Maureen is facing the prospect of a depressing Christmas after her husband Bob loses his job and she's forced to clean hotel rooms. When Bob's former boss is murdered, she thinks there's a chance that the couple's luck has changed. Unfortunately, for Maureen, her luck just got a lot worse. A holiday short story from the author of DEATH BY JELLO.
A speaker mounted outside the hotel entrance set the mood as Bing’s voice crooned “Christmas in Killarney.” As a tribute to the season, the management of the Mayfair had replaced the slim blue-vested doorman with a fat man wearing a Santa suit and a fake beard. He winked and nodded in my direction as he dashed to hold the door. Passing by him, I felt a strange turning in my stomach; but that could have been my hangover. I had overdone it the night before.
I kept my gaze downward, the thick soles of my sneakers squeaking on the lobby’s marble floor as I passed unnoticed by bustling clientele and made my way to the “staff-only” door. My coworkers attempted a few pleasantries before switching back to their own lively conversation. I grabbed my cup off the rack and filled it to the brim. Besides the miniature-sized toiletries that I pilfered on a regular basis, coffee was about the only perk that management offered.
Anna, my supervisor, handed me my checklist and issued a full cart. I took a final sip of coffee and headed to my locker to retrieve my apron and bottled water. I noted that the bottle was over half-empty. By midmorning, I would need a refill.
I took a long sip as my cart and I rode the elevator to the ninth floor. I parked my wares outside 912 and after a cursory knock, keyed in. It was always the same. Strip the sheets and remake the bed, clean all surfaces, restock the bathroom, and vacuum the floor. I had the routine down to twenty minutes.
Bob was right. I was a natural for this job. Twenty-five years of cleaning up after him had assured my qualifications.
Damn that Arnie Schlottenstein! I wouldn’t be cleaning up other people’s messes if it weren’t for him. Over twenty years Bob had put in at Accurate Nuts and Bolts, and for what? Downsizing, Arnie had called it. Then, just to rub salt in the wound, he gave Bob’s old position to Carla, some young bimbo whose biggest qualifications were located inside her blouse. Carla Bostock knew nothing about nuts and bolts, screws maybe, but not nuts and bolts.
I took another long sip and finished off my bottle.
For the next couple of hours, as I scrubbed and scoured, I entertained myself with fantasies of different ways to do Arnie in—and none of them were pleasant. The guy had ruined my life and my marriage.
Ever since Arnie handed him the pink slip, Bob was so depressed that he rarely left the apartment. He spent all of his time eating frozen waffles and ordering junk off of infomercials. I knew what I was getting for Christmas--a Hair Houdini and a Miracle Juicer. Only four more easy payments of nine ninety-nine, which was the equivalent of twenty-eight more toilet bowls, and I’d have them paid for!
Was it any wonder that I had become so well acquainted with Smirnoff?
After finishing room 912, I decided to sneak down to the corner market. Five minutes later, I was standing in line with a bottle of vodka and an oversized water bottle.
“How are things at the hotel today?” the clerk asked eyeing my purchase. I was a regular.
“Same as usual,” I mumbled, snatching up my change. I didn’t use to drink so much. It was the job. It would drive anyone to drink. Besides, I didn’t ever drink enough to get drunk…just enough to take the edge off.
In my haste to leave, I almost knocked over a stand of green stuffed Santas precariously positioned by the door.
The display model said “try me”—so I did. The green flocked Santa shook and let out a hearty Ho, Ho, Ho before launching into a pathetic version of “Christmas in Killarney.”
“Bet you’ve never seen an Irish Santa before,” the clerk said, clapping his hands together. “They’re selling like hot cakes, too.”
I grimaced. That was the second time I heard that song today, now it was running amuck inside my brain. Christmas in Killarney…Killarney…kill Arnie—wouldn’t I love to kill Arnie?