My apartment was such a mess yesterday morning that any cleanup crew would have been welcomed. But when two young dudes showed up at my front door, one wearing a coonskin cap and the other looking like a bookworm wearing eyeglasses, my first impression was these cats don't know Comet cleanser from kitty litter.
Christopher Taylor, 22, and his brother Tyrone, 18, strolled in, not even flinching as they passed the hole in the living room wall that plumbers had made when they fixed a leaky pipe. Sheetrock was all over the floor, and boxes and newspapers and dirt were all over the sheetrock.
"You take this room; I'll take the bathroom," Christopher said. The two brothers slapped hands. One did an about-face, and the next thing I knew dust was flying, mops were squishing, brushes were scrubbing and these dudes were not even whistling while they worked.
Who were these guys, I wanted to know.
"Hey, Bro," Chris called to Tyrone. "You the brains. Give the man a paragraph."
Tyrone stepped front and center, holding his mop at ease.
"I grew up pretty fast," Tyrone began. "Got caught up in the drug scene, did a bit of time at Oak Hill. But I learned my lesson. You see, I came to this conclusion: You have to work hard to make it; and not just for the dollar, but so you can look out for the people who brought you up in this world. In our case, it's our grandfather. He's the love of my life."
Tyrone is enrolled in a professional paralegal school while doing landscape work with his uncle, Austin C. Taylor, a retired U.S. Marine Corps sergeant. He hopes to be a lawyer one day.
Christopher stepped forward and slapped Tyrone's hands again.
"Remember that brainstorm we had the day it snowed?" Christopher said. "While there was a blizzard going on, we went knocking on door after door asking if we could shovel the snow when it ended, thereby locking up the business."
Christopher is a cook for the D.C. public schools who also works with "Sgt. Taylor" part time.
'Nuf said. A high five. And back to work they went.
What I thought would be a two-day operation was being completed in just over two hours. These dudes were good. And they let it be known that they do more: shovel snow, move furniture, mow lawns, clean house.
The young men had been sent to me by Bessie Smith, who has been in the house-cleaning business for more than 50 years. She had told me that two professional house cleaners would show up at my door and have the place clean in time for Thanksgiving Day, but they apparently backed out of the early morning job as the overnight temperatures dropped.
The Taylor brothers were a backup crew, but they were eager to prove that they were as good as anybody.
The two said they have worked together for six years, saving most of their money, but also giving Ernest Taylor, their grandfather, whatever he and grandma need.
"My uncle tells us every day, 'God will bless you if you look out for your parents,' " Tyrone said. "We know this to be true."
"A lot of people are out there hustling money the fast way," Christopher said. "But have you ever known anybody who has hustled on the streets for 35 years and can retire with peace of mind, not to mention a pension?"
"How many hustlers out there have lived long enough to be a grandparent?" Tyrone mused sarcastically.
The Taylors live in Southeast Washington, next door to D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, and use public transit to go to their various free-lance jobs. Their goal is to have a car or a truck by next summer.
"We're going straight to the top," Chris said.
"Slowly but surely -- the honest way," Tyrone added, with another slap.
"Good things come to those who wait," Chris said.
"But not to those who wait too late," Tyrone said.
And back to work they went.