The man went into the house, set down his keys, kicked off his shoes and socks, and then walked into the kitchen. His wife was outside in their small yard sitting in a chair in the sun.
“Wash your hands, dear, and then come on out,” she called. “It’s marvelous.”
“I see that,” he replied. “I was just about to.”
He put his hands under the kitchen faucet, pumped the soap dispenser, lathered, and scrubbed, being sure to suds every surface and scrub under his nails.
He took a pitcher from the fridge and poured two tall glasses of lemonade, then he went outside and sat next to his wife. They were in matching patio chairs, the kind with lipstick red vinyl straps, and white aluminum framing — like an upright pool chair.
“How was it out there?” she asked, peering at him through her oversized sunglasses. He handed her a glass and she set it next to her on the flagstone.
“Busy, but not as busy as two weeks ago,” he said, taking a sip of lemonade and then putting it down by his bare feet. He rubbed his palms against the thighs of his jeans and looked up at the sky, judging the hours until sunset.
“Why don’t you throw those in the laundry just to be on the safe side?” she said.
“I’m just going to grab the bags, and then I’ll shower and change,” he said.
She nodded, took a sip of lemonade, and leaned back against the vinyl straps.
“Well, it’s supposed to be like this until Sunday. Highs in the 70s. Perfect weather,” she said.
“Beautiful,” he said. He took his drink and set it on one of the beams that ran along the back of the stained-wood fence that enclosed their yard. He whistled a haphazard tune and went back into the house, slipping on his old plastic sandals before walking out the front door. After a minute he was back inside with a sack of pebbles over his shoulder. He brought the stones and two bags of potting soil through the house to the backyard. Then he washed his hands again and rejoined his wife outside. The two were building a garden so they could grow salad greens at home and wouldn’t need to go to the grocery store so often.
“I’m going to go take that shower,” he announced.
The man took off all his clothes and threw them down the basement stairs onto the floor near the washing machine, and then he went up the stairs to the bathroom on the second floor.
While her husband was showering, the woman went into the house to clean everything he had touched. She took a bottle of isopropyl alcohol out from under the sink and drenched three sheets of paper towel with it. Then she scoured the doorknobs and the kitchen faucet. She took a spritz bottle of glass-cleaner and sprayed his keys, which were sitting in a dish on an end-table. Then she mopped the floor with bleach.
The man came down the stairs wearing a fresh shirt and canvas pants. The woman was washing her hands in the kitchen sink.
“Shall we plant those greens?” he asked.
“We’d better,” she said.
He picked up his drink from the fence where he had left it and drained it in one long gulp.
The two of them got to work arranging the terracotta pots along the side fence where they would get the most sun. They filled them with pebbles, and then soil, and then delicately planted the seedlings that they had started on the windowsills around their little home: arugula, romaine, spinach, and snap peas — which were a bit of an experiment.
A drool of sweat slicked down his forehead and into his eye, but he didn’t dare wipe it away. She noticed his grimace and patted him on the back.
“Why don’t you wash up,” she said. “I can finish up out here.”
While her husband went back upstairs for another shower, she patted the soil down around the seedlings and gave them big helpings of water from the garden hose. She sat in the chair sipping the last of her lemonade, and then she went inside and washed her hands.