Broom by Madison McSweeney
Just before midnight, the old man’s hand on my shoulder jolts me from a deep sleep. “Helena,” he croaks, “there’s dust everywhere.”
My hands grasping the sides of my mattress, I blink and try to make sense of what is happening.
The old man is in my bedroom. My door is open, and yellow light from the hallway is streaming in. Behind me, it is dark.
“It’s the middle of the night,” I moan, more to orientate myself than to make him see reason. “Why are you up this late?”
“Because you can’t keep a house clean!” he screams, nearly crying. “What do I pay you for? How am I supposed to sleep with all this dust in the air?”
“Alright, alright,” I say, sitting up and staggering to my feet. “I’ll dust. Again.”
“Start with the porch! That’s where the dust gets in.”
Always the porch. He’s obsessed with the porch. Before my time, it must have been a lovely sunroom, where the lady of the house would read and entertain guests and admire the colours of the world. Now it’s just another dingy receptacle for his junk.
“I have bad lungs, you know,” he’s whining. “You’re trying to poison me. All you women…”
I push past him, grab my broom, and head down the stairs to the porch that will never be swept as clean as the old man’s wife used to keep it. But she’s gone, I think, with a touch of bitterness. She left you in the middle of the night.
The windows here are so draughty that it feels like being outside, but the musty scent is overwhelming. It’s not dust that’s the problem here – it’s mould. After a while, I go into a coughing fit and step out onto the patio for some air. The sky is an inky black – no, not ink, there’s not a hint of blue in this sky. The sky is black as the void, and the moon looms low, glowing white as chalk. It’s beautiful.
In my hand, the broom handle stiffens, and ever-so-softly starts to vibrate, the wood of the handle pulsing, the bristles rustling like dead stalks of corn in the wind. I insert the handle between my legs, letting it become part of my body, and aim myself moonward.
Madison McSweeney is a poet and horror writer from Ottawa, Canada. She has published poetry and short fiction in Under the Full Moon's Light, Women in Horror Annual Vol. 2, Rhythm & Bones Lit, and Zombie Punks F*ck Off. She also blogs about genre fiction and the Canadian arts scene on her website www.madisonmcsweeney.com.