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Josie's Bucket List
by Lori B.

            Josie stared down at the stream of hot water mixing with the detergent in her wash pail. The strong smell of Murphy’s Oil Soap rose up, sending a wave of nausea through her. Not today, she thought. Please, God, just let me get this enormous house cleaned before I get sick. I really need this job.

            She’d already rinsed the breakfast dishes, filled the dishwasher and turned it on, scoured the sink, and polished the chrome. She’d dusted the blinds, washed the windowsill, sprayed and wiped down the countertops and stove. Now it was time to scrub the bamboo floor.

            Josie plunged a mop into the bucket and got to work. The rhythm of cleaning floors was a good distraction. It took her mind off her morning sickness and onto other things. For example, she wondered why Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, a young couple with no children, had need of five bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a four-car garage. None of my business, she told herself, turning her attention back to the floor. 

            With every pass of the mop, Josie felt a little better. Soon the floor was dry and gleaming, and the sick feeling was no longer there. That’s more like it, she told herself. Only eleven rooms to go. 

            She was upstairs in one of the bathrooms. She’d just cleaned the jetted tub and was preparing to mop the slate tile when she heard a noise downstairs. It frightened her at first, because she knew Mr. Robinson was at the golf course and Mrs. Robinson was out shopping for an outfit for the cruise they were taking next week. But then she heard Mrs. Robinson’s voice.

            “I forgot my purse!” Mrs. Robinson called out. “I’d forget my head if it wasn’t attached with Super Glue,” she added, running upstairs and into the master bedroom (the luxurious peach-colored one with the king-sized bed, adjoining bath, and walk-in closet that was bigger than Josie’s entire apartment).

            Mrs. Robinson came out of the bedroom and into the bathroom, where Josie was filling her wash pail with soap and water again. She was carrying her purse and an old red book with gold lettering.

            “Josie, I’ve been meaning to give you this, if you want it for the baby. I found it in a box of old things while I was packing for our cruise. It’s a first edition.” She held the book out to Josie.

            “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” Josie read. “Why thank you, Mrs. Robinson.”

            “Oh, please, call me Angie!” Mrs. Robinson replied. “After all these months, I feel like we’ve become friends.”

            Josie was surprised. She'd always thought of Mrs. Robinson as her boss. Her very rich boss. "Thank you, Mrs. Robinson ... I mean, Angie. But don’t you think you might need this book someday?” Josie answered.

            “I doubt it. Mr. Robinson is absolutely sure that he never wants children,” Mrs. Robinson said, with what Josie thought was a note of sadness.

            Suddenly, Mrs. Robinson smiled brightly. “Well, I’d better get back to Très Chic. I found the cutest outfit for our cruise. They’re holding it for me. Can I get you anything while I’m out?”

            “No thanks, I’m fine," Josie replied, still feeling a bit uncomfortable calling the woman by her first name.

            “Well, don’t work too hard, Josie, okay?” Mrs. Robinson said with a tinkling laugh, and then she was gone.

            Josie leaned against the wall with a sigh. She liked Mrs. Robinson, who always seemed to have time to talk, and who always treated her with respect, unlike some of the other clients she'd worked for. The couple would be gone for three weeks on their cruise, but Mrs. Robinson had paid Josie in advance for those three weeks. And she'd paid her in full, too, even though all Josie would have to do while they were gone was water the plants. 

            Thinking about water reminded Josie that she’d better get back to work. She set the book down on the bathroom counter and began to mop the floor. When she was finished, she put the mop aside and reached down for the bucket so she could empty it. 

            As she bent her arm to lift the bucket, her elbow collided with a corner of the book, causing it to tumble from the counter. The pages opened, releasing a small scrap of yellowed paper just before the book hit the floor. The paper fluttered downward and landed gently on the suds still remaining in the bucket.

            Josie grabbed for the paper, but that only pushed it below the surface of the water. It started to sink, but she managed to scoop it out and shake it off. The ink was already starting to run, but she could make out some of the large, blurry words written in childish script:

            My Bucket List

  1. Marry a rich person
  2. Live in a big house
  3. Have a maid
  4. Go on a cruise

            There were more items on the long list, but it was too late … they’d gotten completely soaked and were unreadable.

            Josie stood there wondering what to do. It obviously had been written when Mrs. Robinson was a young girl, dreaming about her future. And that future had certainly come true. She'd married a rich man, she lived in a big house, she had a "maid" (Josie hated that word), and now she was even going on a cruise. Mrs. Robinson didn't need the list anymore, and Josie didn’t want to leave any evidence of her clumsiness. On impulse, she crumpled the soggy paper, tossed it into the toilet, and flushed it away.

            Suddenly, she felt dizzy, followed by another wave of nausea. It was probably just hunger. She hadn’t felt like eating breakfast that morning. She sat down on the hard bathroom tile and waited for the feeling to pass. But instead, it only got worse. Then she blacked out. 

            When Josie came to, she was surrounded by white light. She opened her eyes a little wider and tried to focus. Sheets. She was covered with them. And a blanket. There was a table next to her. Flowers. And someone’s face.

            “Josie?” It was Mrs. Robinson.

            “Where am I?” Josie said, weakly.

            “You’re in the hospital. You had a close call, but you’re alright.”

            “The baby?” Josie asked, feeling frantic.

            “Just fine,” Mrs. Robinson reassured her. “You just fainted and hit your head. But it’s only a small lump. You’ll be going home tomorrow.”

            “Oh good, I can finish cleaning the house then.”

            “No way, Josie. The doctor has ordered bed rest for you, for at least a month.”

            Bed rest! She didn’t have time for that! “But what about work?” Josie’s eyes filled with tears.

            "Don’t worry about work. It can wait.” Mrs. Robinson patted her hand. Josie was not reassured. How was she going to afford food, rent, vitamins? Baby clothes? She suddenly blamed herself.

            “It’s my fault,” Josie said. “I flushed your list.”

            “You what?” Mrs. Robinson asked.

            “I flushed your list. The Bucket List. It fell out of your book and landed in my wash pail. I tried to save it but it was too late. But I did read part of it, all about wanting to marry somebody rich and hire a maid and go on a cruise. And then I flushed it. I shouldn’t have done that. I think God is punishing me!”

            “Josie, I don’t know anything about a bucket list. That was Mr. Robinson’s book, by the way. He probably wrote that list when he was younger. He’s always had a plan for his life. A plan that used to include me.” Josie saw those sad eyes again. 

            “What do you mean?” she asked Mrs. Robinson.

            “Oh, nothing to worry yourself about, Josie. I found out today that he hasn’t been going to the golf course at all. He’s been having an affair.”

            “That’s terrible!” Josie said. 

            “Not really. I'm glad I found out. I've been unhappy for years. Now I can live the life I really want. But he feels terrible about it -- especially after I reminded him about our prenup."

            "I didn't know you two were having problems."

            "Well, we were, but now my biggest problem is what to do with that extra cruise ticket, which he won't be using. Josie, how would you like to go to Cancún? You won’t have to clean a thing for three weeks!”

            “I don’t know what to say,” Josie whispered.

            “And after that, I’ll need company. Why don’t you think about moving in with me? There’s plenty of room. We can turn one of the bedrooms into a nursery!”

            Josie thought she must be dreaming. She told Mrs. Robinson that she would think about it, but of course she’d already made up her mind. It was a good plan, for now.

            The next morning, Josie opened her eyes and saw a second bouquet of flowers on the table, and something wrapped in pink and blue paper. She unwrapped the paper carefully and found a blank journal. Inside it was a note that said, “For your bucket list … your friend, Angie.”

            When the nurse came in, Josie asked her for a pen. As soon as the nurse left, Josie opened her new book to the first page. At the top of the page, she wrote three words: “My Bucket List,” and underneath the words, she wrote:

            1. Have a healthy baby.

            One week later, Josie found herself sitting next to Mrs. Robinson in a lounge chair on the deck of a huge cruise ship. They were on their way to Cancún. Josie put down the book she’d been reading.  

            “I love Alice in Wonderland, Angie,” she said. “Thanks again.”

            “Don’t thank me, it was Harold’s book, and he said he didn’t want it.”

            “Well, I don’t think I’ll be thanking Harold anytime soon,” Josie said. They both laughed and sipped their drinks (white wine for Mrs. Robinson, lemonade for Josie).

            Josie put Alice in Wonderland back into her travel bag and took out another book, and a pen. The second book was her journal. She opened it to the first page. Under the words she’d already written, she added another item:

            2. Name the baby Alice or Lewis.

            “What’s that you’re writing?” Mrs. Robinson asked Josie.

            “Oh, just some ideas I have. They came to me when I was mopping floors.”

            The two women laughed again. It was going to be a very good cruise.


The End










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