Monday, December 6, 2010

muff's eyes

"Muff's Eyes"

         I had been dreading this day all weekend. My mom had decided last minute that she was going to go visit her dying mother in Rhode Island, and that she would have to leave my sixteen-year-old brother with me for the weekend. I had only reluctantly accepted, since I hadn’t seen Connor in over a year.
         And now I was being forced to take him to work with me. My job was embarrassing enough – cleaning people’s toilets, changing their dirty sheets. They were all ungrateful. I didn’t want Connor to make a scene, and I didn’t want people staring at him, wondering what was wrong with him. I’d put up with that my whole life.
         Even so, I led Connor into the lobby of the hotel and sat him down in a maroon armchair.
         “Sit here quietly for a second,” I told him. “Don’t move.”
Connor sat obediently, clutching his stuffed monkey.  He’d had it so long that its eyes had fallen out.
I hurried through the “Employees Only” door, clocked in and gathered my maid service supplies. I wasn’t in the mood to clean up people’s dirty lives. Working here straight out of high school for almost four years had taught me that most of the people who came through that golden revolving door took everything for granted; especially clean toilets and sheets.
When I came back to the lobby, the maroon armchair was empty. Connor was across the room sitting uncomfortably close to a middle-aged woman, their faces inches apart.
He showed her the stuffed monkey. “This is Muff.”
The woman inched away from Connor and hid her face behind her copy of Vanity Fair.
I immediately grabbed his arm, apologized to the woman, and marched him up the grand staircase.
“I told you to sit in that chair until I got back!”
But Connor and that monkey only stared at me. I rolled my eyes and guided him down the second floor hall to begin my shift.
I unlocked the door to room 201 and he darted in. I ripped the sheets off the Queen-sized bed and replaced them with fresh ones.
Connor had already found a leather briefcase on the table and was going through the papers inside.
“Hey, put those back!” 
He shot me a sullen look, replaced the papers and sat on the floor with his arms crossed.
I sighed. “If you want to help, you can dust.”
He smiled when I handed him the duster, and he went over to the dresser and started dusting. I slipped cases on the pillows, placed them neatly on the bed, and got the vacuum cleaner out.
I turned around to find Connor sitting on the floor next to a small box and holding two small, silver circles.
“I found Muff’s eyes!”
“Connor, those are cufflinks,” I said, taking them from him. “They’re not yours.”
“I know – they’re Muff’s.”
“How do you know?”
But once I asked, I remembered our mom often calming Connor down at night when he was upset by telling him something about his stuffed monkey’s eyes falling out and becoming stars, watching him from above like a guardian angel.
Connor put the cufflinks on his monkey’s face where its eyes used to be.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to explain to him that those were dress shirt accessories and they were probably very expensive. He would always believe they were his monkey’s missing eyes.
“Just put them down.”  I figured I could distract him and make him forget about them. He continued dusting the table.
I vacuumed the carpet around the bed and kept my eye on Connor as he dusted.  
      Suddenly, the vacuum clicked two times and began rattling as it sucked up something large.
Connor spun around.
“Muff’s eyes!” He dove at the vacuum and scratched at the bag.
“Calm down, Connor, I’ll get them out!” I said, prying his hands away from the vacuum.
I detached the bag and dumped the dust and hair right onto the carpet. Before I could get to it, Connor was already sifting madly through the dust ball. He found the cufflinks quickly and held them tightly to his chest.
Something in me snapped. It was pathetic, seeing a teenage boy hugging a pair of cufflinks.    
        He would never need cufflinks for their true purpose. He could never attend a cotillion or prom or his own wedding. Yet he cherished them.
        At that moment, I didn’t care how much those things cost. To Connor, they were priceless.

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