Like many, to earn money, the girl cleaned houses with many rooms. One house, especially, pleased her, because it faced east, and she loved the light that filled the place, the way the dust flashed when she snapped her rag. Each morning, though, she found another room to clean, as if at night a whole crew showed up to enlarge the house, room by room. Sunlight did not shine through the windows of these new rooms and, before long, she found rooms without windows at all, just walls, ceilings, and floors covered in the dust of their construction. She worked faster, harder each day, until, one afternoon, she came upon a door, behind which she heard sounds of a different kind of labor, whirring saw, and hammer and drill. She opened the door to find a man working feverishly. He was stooped with age, although his hair and beard were yellow with dust and bits of wood. She saw, at once, the way his eyes sagged with grief.
“Please, the girl cried. “Please stop. This house is large enough. Already, we are too far from the light of day. When I walk home, the sky is so red, my hands bleed.”
“I will not,” snorted the man.
“The dust gets everywhere,” the girl cried. “It has blinded you to the way things are.”
“I cannot stop,” the man said, a bit more politely. “I must make rooms and, so, you must clean them.”
Desperate, the young girl took the old man’s hand and led him through the halls of the empty house he had built. Finally, they arrived at the windows she loved, but the sun was shining on the other side of the sky, softening everything, for it was very late in the day. The girl and the old man rested there until morning and when the light, the lovely, yellow light flooded the rooms, the dust on the man’s clothes and hair became shooting, sparkling stars.
“I’m burning,” he cried. “Take me back to my work.”
And then it did seem as if he were on fire, not like a wick, which burns and burns, but a match which flashes and is snuffed out. The girl, in amazement, moved to the windows, but she did not catch fire. She snapped her rag, moving to the rhythm she made, dancing for joy and sorrow among a sudden shower of stars.