Odd Prompts Week 8

This week’s prompt is from Cedar Sanderson: What if you really could have housecleaning done by magic Brownies? What would that really be like?

My brain is kinda like an attic, a jumble of memories that are of little use most of the time, but every once in a while someone goes up and pokes around.  This prompt knocked open a few lines from a filk song I first heard back in the 90’s.

“Where are the Brownies when you need them
How come the kitchen’s still a sight
Where are the Brownies when you need them
I hope they change their minds and come tonight”

But that didn’t quite fit what I wanted, so while it is a cute song, I let the prompt brew for a few days.

A few stray thoughts and some research later found me typing around coughing fits.  (No, nothing serious, just another round of bronchitis.  I swear I get a bout every year in early spring.  Use to be allergies that left me without much of a voice, now it is bronchitis followed by weeks of coughing.  I’d rather have the allergies back.)

 


Housekeepers

I’m a being of the night.

While most people are sleeping, I am awake and on the move.  No, I’m not a vampire or werewolf, although I believe I have seen them, I’m just what might be loosely termed a freak of nature; my circadian rhythm is reversed.  If I were to move to the other side of the world I’d most likely fit in.  Moving is very expensive especially when you’re young, so I took the next best option – I found companies that had night positions.   Security, factory work, it didn’t matter as long as I could sleep during the day.

Of course I had no social life.  Who wants to hang out at O-Dark hundred?  I also didn’t have a girl friend.  Women want normalcy, nocturnal people are not exactly normal.

So here I was forty-five, a confirmed bachelor and likely to remain so.  I was also in need of a new housekeeper.  Okay, apartment keeper.  Most housekeeping companies worked during the day and the last one kept waking me up.  Not that I didn’t keep the place picked up, it’s just that things get away from you at times.  Having someone come in once a week was a luxury I could just afford.

On a job site I found a listing for Donne’s Cleaning.  They usually did offices and such but did take on some private homes.  Their crews didn’t start working until after six p.m.  I decided to give them a call.

The woman who answered the phone had a Scottish accent so thick I could have cut it.  She asked me a series of questions, most were routine like what kind of service did I want, how often did I want the crew to come around, and was night work okay.  And then she asked me if I had cats or dogs. At first I thought she was joking, but she seemed quite serious so I told her that I didn’t even have a goldfish.

We agreed on a price and start date and that was that.  The new service started the next week.  I got home from work and found the apartment the cleanest I’d seen it since I had moved in twenty years ago.

That’s the way it went for the next several months.  Donne’s Cleaning would come in once a week, while I was at work, clear the apartment and be gone before I got home.  I sometimes found the odd thing moved from one place to another, but otherwise I was very happy with the service.

And then I got the flu.  I had it bad, all I could keep down was weak broth and sports drink.  I lay in bed with a fever, half sleeping, wishing I could just die.  I’d lost track of what day it was and forgot to call Donne’s and tell them not to come.   I heard movement in the front room, but couldn’t summon the energy to move.  The door to my room opened and I opened on eye to look.  Someone was standing in the door; someone very short and skinny.  I heard something that sounded like a squeak as I murmured an apology.   The door closed and I heard sounds of something, or something, scurrying around.  A few moments later everything was silent again and I drifted back to sleep.  When I was finally to crawl out of bed and went to find food a bit more solid I found the apartment spotless.

Figuring it had just been a fever dream I sent a message to Donne’s office thanking them for the great service and not disturbing me while I was sick.

Everything went back to normal, and I thought no more about it.

Come Spring I took some vacation time.  Not caring to travel this year, I mainly just read and surfed the internet.  The “day” the cleaning crew came over I opted to go to the late show at the movies.  The movie ended long before I was ready to go home so I found a bar that was still open and hung out for a while.  I left at last call, having nursed a drink for over an hour, and went home.

I walked into my apartment and saw two figures: short, male, skinny creatures with brownish skin and long curly brown hair.  One of the looked up and squeaked.  I stared dumbfounded as my brain gibbered while it tried to make sense of what I was seeing.  They were holding cleaning equipment and the apartment was clean – this was my housekeeping crew.  The second one turned and gave a louder shriek.  I finally realized that I was still standing in the door.  Blurting an apology of some kind I stepped out of the way, letting them leave.

I watched them grab up their gear and run out the door, a faint whimpering following after them.  I just stared as they vanished down the hall.

A few minutes later I closed the door and walked over to chair.  I wasn’t drunk, I wasn’t seeing things.  The housekeeping crew were … well, not human.  What were they?

I got online and started doing some serious research.  An hour later I had part of an answer, they were a member of fae called Brownies.  A little more digging and I learned that they were from the British Isles and usually lived in hidden corners of a home and did odd chores in return for milk and sometimes food.  They are nocturnal creatures and did not like to be seen.  That explained the squeaks both times I had seen them.

Additional reading said that they could be easily offended and that offering payment greater than they expected was considered an insult.

What I could not find was how or why they came to America.  I could only speculate that they had gotten collected up in some household goods when a couple of families left the old home for the new land.  I also could not find out how to apologize for scaring them without giving offense.

I checked the office hours for Donne’s; perhaps I could call and explain the situation.

Promptly at eight, when I normally would have been sound asleep, I called the office.  The woman that answered sounded like the same one I had spoken to almost a year ago.  I explained to her that I had accidently came in before the crew left and had given them a bit of a fright.  I heard a soft grunt, as if she was trying to figure out whether to tell me I’d been seeing things,  the contract was over, or if she could send a different crew.  Before she could decide I pressed on saying that I wanted to leave a small token of my thanks for such great service and to say I was sorry, but I didn’t want to give too much as I didn’t want to offend anyone.  This was a gift, not payment.

After a long moment of silence, the woman told me to try leaving out some honey or fresh apples, which they had come to like since coming to America.

Before I left for work the next week I laid out a couple of fresh apples and a small bowl of locally produced honey.  I hoped that when I got home that morning I’d find the food gone and the apartment clean.

After I had got off from work early the next night due to an equipment malfunction, I made a point of taking my time getting home.  When I arrived, I made plenty of noise getting out my keys and rattling them as I whistled a tune.  When I turned on the lights, the apartment was spotless as usual.  I smiled and continued to hum as I got ready for bed.


A few of the sites that I found, and that our narrator probably found as well.

https://mythology.wikia.org/wiki/Brownie

The Different Types Of Mythological Brownies

Elements of Fantasy: Brownies

7 thoughts on “Odd Prompts Week 8

    • Thank you. I thought it was a bit weak on “conflict” but that’s what came out when I sat down. So I focused on keeping it in “journal” or “telling a story” structure – with no dialogue. Turned out to be harder than I thought it would be. 😮

      Poor critters would be confused and traumatized by our cats. Misti would most likely try to get them to pet her. Maize probably wouldn’t be able to see them very well, so would ignore them. Bristol on the other hand would chase them around trying to play with them.

      Like

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