It was recycling day and, while the bins were still out at the curb, I was sweeping up the narrow little recycling room. It really needed a more thorough dusting and vacuuming, but the building’s vacuum cleaner is kept in the gardening room and I don’t have the key.
Someone in the apartment above me started playing the saxophone, I don’t know who it was. The sax player hesitated at the start of the song, but found a comfortable tempo soon enough and went with it. Now I was kind of sweeping in time to the music – but not in a really obvious way, because across the hall someone was shifting clothes around between washers and dryers and I didn’t want to call attention to myself.
The sax player recovered quickly from a missed note, and now I felt like I was in a hard-boiled detective novel. I got into the corners around the door and my broom brushed out into the hallway and picked up a bit of action from the floor out there. The hallway is deep into a months-long remodeling, and things had not been going well. When the carpet was pulled up, we found a layer of a tar-like sealant underneath. This was not compatible with the surface we’d been planning to lay down, and things needed to be thought out again. The hallway floor was in mid-construction purgatory, perfect for the detective novel.
The guy came out of the laundry room and stood in the hall looking at me. All I could see was a backlit profile carrying a basket of clothes. He contemplated me for a moment. I squinted my eyes, and recognized him as one of the Andrews – quiet edgy Andrew (as opposed to nervous Andrew or out-spoken Andrew). He was wearing a kilt. He nodded at me and turned away toward the stairwell.
Now I recognized that I was not the star in this detective story, I was part of the atmosphere. I didn’t even have information for the protagonist, I was just some Joe sweeping up.
It was laundry day, and I was wearing my last clean outfit. The saxophone music that follows me around was accompanied by the sound of someone sweeping. I hauled my whites out of the dryer . . .