A Life’s Work: Coming Clean

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Come Clean: a Life's Work

Debbi, the Merry Maids receptionist, promised me “a good time” with these two, so I was a bit surprised when Tara Hollywood (real name, she showed me her license) showed up to my house in a plain old sweatshirt and pants, aerosol and towels and vacuums in tow. Her partner, Sue Desmarais, wore the Merry Maid suit, crisp and clean, but couture best described as plumber-meets-gardener. Where, I wondered, were the sexy outfits of (other) customers’ dreams? —Ross Martin

RM: You’re not wearing the uniform!

TH: It’s under my sweatshirt.

RM: I’m guessing some of your customers are very attracted to you.

TH: Especially when I’m on my knees, scrubbing the floor.

RM: What do you think they fantasize about?

TH: The suction on my vacuum.

SD: Something they can’t have.

TH: More than just light dusting. Couldn’t you ask us that question without blushing?

RM: Okay, tell me about your customers.

TH: One guy in his early thirties always seems to be home when we come to clean, parading around in his spandex. Another guy said he left us a little surprise in his shower.

RM: What did he mean by that?

TH: What do you think he meant? Basically, he enjoyed himself in the shower by himself with his right hand.

RM: Whoa.

TH: We have a seventy-year-old regular whose house I don’t like cleaning. He’s a pervert. When I’m scrubbing the floor he stands basically on top of me. One time, he made me look up and he shoved a nude calendar in my face and said “Look at my new calendar!”

RM: That dirty dog!

TH: That same guy once pretended not to hear a maid’s name, and his eyes were bad, so he had to get real close and grab her name tag. Which just so happens is right above her breast.

RM: Every day, you get to see people’s insides. What do you find?

SD: KY Jelly, dirty magazines, used condoms, false teeth.

RM: What’s the sexiest room in the house?

TH: The bathroom.

RM: Hmmm. Now that you’ve seen my house, where do you think my wife and I do it most?

SD: Your office. Am I right? Tell me.

TH: That’s if it’s throw-me-down-and-fuck-me sex. But if you’re being tender and sensual, I’d say your guest bedroom.

SD: You look like you have an exciting sex life. Mine’s excellent too.

TH: So, you want to be a Merry Maid?

RM: I’m not sure I have what it takes.

TH: You gotta be merry. And not the kind of merry you think.


Ross Martin’s recent work appears in magazines such as Agni, Bomb, Boulevard, Denver Quarterly, Fence, Kenyon Review, Poetry Daily, Prairie Schooner, Verse, Witness and others. He has taught at Rhode Island School of Design, The New School University and Washington University in St. Louis, where he received his MFA. His first book, ‘The Cop Who Rides Alone,’ is published by Zoo Press (

© 2000 Ross Martin and, Inc.