sat down on the bench, and she paused. She put her brush into the bucket and lifted her head breathing heavy. Her face was wet with tears. That's when I recognized her. I didn't know her, but she lived in my building across the street. On the 4th floor, I think. I'm on the third.


"Anyway, I recognized her, and that's when I realized that I had recognized her son too. I'm sure you heard the story on the news. Her seventeen year-old son was in the news last week. He was waiting at that same bus stop last Friday night. Some teenage girl was at the same bus stop, and they had started talking. She told the police later that she didn't really know him, but she had seen him around the neighborhood and at school, so they chatted.


"Her older brother and two of his friends had seen them at the bus stop. He didn't like his sister talking to a black guy. Some words were exchanged. Witnesses in the apartment behind the bus stop had admitted to hearing racial slurs being yelled, but they didn't want to get involved.


"No one called the police and no one tried to help out. The argument escalated and the brother and his two friends beat her son. The punched and kicked him until he just lay there trying cover his face and head. Then they started kicking him in the ribs and stomach. He tried to block their kicks, but that left his head unprotected. One of them kicked him in the back of his head. While he was unconcious, they continued kicking and beating him.


"His attackers would eventually get bored of beating an unconcious person and leave him there. The girl didn't call for help because she was afraid her brother would get in trouble. He laid there unconcious, broken and bleeding all over the sidewalk. Meanwhile, his brain was swelling and bleeding in his skull. The pressure in his head would eventually kill him beforethey could get him to the hospital and a doctor relieve the pressure.


"People heard the attack. The girl witnessed the attack and didn't even call for help. It was a Friday night, so there would have been quite a bit of traffic going by. There were lots of witnesses that didn't call for help. Eventually, someone did call for help, but it was too late by then.


"I remembered reading the story in the newspaper and seeing the story on tv. When I realized that the boy in the story was the same boy I had seen with her many times before, I realized what she was scrubbing. She was trying to clean up her son's dried blood from the sidewalk. She was scrubbing the spot where he lay dying. His head had lain in that spot staining the sidewalk as his brain swelled and slowly cut off his life.


"She didn't just look tired, she looked exasperated. She was wearing nice clothes, so the must have been catching the bus to go somewhere. Like maybe to make plans for his burial. she must have come out to the bus stop and seen the stain. Living with the memory of what happened to her son is bad enough. I can't imagine what it felt like when she saw the stained sidewalk.


"I can't say exactly why I did what I did next. I didn't make a concious decision to do it. I just did it. I took my coat off and got down on my knees. I took the brush out of the bucket and started scrubbing. She just looked at me. I'm sure she recognized me, but she didn't know me. And she didn't know why I had decided to help. I don't think I could have told her if she had asked.


"I scrubbed for a while. Worked up a good sweat. I stopped to catch my breath, and she took the brush and scrubbed some more. We did that for the next half hour or so. When she would pause for a rest, I'd scrub. When I'd pause, she would scrub.


"Finally, she paused and held on to the brush. She stood, dropped the brush into the bucket, and picked up the bucket. I stood too. She looked at the stain, still clearly defined, and then looked at me. She quietly said, 'thank you,' and walked away.


"She'll never forget what happened to her son. Some day, the stain will fade and will just look like another really dirty spot. She'll always know what the stain is. But I think that this morning, she decided that she would get through it. She had thanked me, but not for helping her scrub the sidewalk. She was thanking me for caring. Someone had finally cared about her son and what happened to him. It didn't make up for what had happened, but it made a huge difference to her."


When Mr. Grundel spoke to me again, he seemed to do so with some difficulty. He cleared his throat and told me to get to work. I left his office, and he said, "close the door on your way out, would you?"


When I turned back to him, he turned away from me. I only caught a glimpse of his face as he turned, but I could see moisture in his eyes. For the first time ever, Mr. Grundel's office door was closed for a different reason. Suddenly, he didn't seem so mean and crotchety.

© 2010 Rawhide

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Inspiration is a strange thing - but it did a damn good job of allowing this to flow from you. A BEAUTIFUL piece - one that touched me deep...

Posted 8 Years Ago

Very good story; very touching. I liked the descriptions, made the story felt real. Good job, keep it up!!

Posted 8 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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3 Reviews
Shelved in 1 Library
Added on February 19, 2010
Last Updated on February 21, 2010
Tags: Death



McCleary, WA

He puts his quill to parchment to preserve his story. Eons from now, no one will be able to fathom the depths of the suffering he felt nor the expanse of the suffering he caused. He will be villified,.. more..