By Conrad Bones
My grandma has this really old vacuum. It's the kind with a tank and a hose, not the stand-up kind. It sounds like an airplane. I've seen it suck up socks, plastic bags, spare change – even a dead mouse once.
I stayed with her for two weeks last summer. Grandma vacuumed every morning. She walked around with the hose part while I pushed the tank. "That thing is so heavy," she said. "I don't know what I'd do without you." She must vacuum all the time by herself, when I'm not there.
One morning there was a loud banging on the door. It was two guys with long hair.
"Hey, old lady," one of them said. "We were wondering what the deal is with the vacuum."
"I like to keep things tidy," she said.
"Well, do you have to do it at the crack of dawn?"
"I have more energy in the morning," she said.
"It wakes us up," he said. "We live right upstairs."
"Well, I'm sure you have to get up for work anyway," she said.
"Look, lady, stop it, or else," the first guy said.
"Yeah," said the other guy. He flexed an arm to show grandma the tattoo of a big snake with blood dripping off its fangs. "No more vacuuming until after noon," he said. "Got it?"
They slammed the door and grandma sat down, scared and shaking.
I felt bad, but what could I do? I'm only eleven.
Later that afternoon, my grandma went to vacuum the hall.
"If I don't do it, nobody does," she said.
"Do you need help?" I asked.
"Oh, it's nothing," she said. She wheeled the tank out, and shut the door behind her.
She was gone for a long time. I heard the vacuum roaring, and some banging and hollering. I guessed people were just trying to be heard over the vacuum.
"This place is so filthy," Grandma said when she came back. "It's better for now, at least." She shoved the vacuum back into the hallway closet. The machine was off, but it was still making little rumbling noises. It almost sounded like chewing.
We didn't hear from those men upstairs anymore, but the last day I was there, there was a knock on the door.
An older man was there, wearing a tie.
"Oh, it's you," my grandma said. "I sent you the rent check last week."
"I know," he said. "Do you know what happened to the two guys upstairs? They never seem to be home."
"Oh, my," said my grandma.
"I figger they ran off," the man grumbled. "They owe me two months rent."
"I'll let you know if I see them," grandma said.
"That's the fourth time this year some tenants disappeared," he said.
"Kids these days," my grandma said. She closed and latched the door. Then she stopped by the vacuum and gave it a friendly pat, just like it was a pet dog. She loves that thing.