“Scrubbing Jesus’s Toilets” by Lehua Parker

Near the end of a three-hour block, on the first day of teaching 15 four and five-year-olds in Primary, both the kids and I were maxed. It was a beautiful fall day, so I decided to take them outside and let them burn off energy in a grassy area behind the parking lot. As we put on our pretend mousy ears, feet, and tails—all the better to quietly sneak out of the church—one little girl said, “This is Jesus’s house, you know.”

“I know,” I said.

She nodded with authority. “And now we’re going to play in Jesus’s yard.”

That stuck in my head in the way only a child’s truth can. It’s no surprise that last Saturday morning, bent over a toilet with scrub brush and cleaning spray, I keep thinking I’m cleaning Jesus’s bathrooms.

It’s my daughter’s fault.

Every Saturday at 8 am, several families showing up at the church to clean and prepare it for Sunday services. We all take turns. Many hands make light work, so it usually takes only an hour and a half to make everything sparkle. This morning when we walk in at 8:02 am, the building supervisor smiles. “Welcome!” he says.

Great. A morning person. Ugh.

“You guys are the first, so you get to choose. Which jobs do you want to tackle?”

Without hesitation, my teen daughter says, “Mom and I will do the bathrooms.”

I have to bite my tongue.

I hate hate hate cleaning bathrooms. Seriously, we have our pick of the jobs. How about vacuuming? Polishing woodwork? Cleaning glass doors? Nope. She picks bathrooms—men’s, women’s, the nursing mothers’ lounge, the nursery’s toddler-sized bathroom, and the family bathroom. It’s going to take us forever. Hauling the cart of cleaning products down the hall, mop bucket sloshing, I ask her why.

She shrugs. “We know how to clean bathrooms.”

But somehow, she gets busy cleaning counters and mirrors while I get started with the toilet brush.

Sigh.

I work methodically and quickly. She’s right. We do know how to clean bathrooms. My kids tease me that I have three levels of clean—every day, company coming, and church clean, which they first learned about years ago when I sent them back to dust and re-dust the chapel’s floorboards four times in the same hour.

I don’t have to tell them the difference anymore.

Spray, spray, spray with the red label sprayer. Scrub, scrub, scrub. Swishy-swishy-swish. Wipe, wipe, wipe. Spray down the sides of the stalls, polish the chrome handrails, the locks, and the doors with the green label spray. Check the paper stock, empty the cans. Mop. Give it all the once over.

Is it clean enough?

Would I eat off the floor?

Would I die of embarrassment if Jesus walked in?

Let’s get real. There is no way it’s going to be perfect, not even with toothbrushes and steam cleaners. I search for obvious imperfections, streaks on mirrors, shoe prints on the tile.

I nod. I’ve done my best with the skills, time, and tools that I have. If Jesus’s houseguests need the facilities, it’ll be okay. Comfortable, clean, and welcoming.

As I give the door handle one last swipe, I think that scrubbing Jesus’s toilets is a lot like life. You do what must be done as best you can with a cheerful heart, understanding that by serving others you are serving God. Most often the tasks aren’t things you’d choose, but they are the very things Christ needs you to do for Him.

As we’re putting the cart away and rinsing out the mop bucket, a parent pops his head in to tell us his little kid probably messed up the men’s bathroom. There are a lot of things on the tip of my tongue, things like here’s the mop and cleaning supplies; your angel, not my problem; but I don’t say them. My daughter hauls the cart back out and says, “Okay, thanks for telling us.” We go back to a room we just cleaned and flush the toilet, pick paper towels off the floor, wipe down the counters, and mop tiny muddy footprints from the floor.

Again.

That’s like life, too.

A Q&A with Lehua Parker about this essay is available here

“Three Dogs in the Afterlife” by Luisa Perkins

that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there

 

Δ waits while ⊕ gets her bearings. It always takes a little while, he says.

⊕ lifts her spirit nose, trying and failing to scan the air.

I can’t smell, she says.

No, Δ agrees. Smelling means taking in bits and letting them give you messages. We don’t have that here.

⊕ looks around. This is probably still her street, but she’s never trusted only in her eyes before.

Is my person here?

She is. You will see her soon.

But how will I know her if I can’t smell?

You have a sense beyond smell—you always did.

⊕ cocks her head, confused.

Much of what you think of as smell is actually ⇔. With it, you sense energy and intention. That’s how we’re talking now, do you understand?

⊕ yawns the way she always does when she has deep thinking to do. I suppose, she says.

And spirit eyes see light, as I’m sure you recognize, Δ adds.

⊕ looks up and down the street. It’s flat and faded without the voluptuous dimension of odors, aromas, fragrances—like the screen her person watched in the evening sometimes. (⊕ never understood the appeal.)

I guess so, she says doubtfully.

She looks at ⊕ more closely, fighting the impulse to sniff. Where’s your person?

The Master is my person. He asked me to greet you. I greet all the new ones. We find it helps ease the disorientation.

A bit of grey flashes past ⊕ and up a tree trunk. ⊕ puts up her spirit ears.

Was that a…

Squirrel, yes. They’re usually up for a good chase, but always ask first. It’s one of the rules.

I’m supposed to ask a squirrel if I can chase it?

Yes. We’re not enemies here. There is no prey, only the pack. Squirrels, persons, even cats—

⊕ yawns again, unable to believe what Δ has just said. Cats. You’ve got to be kidding. They’re pure evil.

Cats are the Master’s creations, like you and me, Δ says firmly. They’re part of the pack. So chasing is okay, as long as you remember it’s a game.

***

Later, ⊕ recognizes ψ. Before…all this…he ran down her street most days at dawn and dusk. ⊕ barked a greeting every time he passed, almost envying ψ’s freedom—until her person gave ⊕ a tasty and scratched behind her ears. Persons were the best. ψ had no person, ate out of tipped trash cans and slept in forgotten corners. But he trailed scents of places ⊕ had never been, and ⊕ picked up those whispers and rumors on walks with her person. Remembering them now, she bites back a whine.

I can see that I will look on the absence of my body’s nose as a bondage, she says.

***

Δ agrees that ⊕ can go around with him until her person is ready. They walk all through the neighborhood, then beyond and into the city, and ⊕’s spirit paws never ache with fatigue. That’s one nice change. It almost makes up for the lack of smell.

It’s not long now until you’ll have it back. The Master won’t tell any persons when, but He told me.

⊕ cocks her head, hoping. But, no.

I can’t tell you yet. But it’s soon.

I’ll see my person first, though.

Δ assured ⊕ earlier, but she needs to hear it again.

Yes.

Δ is patient, which tells ⊕ good things about Δ’s Master. As the person, so the dog, was what ⊕’s mother said when ⊕ was a pup.

ψ runs by again—with two cats and a big animal ⊕ doesn’t recognize. ⊕ still finds it odd, the different animals and the persons all going around together. One pack, she reminds herself. A question occurs to her.

ψ didn’t have a person before. Will it always be so?

The Master saves special persons for wild dogs like ψ. He has been promised a person who had no dog before.

⊕ knew there were such people, felt bad for them when she met them. It is good this Master has a plan.

I’d like to meet your Master.

And so you shall. In fact, it’s time. Your person will be there, too.

They cross a bridge and come into a vast park, one ⊕ has never seen. ⊕ feels a tingle of ⇔ in her spirit nose, and all the colors of the plants and flowers and sky flare brighter for just a moment. The pulse comes again, stronger, and ⊕ puts up her spirit ears.

, she says, increasing her pace. It’s my person.

Indeed, says Δ.

They run, never tiring, and the pulses flare more often and more brightly until they round a corner and everything is round and real and almost smelly in its varied beauty.

And then, walking toward them on a path, two persons.

⊕ barks like crazy. She speeds to her person’s side and circles around and through her person’s spirit legs, wagging her spirit tail frantically. ⊕’s person kneels and places her spirit hand on ⊕’s spirit head, and it’s almost as good as a tasty. ⊕ is about to lick her person’s spirit face, but then comes a Voice.

.”

⊕ looks up. And knows.

Master, she whispers. Looking into his eyes, ⊕ remembers everything from before—and from before that. She rolls onto her spirit back humbly.

The Master kneels by ⊕’s person’s side and rubs ⊕’s spirit belly with His hand.

,” The Master repeats. “It is well.”

A Q&A about this story with Luisa Perkins is available here

2018 Mormon Lit Blitz Finalists

Finalists for the 7th Annual Mormon Lit Blitz will be posted here on lit.mormonartist.net 28 May – 9 June, according to the following schedule:

28 May: “Three Dogs in the Afterlife” by Luisa Perkins
29 May: “Scrubbing Jesus’ Toilets” by Lehua Parker
30 May: “A Perfect Voice” by Katherine Cowley
31 May: “New Rhythm” by Tanya Hanamaikai
1 June: “Counsel” by Faith Kershisnik
2 June: “After the Fast” by William Morris

4 June: “Beneath the Visiting Moon” by Lee Allred
5 June: “Still Clean” by Sherry Work
6 June: “Proof That Sister Greeley Is a Witch (Even Though Mormons Don’t Believe in Witches)” by Wm Morris
7 June: “The Last Swing” by Sheldon Lawrence
8 June: “Joseph and Emma Grow Old Together” by Eric Jepson
9 June: “Missionary Weekly Report for 28 March-3 April, Mumbai 1st Branch” by Mattathias Westwood

Audience voting for the Grand Prize Winner will take place June 11th-June 13th. This year, there will also be a judge’s choice award for a piece selected by Kylie Turley, a scholar of Mormon literature serving as a guest judge.

Congratulations to the finalists!

2018 Mormon Lit Blitz Longlist

Thank you to everyone who submitted to the Seventh Annual Mormon Lit Blitz! After reviewing the submissions, we’ve selected twenty-four semi-finalists. Finalists will be announced on 21 May and posted here 28 May-9 June.

Congratulations to our semi-finalists:

“After the Fast,” by William Morris
“Beneath a Visiting Moon” by Lee Allred
“The First Dream/Counsel/First Vision” by Faith Kershisnik
“I Was Poor” by Michael Gentry
“The Investigator” by Jeanine Bee
“It Rains Every Day” by Alison Brimley
“John Who Tarried” by Steven Peck
“Joseph and Emma Grow Old Together” by Eric Jepson
“The Last Swing” by Sheldon Lawrence
“Missionary Weekly Report for 28 March-3 April, Mumbai 1st Branch” by Mattathias Westwood
“New Rhythm” by Tanya Hanamaikai
“Ode to a Handcart” by Kathryn Hales
“A Perfect Voice” by Katherine Cowley
“The Prayer” by Katherine Cowley and S. BreAnne Johnson
“Proof That Sister Greeley Is a Witch (Even Though Mormons Don’t Believe in Witches)” by William Morris
“Redwood Song” by Terresa Mae Wellborn
“The Reluctant Seraph” by Adrienne Cardon
“Scrubbing Jesus’ Toilets” by Lehua Parker
“Semester Abroad” by Jim Richards
“‘Stanl33’s Silver Spaceship’ from The Friend, August 3029″ by Eric Jepson
“Still Clean” by Sherry Work
“Still Life #2 (fly on the counter)” by Laura Hilton Craner Myers
“Three Dogs in the Afterlife” by Luisa Perkins
“The Weightier Matters” by Merrijane Rice