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Dana C. Kabel settles the question: Is cleanliness next to Godliness?

When you're a hired hand on the bottom rung, the answer is a resounding NO.

Clean by Dana C. Kabel

“Come on kid, put your elbows into it,” the old man said. “Clean it like there was a dead body on it.”

“There was…a dead body on it,” Rusty said, giving the old man a shitty look. “A bloody mess of a dead fucking body.”

“Hmm,” the old man grunted as his hedgehog eyebrows knit together. The kid was digging the scrub brush hard into the tile floor. Red foam squished out of the bristles in a mixture of soap and blood. “The grout’s a bitch, huh?”

Now it was Rusty who grunted.

“Something bothering you, kid?”

The scrubbing stopped and it was suddenly so quiet you could hear the kid’s teeth grinding.

“Gee Ernie, I dunno…take a fucking look around;” He threw the wooden brush across the room and cracked a window.

“Hey, that’s coming out of your pay!”

“Wanna talk about my pay?” Rusty got up off the ground and unbuckled his kneepads, letting them drop to the floor.

“You got me working night and day, wiping blood and brains and shit off the walls and ceilings…”

“And the floors,” Ernie grinned. “I told you I’d keep you busy.”

Rusty peeled his latex gloves off and fished a pack of cigarettes out from under his blood-stained plastic coveralls.

“When you left Crime Cleaners to start your own gig, you said if I came to work for you I’d make more dough than I could spend.”

“Uh-huh,” the old man lit a recycled cigar butt.

“I’m not.”

“Kid, how many hours were you getting with Crime Cleaners?”

“Twenty to thirty on a good week.”

“See, they got too many fucking employees so’s they can keep everyone at part-time.”

“At twenty-five bucks an hour! You’re giving me ten bucks an hour with twice as much time, and I’m making a third less than before.”

Ernie spit cigar bits on the floor and laughed.

“What the fuck’s so funny?”

“You’re a hard worker. Thought you were a smart one too.”

“Naw, you thought I was a dumb sucker that you could work like a dog for slave wages.”

“You’re looking at this thing the wrong way, kid. Crime Cleaners employed you as a sub-contractor, which means that it is your responsibility to sock away a substantial amount of that big check they paid you to give to the fucking Feds come January.”

“Fuck that. I never filed taxes in my life.”

“Heh-heh. Doesn’t matter. Crime Cleaners is a franchised organization that reports quarterly to the IRS. Now you gotta file…and you better get an accountant to do it for you. The Feds’ll come after you for that shit.”


“Yeah, they are. But don’t fret, Rusty. Uncle Sam may try to fuck you in the ass, but Uncle Ernie is looking out for you. I been paying you cash money under the table, which you get to keep in your pocket. Same as I get from the customer. See, technically this business don’t exist. I ain’t licensed or insured or none of that shit. Ever notice the big difference between the jobs you been doing for me and the jobs we did for Crime Cleaners?”

“Yeah, it’s just me doing the friggin’ dirty work.”

“No, it’s you doing the cleaning work. Work I can still do by myself if you don’t lose the pissy attitude. But that ain’t what I’m talking about. Have you noticed the lack of police tape around these fucked up bodies you been scraping up?”

Rusty started choking on his own spit. The cigarette fell out of his mouth and Ernie stomped on it.

“What the hell you got me into?”

“Take it easy, kid. The outfit we’re working for is big time. They’re not the kind to get caught for whacking a guy.”

“Is that right? Well I tell you what, old timer; things are gonna change now because of that little bit of knowledge. I’m gonna do less scrubbing, and you’re gonna pay me more money. Otherwise, I’m gonna report something to the Feds other than a tax return.”

Ernie flicked his cigar nub away and tsk’d. “I really thought you were smarter than that kid. Take a fucking look around you. There’s a flat-screen TV on the wall with the Blu-ray … one of those I-thingies on the table next to a nice new laptop, a stereo system…and that’s just in the living room. Did you check out the jewelry box in the bedroom? How ‘bout the cupboard full of top shelf booze in the kitchen … or the bag of blow in the medicine cabinet? All extras, kid. Like a great big fucking tip for you. These goons live large, and you could’ve been living it up too…if you had been as smart as I thought you was.” Ernie’s eyes glistened like he was going to cry. “Too bad, kid…I really liked you.”

Rusty backed up. His eyes darted around for something to grab hold of. The only thing within reach was a bottle of spray cleaner.

“What the fuck you think you’re gonna do to me old man?”

“I ain’t gonna spray you with bleach,” Ernie said, cocking the gun in his hand. I told you I can do this work all by myself if I have to. Tell you what; go into the bathroom and get in the tub. You make this easy on me…I’ll make it quick and painless for you. Put one right between your eyes.”

“Aw, Jesus,” Rusty whined. His knees started knocking together. He held onto the spray bottle that was pointed at Ernie and squeezed his eyes shut.

“Don’t make me shoot you here. That grout is a real cocksucker to clean. I’ll have to blast you through the heart to keep the blood flow at a minimum. I hear that hurts like a bitch.”

Rusty started pissing himself and the old man sighed as he aimed the gun at the center of his chest.

Dana C. Kabel’s stories have appeared in A Twist of Noir, Black Heart Magazine, The Flash Fiction Offensive, Muzzleflash, Mysterical-E, Out of the Gutter, Shotgun Honey, Thrillers, Killers ‘N Chillers and Yellow Mama, to mention a few. He has a story in the upcoming Otto Penzler collection, KWIK KRIMES, and he blogs at