Clean by Nick Gilbert

I only wash my hands thirty times a day; and it's not as if I use caustic soda - only ordinary bleach. I know some people don't - but then some people don't clean their toilet every day, do they? I caught a fly buzzing around my dinner plates yesterday - so I sprayed them all with fly spray - I hope I washed them up afterwards - I'm sure I did, but I did them again this morning, just to be sure.

When I got up I ironed my skirt for work - I know I could do it the night before, but I think that it always looks slightly shabby, as if somebody might have worn it in the night, and I reckon you can't beat that look of steam-freshness. Why is it possible to put a man on the moon, but not to put a permanent press in clothes? Not that I mind ironing, although I do have to wear surgical gloves now since I got a slight touch of dermatitis; and it wouldn't do to have flakes, and scales, and hand-cream all over my clothes, would it. I do hope this hand cream is sterile: they don't tell you important things like that on the jar, and the girl in the chemist's didn't know. Perhaps I should use olive oil instead. I thought about trying the health food shop, but some of the people who frequent that place look like they've been sleeping rough in a muddy field since the 1970s, and I wouldn't like to use anything that they've touched the outside of.

I find it very soothing when I come home to slough off the day's dirty clothes, then, after I've had my bath of course, I put on a clean dressing gown, take yesterday's washed clothes off the drying rack and stack them ready for ironing, then I take the day's wash out of the machine, sort out the non-iron delicates and hang them up, and put the rest back in the machine to dry. Then I have my tea. Afterwards I put the dried clothes in their place on the drying rack. Fortunately I live in a flat on my own; I would hate to think of other people brushing past my freshly cleaned clothes with their dirty ones. Then I get on with the evening's ironing. Then my shoes need cleaning; I do like them to be spotless. Of course I know that I have to walk in them on the ground; it just can't be helped though! So the soles I just wipe with cleaning fluid. Then I can sit down and relax.

I always carry a pack of wet-wipes in my bag for running repairs, in case I've stepped in anything unpleasant; and of course they're essential for cleaning the toilet seats, the flush handle, and the taps in the Ladies lavatories at work, before I use them.

The doctor seemed to think there was something strange about washing my hands in bleach - people are so namby-pamby - if fire was invented today it would be banned on health and safety grounds. Anyway he suggested

I tried some therapy group; he said I was OCD, whatever that means; but I only went once. They were all nutters. There was a man there who only picked his nose with cotton buds - cotton buds are only for applying your make-up, and for cleaning your ears: and then no more than three times a day obviously.

I have a check-list on the wardrobe door so I don't miss anything - clothes, shoes, make-up, hair, deodorant, perfume; as for down below - don't even go there. Actually I think my hair's falling out – it might be the stress after I went out one morning and found somebody had stolen the wheels off my lovely little new car, and left it on piles of bricks. Still, if all my hair falls out I'll just have to buy a wig - at least then I can take it off at night and boil it.

Obviously I have a bath twice a day, as I'm sure most normal people do; once first thing in the morning, and once when I come home from work, to wash off the day's grime. I work in an accounts department fortunately, not as a lady coal-miner: thank God I wasn't born Russian or Chinese. But even so finger-marks and footprints are everywhere, and as we all know there is nothing dirtier than other people. Each evening after I've had my second bath I coat the tub thoroughly with an oven cleaner, which I leave on overnight to do its good work.

Of course cleanliness was always my first love: and inner cleanliness is just as important as what can be seen, so I like to make sure that I always have a good supply of laxatives; I take three a day: regularly. Another thing that infuriates me is when I tear off a sheet of toilet paper, and it rips in half length-ways - and it always happens when you're in a hurry doesn't it -is there no pride in craftsmanship anymore?

When I first discovered cleaning I loved having a wonderfully purging draught of it on something really old and neglected and dirty. It was only later that I discovered that it's the sheer re-iterative nature of it that makes it so much fun. Other people just can't seem to see it. When I have to use somebody else's bathroom I find the sight of other people's toothbrushes makes me feel quite faint - what do they use them for? Cleaning the cooker; or the cat's bottom?

Selected: 24th Short Story
Published in Issue #30

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