She had tried to make our job easier, laid two plastic shower liners on the floor to try and keep her blood from leaking into the carpet. Maybe it was out of the kindness of her heart. She sat in a chair on top, pulled the trigger with her toe. She had left the door locked. Wanted to be left alone. She also left the overhead fan on high. Maybe she wanted to be comfortable, but it means one thing to me.
The considerate suicide. Her viscuous self may be all over the room now, but she put down sheets. Not everyone does. Not everyone thinks about the clean-up.
It doesn’t matter much. The narrator, quiet and inward as they work with their partner, Eddie, can taste the woman in the air. She permeates things. The stench of death thickens a room. Our narrator is not, we think, cut out for this job. But they do it – it pays and there isn’t much to it other than cleaning. And while cleaning, the narrator notes that “[h]er room is a pomegranate and we have to spend all day picking out the seeds.”
On their way to another job something happens and a part of the suicide victim is transported into a coke can. A tooth. The narrator knows it’s there but doesn’t say a thing as Eddie drinks from it.
The two characters seem to like each other. Eddie, at least, is all about the hustle, even if that means thieving (from an employee or a store). They have become deadened to something while cleaning up the dead and the narrator, at least, is unsettled by this.
A few years ago I started listening to a podcast about a couple who ran a business cleaning up the messy dead. I didn’t make it far, not because it was particular disturbing, but because they repeatedly boiled down the task to its boring, ordinary, routine constituent parts. At some point, you aren’t cleaning up a suicide, you are wiping a photo frame and scrubbing a bookshelf. It’s too plain. Such matters force you to consider whether death is actually a meaningful act, what significance it might have. The narrator of It’ll Find You All the Time is wrestling with this as, each week, the magnitude of death fades and it becomes yet another involved cleaning project.
The smell lingers. Smells linger throughout the story, opening and closing it in fact. The narrator is attuned to this. They can’t stop thinking about it, in fact, along with the other primary senses. There is an impression that their life has been boiled down to what they can sense, which guides what they feel. There is little time for thought. Perhaps the enormity of carrying particles of another person’s brain with you is too much to process. Many showers must be had.
There is a sense of class injustice here. The woman who committed suicide was poor, and the people who cleaned her up were poorer still. The dirty, the dangerous, the violent, the sad occupations – they are the purview of the poor. The critical jobs, I might add. No matter how much technology might improve our lives, we need cleaners, and without them we suffer. Jane Black is aware of this, she touches on it lightly but firmly. Nobody will be escaping this life soon, unless, well –
It’ll Find You All the Time is a short story by American writer Jane Black
|Title||It’ll Find You All the Time|
United States of America
- Black, Jane – It’ll Find You All the Time
- Levine, Eleanor – Gravel
- Weinberger, David H – Summer Streets
- Wood, Brian – Fallen Timbers
List of female writers under review