Road trips, whether for business or for pleasure, are wonderful adventures that offer innumerable chances for excitement and opportunity. In the grand tradition of middle class America, Jack’s sister, Sam, had many times suggested that any time Jack went on a cleaning trip across the country he should bring back a small knick-knack or curio so that he could remember the trip more fondly. Jack strongly disagreed with this suggestion for two reasons. Firstly, his sister only seemed to collect matchboxes from bars, tattoos, and numbers from men she never planned on calling back. None of these items seemed to provide her with any happy memories. There was another reason why Jack refused to collect curios or souvenirs. The Pine Scent motel lighting up his mental images, as well as briefly the night sky in the rearview mirror, made him happier than any disease-ridden piece of mid-western kitsch or snuff film he could have pulled out of the wreckage. Many bed bugs and cockroaches died to bring him that memory and Jack wanted to be able to enjoy it without worrying about where to put the cigarette tray he never wanted.
Since they had left the middle of nowhere behind them in a hurry, naturally they got lost. If one has no idea where one is going, very often you end up not getting there. This little detour from their trip to sunny California took them to Hell. Hell, Michigan, that is, and Jack decided the time had come to gas up. Jack yanked a map out from the glove compartment and got out to stretch while Stan gassed up the car. They were going to have to avoid Detroit. Jack wasn’t welcome in that city anymore after he had been called in to clean up for some union boss and things got way out of hand. Checking the routes and lost in thought, Jack was abruptly pulled away from his map reading by an insistent tug on his pant leg. Looking down to the source of the irritation he found two young girls with light brown hair staring up at him.
“Mister, do you clean bathrooms?” The little one said, pointing to the logo on the van. The question was so specific and out of the ordinary that Jack blinked a few times in surprise before adjusting his glasses.
“Yes, I do clean bathrooms. Why do you ask?” Jack politely folded his map and took a closer look at the two girls. At first glance they appeared to be twins, but on closer inspection one was slightly older. They were both dressed in shorts and t-shirts, but what really caught his eye was the cat that the younger one was struggling to keep in her arms. Black from tip to tail, the cat squirmed around in the girl’s arms and yowled menacingly, it’s claws waving around in front of it.
The words the older girl spoke next really caught Jack’s attention, “Our bathroom is evil and nobody will clean it.”
“Go on.” Jack put his map back on his seat and closed the door.
“It’s always dirty and there’s a mean man who lives in the ceiling.”
Jack found his mind racing, wondering what kind of specter wanted to haunt the bathroom of small children. As he was lost in thought a young woman rounded the van and took both the girls collars into her hands.
“Found you two! Mom wondered where you got off to. Who are you bothering now?” The young woman who now clutched their shirts shared the two girls’ brown eyes and hair, though hers were a little deeper.
“They were asking me to clean a dirty bathroom,” The young woman scrunched her nose in disgust, apparently, it was her bathroom as well, “I’m willing to take on the job. I’ve already lost so much time that a little more won’t hurt now.”
The young woman looked skeptical, pulling two younger girls pulled closer to her , “Are you sure that you’re willing to clean the bathroom, sir? I wouldn’t be able to pay you much since I’m in college.”
The younger of the two girls wiggled free and handed off her struggling burden to her older sister, who promptly held the deadly furry weapon out at arm’s length. The child pulled out a small change purse, “We saved up all our allowances to get the bathroom cleaned.”
Jack let out a deep sigh and leaned his head forward, gently lifting his glasses up and massaging the bridge of his nose. Things had gotten slightly more serious. Now he couldn’t turn them down, not under terms like this. Reaching out his hand, Jack accepted the small change purse and jingled it next to his ear. Around seven dollars, all told. Mostly in nickels and dimes. This would maybe cover the cost of the supplies needed for one small bathroom. Jack pocketed the change and held his hand out to the younger sibling, “It’s a deal, as soon as we’re done gassing up we’ll head on over. You just give us a street name and we’ll be right along.”
The young woman looked relieve to hear this new information, “We live on a street called Bathtub, it’s the one with all the cars out front.”
Jack nodded and let them leave before rounding the corner to find Stan looming over a man laid out flat on the ground. “Can I not leave you alone for five minutes without you doing something that gets us banned from another state or put on another watchlist?”
Stan pulled his hat down low and pulled the gas nozzle out of the van, “He was tryin’ to steal one of our tires and I don’t wanna hear no complainin’ after you burnt down a hotel.”
Jack looked away and coughed slightly, “It was a motel, but I take your point. It looks like we have a little work to do here before we can take on our job in California. This is the last stop, I swear.” Swinging around back to the passenger seat, Jack grabbed his map and settled down, adjusting his glasses as the van shifted when Stan got into the driver’s seat. “I can’t stay mad at you for Milwaukee forever. Who knew pushing that old building over would be a felony? I don’t get how its historically important if it’s a house that eats people.”
Stan started up the van and pulled out an unlit cigar before pulling out onto the road, “I think them cops was lyin’ to ya, boss.”
Jack shrugged and straightened out his map, “Maybe, but they sure did seem angry. Take a left up here, Stanley. We have a bathroom to clean.” Looking over his map, Jack had to resist the urge to smile. A road trip is an adventure and all adventures are just unexpected memories waiting to happen.