How to dust

First take off your shoes. The carpet is white; it shows every footprint, every pass of the vacuum cleaner. This is why kids are not allowed in here. This is why we do not use this room.

Take a dust-rag – one of Dad’s old undershirts – and spray it with lemon Pledge. Wrinkle your nose at the smell. Survey the landscape: curios collected from places she has been or always wanted to visit. The jade Buddha. The brass cricket cage. The black lacquer bowl. The Russian spoons.

Lift them one by one, starting with the Buddha. Weigh it in your hand. Memorize the mark it leaves behind on the coffee table, its footprint in the dust. Fix it in your mind, this spot. Remember the shape, the angle. Try not to think of the dust, of what it’s made of. (Hair follicles. Skin cells. Cigarette ash. Mites.) Wipe it away, carefully, drawing the rag around the edges of the empty places. Set down the jade Buddha (the brass cricket cage, the black lacquer bowl, the Russian spoon) precisely where it had been, as if it had never been moved. The arrangement is important.

Move to the piano, black lacquer like the bowl, the spoons, the arms of the Oriental-style chairs and the screen with the jade inlays. Black and white, this room, except where the dust has settled. Wipe down the three wooden monkeys (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil) and the dust at their feet and place them – again – where they have always been, sitting on their haunches and minding their own business, not judging.

Thirty minutes is all it takes. Thirty minutes to make it perfect. Toss the rag in the laundry and try not to think of the dust, how even now, it is gathering on every surface.

9 responses to “How to dust

  1. I know this room.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel like this could have used a little more context to set it in time and place – maybe it works without the additional knowledge I’m bringing to it, but I’m not sure it does. With what I have, it’s achingly lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, I can see this room so clearly! I feel like I know it, and like I don’t belong there (both things I’m pretty sure are intentional on the authors part, so kudos!) One thing I’d like to see/experience is how the narrator is feeling about these minute actions. I feel like there is a tension about it, but it’s not quite coming through enough for me to be able to say that with conviction. (And it is entirely possible that I am just more dense than the average reader, so please take my opinion with a grain of salt!) Is there an anxiety involved in getting the pieces put back just so? Or is it simply cold precision and accuracy? I also feel like there is a loneliness to this essay (on the part of the narrator), but would love to experience these things through the POV of the narrator so I can be sure I’m picking up the right clues. The part about what dust is made of made me shudder, and the rest of the descriptions are beautifully crafted and exquisitely detailed.


  4. All that reference to dust has me itching to pick up a rag right now!

    But how beautiful you make dust sound. How is that even possible? It’s dust! You witch with words, you!


  5. I enjoyed the haunting feel of this – there’s something more here about the dusting, the duster, but it’s out of view. It’s hinting at the rest of the story which I imagine is a good one.

    Also, dusting is the absolute worst and I hate it.


  6. This is why I hate dusting. It’s why I don’t dust until I can write my name in it. And the pledge…is there anyone who doesn’t have a mom or grandmother who used it? That and maybe EndDust — which is a total lie. I loved this line so much: Wipe down the three wooden monkeys (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil) and the dust at their feet and place them – again – where they have always been, sitting on their haunches and minding their own business, not judging.

    This essay was poetic. Very poetic. I am still not sure I see the resolution, though. I cold be just missing it. I hope that its that dusting is pointless and to stop doing it. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Reminds me to dust this weekend.After all, 30 minutes is all it takes!


  8. I love the imagery here so much, but I too want to know the bigger story behind this.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. You already know how much I love this piece, how wonderfully it captures your grief and sorrow. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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