* * * *
The idea, originally, had been not to appear so desperately enthused when Darlene offered him the job. Acting gigs in Atlanta theatre were scarce now, leaving Troy with few options. He would need a job that allowed him to work around auditions. That his best friend operated a successful housecleaning business was fortunate, and he had hoped a blasé reaction would at least confirm his talent. He could play it cool on the exterior when his inner starving artist clawed and begged for rent and something to eat besides baked beans and Cheerios. Not even Cheerios, for this month's budget wouldn't allow it. He had to settle for a box of whole grain Ns from the salvage mart.
I should write that down, he thought wistfully. Write his own scripts, seeing as how none were coming his way. Do a one-man show, offer free beer if he thought it would fill seats and his coffers.
"It's twice a week, but it's a great job. You'll be able to get by on it for a while," Darlene was saying over a steaming mug of frothy cream. They were sitting on the deck at Caribou Coffee, overlooking busy Peachtree Street. Bloated with cars in both directions, filled with people who knew their intended destinations—their nine to five deskwork, their 401ks, their security until retirement and a life sentence to a Winnebago and Bermuda shorts.
Troy snorted and sipped the latte paid for by his friend, the first drink he'd enjoyed in two weeks that didn't have a sulfuric aftertaste. Where was the adventure in security, anyway? He rather enjoyed making soup from ketchup packets. Even the plastic added an extra thickness that he hoped would keep him regular.
"Pays five thou a week," Darlene continued. Troy did his absolute best not to shoot vanilla soy milk and coffee through his nose. Sir Olivier would have been proud. Damn, he was in the wrong biz. With that kind of cash he could realize his dream of upgrading to the Cheerios with those freeze-dried strawberry nuggets. And buy milk!
"Sounds good," he said, his voice cool, his knee bouncing nervously under the table.
"Of course, it pays a lot because it's a fairly big apartment, and the client is a total germophobe." Darlene rolled her eyes. "The guy grates soap over his pasta like it was parmesean. Well, he's out of town for a few months and wants the place spotless when he returns."
Troy crinkled his brow. "And I'd have to keep going back twice a week? Is somebody sub-letting the joint?"
"Nope. The apartment is empty." Darlene set down her mug, looking suddenly coy.
"Then why the need to clean the place so often if nothing gets touched? I mean, yeah, some dust might accumulate, but if the place is ventilated well enough..."
"He's a very anal retentive germophobe."
"Okay." This gig sounded better by the minute. For five thou a week he could watch TV from a rich weirdo's luxury Buckhead abode. Satellite, in color! Do a bang up job of cleaning on his last week, and collect a hefty paycheck.
"Oh, and all the rooms are always monitored with video security. He's a paranoid, anal retentive germophobe."
"I see." Crap. Still, five thou to polish furniture and maybe those large, porcelain cat sculptures rich weirdos were fond of buying...
"And you'll be naked, did I mention that?"
His face bent toward the glass tabletop. He could see, in the faint reflection, the tiniest bit of latte foam bubbling from within his nostrils. He choked and gargled like a virgin taken by surprise during her first blow job, and snatched the proffered paper napkin from Darlene's hand.
"I guess I didn't."