After chanting and sitting and bowing, then walking off the stiffness in our legs, and then more chanting and sitting and the reading aloud of a koan, I am asked to vacuum the dharma room. A clean carpet, I see, is not provided by the inmates of the place. But our leader for the day calls it "Zen work" and I am amused.
I find a vacuum down the hall, next to a door with a handwritten sign advertising massage, and I vacuum the incense ash and sock lint and cat hair from the carpet. I do not bump Buddha off his altar with my elbow. Over the noise of the vacuum, I hear something and switch it off. A woman's footsteps outside, clock clock clock clock clock clock.