Life Lines

Dot plodded round the balcony, switching on the lights. She collected her mop and bucket from the cupboard by the gemstones, her name scrawled across it in marker pen.  

“It’s my bucket,” she once yelled at an agency cleaner, a scrawny kid who tried to laugh it off but folded under her glare. It wasn’t the only thing that was hers. The cracked tiles and rickety parquet floors were as familiar as the pattern on her settee.

Dot steered the mop across undulating surfaces, anticipating well-worn fissures like a blind person navigating their way home. A song crossed her lips, wordless, but that didn’t matter. It was the sound of Sinatra, Bennett, Crosby all rolled into one. Those were the days.

At the far end of the gallery, she leant her mop against a column and placed her hands on the balustrade. All about her, the museum groaned, its oak staircases and doorways slowly waking.

“Terry,” she exclaimed into the murky space of the unlit hall. Somewhere a door shut and the tinny sound of Ali’s music started up. She yelled again.

“Yep,” echoed a reply.

“We’ve got to get those handrails done today.”

“I know, Dot. I haven’t forgotten.”

“Right,” she croaked, patting the stone beneath her palms. “Right,” she said again, quieter this time as the first rays of the day reached through the skylight.

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