This story was originally written for the sons of one of our first fans of our first book “Corner Stories”. I hope you enjoy it as much as they did. – CAG
The Cleaning Service – by C. A. Griffin
Raheem sat in his room looking at all of his things that he loved so very much. Why his mother wanted him to throw out some of it and organize the rest was beyond him. His collection of sports memorabilia was organized. He kept hundreds of sports cards in stacks on the dresser (he had to keep rearranging them since they kept falling off every time he opened a drawer) the signed autographs from his favorite players were tacked up on the wall even though some of them curled up at the edges now. The piles of sports jerseys from of his favorite baseball, basketball and football players were on the floor – sure they weren’t folded up and kind of just tossed in the corner but they were sort of organized by color…kind of. In another corner he had his school papers and books piled up in stacks…which his mom would never let him throw out even though he thought they should be the first to go.
He didn’t see the need to make his bed EVERY single morning and why change the sheets they never got dirty. Sure he ate in his room sometimes and yes he would be so tired from studying or doing homework that he would just leave the stuff on the night table. Sometimes the empty food containers would fall on the floor And yeah then they might get kicked under the bed. But he just figured that maybe his mom had come in and taken it away for him – although he thought that if that were true, wouldn’t she have emptied the over flowing trash can for him too? Most of his clothes were in the dresser or closet. It wasn’t his fault that anything he hung up on hangers fell off onto the closet floor. His sneakers and laundry were all jumbled up on the floor but why bother putting the dirty clothes in a hamper? The clothes were dirty and the sneakers were funky so he thought that was cool that they wound up on the floor together.
In Raheem’s mind a kitchen and bathroom needed to be cleaned every day. But a man’s room was his castle and he was king of his room. Raheem did not think that his room needed to be cleaned at all. He did like to think that his room had the lived in look…but his mom wanted it to look like her room; everything all neat and in its place and CLEAN. So they were constantly at odds with each other over the condition of his room.
One afternoon, when Raheem came home and saw a note tacked onto his door from his mother giving him the ultimatum to clean his room or be on punishment for the next month he became upset.
“…if the room is NOT cleaned up by the end of the day then I will take away your Xbox, the laptop and your cell phone for a month. And it has to be MY version of clean not YOURS. Folded clothes, laundry in the basket, shoes lined up, everything dusted and wiped clean and nothing kicked under the bed. Be careful cleaning though, you’ll probably find something alive under that bed.
Love you – have a nice day, Mom”
It was a blustery freezing cold day and the weather was going to be brutal for the rest of the week. Being inside without his gear to occupy his time would be absolutely unbearable. So he decided he better follow orders and get his room done.
He started with his beloved sports memorabilia corner. He put the cards into empty shoe boxes. Next he neatly folded the jerseys and placed them into the clear bins that his mom had bought for him. He hung up his jackets and shirts; lined up his sneakers and vacuumed the rug in that corner. He dusted the dresser and cleaned the mirror (he nearly got blinded by the glare that bounced off of it once he cleaned it). Raheem took down some of the signed autographs that had started to curl up at the edges and put them into a photo album and when he had taken most of the pictures down he realized that he had forgotten he had beige walls…wow!
The sun was setting and the warm rays of its dying glow lit up the beige walls and hit the cleaned mirror with a blaze of orange red. With the heat going full blast to keep out the freezing cold of winter, the room seemed as if it were a furnace and after working so hard to clean it Raheem was sweating and breathing a bit heavily. All the time while he was cleaning he had his CDs playing. He had his favorites in queue to play for hours of continuously thumpin’ jams. About three hours into cleaning the room the music ended. Raheem stopped what he was doing and went to put some more music on.
In the silence of the room, at first all he heard was the beating of his heart and the deep breaths filling his lungs with warm air. Then he heard something else…something shifting; or like paper rustling but not quite just like that either. He held his breath so he could hear it more clearly. Nothing. He let out his breath and took two steps towards his computer to put on more music when he heard it again, the rustling sound. This time it sounded as if it were coming from under his bed. The only part of his room that wasn’t cleaned yet or hit by the warm rays of the sun beams was the space beneath his bed.
Raheem stared at it. The sheets and blankets were balled up; wrinkled from days of being sat on and crumpled up while being slept on. They fell off of the edge and obscured most of the space between the bed and the floor. Curiosity made him take a step closer even though another part of him thought that getting closer was a stupid idea. Still he took another step. The sound came again. Raheem wondered what could be making that rustling sound under his bed. Just as he got closer…the sheets that had been dangling onto the floor suddenly jerked as if they were pulled by someone or something from underneath. Raheem jumped, screamed and bumped into the dresser knocking off a glass picture frame that fell and shattered into many pieces on the floor.
There was something was under his bed; that much was obvious. But Raheem had no idea what it was. He was scared but he also was very curious. The eerie noise started again. Short quick bursts of it. Scratch, pause. Scratch, scratch, pause. Scratch. The blankets and sheets were now being jostled on both sides of the bed as if there were two people fighting over the covers. He looked around for something to flip up the covers and poke around underneath the bed with thinking that maybe he could flush out whatever it was. (His inner voice said: “Come on son, do you REALLY want to know what’s under there?”) When he grabbed the broom and tentatively took two steps toward the bed, he stepped on some of the broken glass frame. The scratching ceased and the covers stopped moving. Raheem crouched down on his knees and peered beneath this bed, praying that nothing would lunge at him. The covers obscured any light that might have penetrated the darkened area so he couldn’t see much more than a few inches of the marbled brown and beige carpet. Grabbing the broom with both hands, Raheem stood up and slowly pushed the bristle side of the broom towards his bed, sliding it slowly under the covers. Taking a wide stance he silently counted to three and flipped the covers back. The failing sunlight pierced the wall of darkness and just as it did a high pitched scream filled the air. There was a flash spark of fire and a puff of smoke.
“OW!!! Son of a…you little no good snot nose…what the…whattaya trying to do kill me?” A voice that sounded like someone had inhaled helium floated up from the far corner of the bed that was shielded by the night table from the invading sunlight rays. A pair of yellow green eyes blazed angrily out at him and the smell of burnt hair assaulted Raheem’s nose. Without giving any thought about what could be hiding under his bed, Raheem went on the attack.
“Oh so you can’t stand day light huh, ok son, come on bring it!” Raheem ran over and ripped the shades off of the windows. As the sun light illuminated more of the underside of the bed he could hear the thing yell in pain. Feeling brave, Raheem jumped up and down, swirling the broom through the air, twirling it like he had seen it done a hundred times in his favorite karate movies. But his actions didn’t seem to scare whatever it was under the bed.
“Yeah okay, why don’t you come on down here Crouching Dragon Hidden Moron.” The thing laughed at its own joke.
“Oh you got jokes shorty? How about you come out here so I can put my foot right up your….” But before Raheem could finish his insult the thing spoke again only this time it sounded…different.
“Yeah, sure give me a minute…” the thing’s voice became deeper and the bed thumped.
“…I’ll be right there just as soon…” the bed thumped again so hard that the mattress shifted out of place.
“…as the last…of the sun….” A putrid smell filled the room.
“…rays has set.” A wicked laughter chilled Raheem to the core.
To his horror, he looked down and saw a gray-green thing crawling out from under his bed. When it stood up it was no more than a foot and a half tall with yellow hair covering its body in patches. The thing was holding its tail in its hand and spitting on the smoldering part near the end. Its muscular arms and legs were glistening with slime and red thick claws curved from both its hands and feet. The thing looked up and grinned at him. Raheem could see rows of tiny brown crud covered sharp teeth. He started to feel a little queasy.
With all of his bravado gone, Raheem now held the broom like a bat and began stumbling backwards towards his open bedroom door.
“So now what were you saying about me coming out here…?” the thing took a step towards him.
“Look man, I’m sorry…”
“HEY don’t call me man, I’m a dirt gnome. My name is Mr. G to you, you got that kid?” The gnome took another step towards him.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, sure M-m-m-m-mr. G!” Raheem was truly afraid now.
“Let me enlighten you kid. See your mom bought me in a novelty shop; thought I was cute…thought she would pull a prank on you. The store clerk told her that if she put me under the bed you’d find me while you were cleaning and then I’d SCARE YOU!!” The gnome waved his hand and magically made the door to Raheem’s bedroom slam shut. Raheem dropped the broom and tried to open the door but it wouldn’t budge. He turned around to face the gnome. Raheem was shaking so bad that his teeth were chattering.
“Going somewhere before your room is clean, Raheem?” the evil eyes bored into him.
“Uh yeah, I was er, just, I was just going to go get something to eat.” desperate for a way out, Raheem considered making a leap for the window but that thing was between him and it. Besides they were three floors up and he would have to jump through the glass and risk breaking his neck and getting sliced up.
“FOOD, Yeah go on and do that bring something for me and my friends to eat too.” The nasty looking gnome was squeezing what looked like puss out of the end of his tail. He walked over to the closet and pulled one of Raheem’s shirts down and wiped the thick gob of green goo on the shirt.
“Yeah a few of us were coming to party here in a few hours. You had a pretty nice set up with all the dirt, and garbage before but you ruined it with all that cleaning” the gnome sounded angry.
“You mean you don’t like a clean room?” Raheem had slowly worked his way over to the new super vacuum his mom had bought. A quick glance told him it was still plugged in, if he could just grab the hose maybe he could suction up the thing and then make a run for the door.
“Nah can’t stand it – have to pack up and leave if the room is clean” the gnome made a face of disgust every time he said the word clean; it was just the distraction that Raheem needed.
Raheem grabbed the vacuum hose and stepped on the switch – the vacuum roared to life. He pointed the nozzle at the gnome and the powerful suction began to pull the ugly thing into the hose. It tried desperately to grab hold of the bed but it was no use. Within seconds it became stuck onto the end of the hose. Raheem ran out of the room into the hall and slammed the door closed, intending to call the police. He turned around and ran smack dab into his mother, nearly knocking her over and screaming hysterically.
“Raheem, what the devil, boy what are you screaming for?” his mother grabbed him by the shoulders trying to force him to calm down.
“It’s in there, mom! OH my God we gotta get help!” Raheem’s eyes were open wide in fear. Sweat was running down his face and he was trembling.
“Boy calm down! What are you talking about? What’s in there?” Ebony moved towards the bedroom door and opened it despite Raheem’s pleas not to. She took one look inside, screamed and shut the door.
“Raheem, go run downstairs and get Officer Taylor I saw him on the corner just now…hurry!”
“Boy go NOW!!!”
Raheem did as he was told. As soon as he was out of the apartment, his mother opened the door, walked over to the vacuum and unplugged it. Immediately the suction stopped and the ugly little gnome jumped free.
“Hey that took you long enough!” the angry little thing was rubbing its rear end which had been stuck onto the hose of the vacuum. He looked down the tube of the vacuum and pulled out his grimy pair of Hawaiian print shorts.
“Sorry the first pet shop I went to was out of them. And the specialty restaurant was backed up with orders…but uhm here.” Ebony held out brown bag stained with grease spots to the gnome.
The gnome took the bag and opened it up; he inhaled deeply and moaned in delight.
“Ah, chocolate covered crickets, the wife will love them. Thanks Ebony” then he held out his other hand. “Ahem…”
“Oh I almost forgot. Her name is Dolores Alvarez and she lives down the block. Her twin girls share a room and to hear Dolores tell it they keep that place like a zoo.”
“Any pets?” the gnome read the address on the slip of paper.
“I think they have a cat.” Ebony said
“Ok that will cost her extra.” The gnome tucked the address into a pouch located on its belly. Ebony could swear she saw teeth on the pouch. She started to feel a bit warm. She crossed the room over to the window and opened it a crack.
“Yeah well you’ll have to tell her that. Listen, are we finished? He’s going to be back soon.” Ebony anxiously looked out the window and watched Raheem dart across the street towards the police officer’s patrol car.
“Yeah yeah we’re done – so just to be clear that’s a six month service guarantee. If he starts getting sloppy again just do like I told you and mention you thought you heard a something in his room; that ought to keep him in line. If not, we’ll jump to phase two. The gnome crawled back under the bed giving Ebony and unsightly view of gnome butt crack. She choked down a gag.
“Uhm Mr. G, you never explained what phase two was?”
A pair of yellow green eyes malevolently glowed at her from under the bed.
“I don’t think you want to know.” The disembodied voice chuckled in evil laughter and in a flash of fire and smoke the gnome was gone.