Pick of the Month

THE WINDOW CLEANER

Hildi Maren Anchor lives in an English village which had been known for the mists that enveloped and hid it from strangers’ eyes. And when the mists lifted the whispering of the trees rose to a crescendo as leaves twisted and swirled, faster and faster, whipped into a frenzied circle of noise and menace, keeping the village’s inhabitants in and others out. The village was cursed, people said.

Centuries pass, mists lose their potency, the forest is thinned as successions of generations cut the trees down for their fireplaces. The people of the village venture out, become explorers, inventors and entrepreneurs.  To the people of the village, Hildi Maren Anchor possess none of the traits of an explorer, an inventor or an entrepreneur. Time will prove them wrong. Right at this moment, Hildi is benefiting from the excursions of the inventor and the entrepreneur for one invented glass and the other installed it in all the houses, even  in those which have survived the time of witches curse. Hildi is not only a window cleaner. She is known as The Window Cleaner to employ for the slew of houses which have survived this curse. The wood around the windows have felt the wetness of the mists, and the splintering of sinews as leaves and twigs crashed into them with venomous force before being sucked into the vortex of the circle. Hildi treats the cleaning of windows as one would treat the cleaning of precious and delicate jewellery, as one would treat the fastidious restoration of a work of art.  When she touches the wood, it is only by way of greeting and only with clean, dry hands. She feels the same way about the glass. Her body senses the trace memory of the time when the world was molten, then gradually, incrementally, produced the rocks containing silica which became the basic ingredient for the making of glass. As Hildi washes, rinses and dries, so fastidiously, so carefully, she is aware of evolution, time after time.

The old houses give up their secrets to Hildi. She finds parchments, wills, trinkets. The newer houses also have their secrets but it is the inhabitants that give them up. Conversations are not stopped, papers not put away while the barely noticeable girl, goes about quietly with her work. The owners, aware of her carefulness, ask if she should like more work cleaning their chandeliers, their precious vases and bowls.  Her work ethic is such, the various  homeowners tell each other,  she has taken to dusting without even being asked and she turn has not asked for an increase in wages. They are pleased and yet disdainful of her stupidity. More papers: transactions, shareholdings, wills, upcoming mergers, incriminating letters. More unguarded conversations, all of which teach Hildi how to use this form of knowledge to her advantage.

Sometime later,  when the undercurrent of distrust, embarrassment and anger can no longer be contained, the police are called in. Lawyers swirl about, insurance companies batten down the hatches. The exclusive, historic, pretty village has turned into a cauldron emitting hatred and vitriol. But in this time, the witches are banished, usurped. The cackling is provided by the Internet, the television and the tabloids. In the vortex of this storm, is a nondescript young girl. Not one of her victims, or indeed any person in the village, can provide a detailed description. What the police are provided with is that she had fairly thick hair, always pulled back tightly into a pony tail. What colour? Nobody was sure. She was of medium height but no-one could guess her weight as she always wore some kind of coat or large jacket. What colour? Nobody was sure.

Hildi Maren Anchor is in Venice. She misses the slew of old houses in the village she left but everywhere she is surrounded and cushioned by the different moods of the water, the breathtaking beauty of artisan glass and the whispering of the houses which can foresee their demise.

It is midnight. Hildi is standing at the open window of a room overlooking the Canel. The water is quiet and still but Hildi is very aware of the resettling in its depths. Silt sifting and resettling into calm positions after the frenetic activity on its surface. Hildi lifts her hair and lets it fall, feels its heaviness as it gently thuds to her waistline. Feels also the cool of satin against her skin.  Extends her arms as if to touch the stars and is entranced to see that moonlight has changed the limbs to have the look of marble. What was it that Michelangelo said about marble? To look at it and see what there was within?

So much to look forward to. And this time she would be seen.

 

© Susannah Thompson                                                                   April, 2022

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