"What'sa matter, hard day at the office?" Litvack asked, taking a swig from the 40-ounce plastic Pepsi bottle that he ages his wine in.
"Well, the life of a janitor is not easy, that much I'll say, but what is even more tiring are all the erotic adventures that befall me."
"What, you jerking off in the furnace room again?" Litvack laughed and then gobbed up some phlegm, which he deposited in a half-eaten Pizza Pop that his inflatable sex-doll wife had laid out for us along with some Cheez-Whiz slathered in the stringy troughs of some sad looking celery sticks.
"Well, now that you mention it, I've found my erotic encounters have fallen off a bit lately. You might say I'm in a bit of an erotic slump."
"Erotic slump! Jesus, you've only been on the job a week and the only pussy you've got is when some flea-ridden cat rubbed up against your leg."
"That's not true. How about that internal organ harvester who unplugged the vacuum cleaner for me?"
"You call that erotic. She was ninety years old and last time I checked, unless Depends have become Victoria's Secret lingerie I'd say you're batting 0-for-three and the pinch runner is masturbating on third base because he knows he'll never come home this season."
"Oh yeah! That from a guy whose wife could double as a life raft."
"Hey, watch what you say about the little lady," and with those words Litvack cast an uneasy glance at the rubber sex doll that was propped up against some piled milk crates a few feet away, her mouth open in surprise, either from the last remarks or just because she was born that way. It's hard to tell with these mail-order brides. It's a language barrier thing.
"No offense," I said, suddenly feeling bad. "And these appetizers she's prepared are delicious."
"You hear that, honey," Litvack called to her. "Try some more of those Cheez-Whiz and celery things. Those celery sticks came from the dumpster out back of a TGIF. You know, those people order those goddamn Bloody Caesars and then they don't eat the celery sticks. I grabbed whack loads of them from the trash. Okay, maybe they suck on them a little or something but saliva can actually help keep a vegetable fresh and hell, they're still plenty good as long as there's no chew marks on'em. That's free celery for the taking. One man's trash is another man's canape is what I say."
"I couldn't agree with you more. Just yesterday I enjoyed an entire plate of pork dumplings out of a lobby trash bin and they were soft as a lover's lips and as teasing as a pig in a wedding dress."
"Now you're talking. So, tell me your troubles, lover man. I can cure whatever ails you or that weasel you keep in your pants that's gnawing, gnawing, gnawing to get free. A guy with my experience makes Casanova look like a clown."
"Rodeo or circus?"
"Rodeo or circus clown? Which one do you make Casanova look like?"
"Damn, I never thought about that. I'm guessing circus clown. After all, those rodeo clowns always getting gored by bulls and kicked by broncos and stuff, I'm figuring they're not in too good of shape. Hard to maintain a hard-on once you've been gored a couple'a times and have hoof prints indenting your forehead. Even with Viagra. You tend to spook easily and get a little skittish at the first signs of trouble or nude activity. But those circus clowns well, they're always getting a bit of that back tent action and with those big shoes the ladies always think, well, if the shoes are so big the penis must be the same."
"Well, that's not me, I mean being gored and having hoof prints in my head and being uncomfortable with nudity, except at the Dairy-Freeze, but I'm beginning to think that with all the eroticism wafting through the condo hallways like an unrefrigerated head cheese, the tenants might be getting too much of a good thing. Here I am, Mr. Janitor Man with my ring of keys and mop-handle calloused hands and the scent of industrial cleaner emanating from my sweaty body along with a little Fantastik that I like to spritz on my face and I think, can there possibly be an end to these good, erotic times and will I just become as everyday and mundane as a shoe tree? Or sock drawer? Or broken salad spinner left on top of the microwave? I feel like I need a little something more, a little something to keep my erotic personality at its peak and keep the tenants guessing and wondering, 'how does he do it?' and 'what's he going to do next?' and 'how can a man with such voluminous folds and flaps of flesh possibly be so adept at love making?' I just want to make sure they don't take my eroticism for granted and likewise I want to keep them turned on and tuned in to the art of janitorial love."
"I know what you're saying," Litvack said as he took a bite from the same Pizza Pop he had only moments before hawked phlegm into. "And I've got one word for you. Tattoos."
"Tattoos," Litvack said after a few enthusiastic chews. "Here, let me show you," and with that, Livack rolled up his sleeve to show me a blue, blotchy image on his bicep of a man's head where none of the features were discernible and where ever an eye or ear could be made out, it was all misshapen from where the ink had run. "Did this one myself while I was in the joint."
"Who is it?"
"You don't know? Jesus, it's Leo Gerstenzang for fuck's sake."
"I don't...I don't know who that is," I said, the reluctance of my admission wavering in my voice.
"Oh, Jesus, Haltiwanger, I thought you were an educated guy. Leo Gerstenzang, the goddamn inventor of Q-Tips. Everybody knows that."
"Why do you have a tattoo of the inventor of Q-Tips on your arm?"
"'Cause he changed the way the whole goddamn world thinks about ears and ear cleaning, that's why. And when you change the way people think about those things you kind'a change the entire course of modern history, don't'cha think? I mean, you got waxy buildup in the ear canals, before you know it no one can hear properly, diplomatic relations go down the drain, bingo, World War III. Fuck, Haltiwanger, do I have to explain everything to you? What university did you say you went to? The university of shit-for-brains?" Litvack cracked open a third 40-ounce Pepsi-bottle of homemade wine and took a good, long pull, one bleary eye open and staring upwards as if it were trying to incinerate the moon with its reddish and hard gaze. "Listen, give me a ball-point pen, a safety-pin and fifteen minutes and I'll have you fixed up in no time."
"I don't like tattoos. Or at least I don't relish the idea of getting one. I hear that it hurts."
"Ah, it's nothing. Like getting pecked by a hundred or so hungry chickens after a hard morning of laying eggs. A child could do it."
"That might be so but I'm neither a chicken nor a child. There must be another way."
"Well, you could go the fake tattoo route. You know, those kind you apply with warm water."
"Yes, that's it," I replied. "That's exactly what I'll do," and I got up, staggered a few steps, fell off the back porch and whacked my head against a stack of hubcaps. I remember as I hit my head upon them thinking, that's a nice uniformly stacked pile of hubcaps, it's so unlike Litvack to be so neat and organized, and then it was lights out for me for a few seconds or so. Litvack produces a complex but highly potent vino. Rumour has it he learned to make it in a prison toilet bowl.
"You okay?" he asked me. I stood up, a little unsteady and waved him off. Litvack's wife looked on at me with her usual surprise and even from where I stood I could hear her body hissing.
"Your wife's losing air, I think."
"I know. She's got a goddamn leak. Every time we do the dirty deed she's flat as a pancake afterwards. You don't have a bicycle pump and a patch kit I could borrow maybe?"
"No, sorry." And with those words I weaved my way home, stopping to retch here and there in some mangled-looking shrubbery. I'm not sure if it was the wine or the recycled celery.
Fortunately I was wearing a sleeveless t-shirt that day as I was vacuuming the third floor hallway of the east building so all my tattoos came into play, catching the halogen spotlighting over each condo doorway, the various Barbies and array of pink, white and purple ponies seeming to dance with each flex, twitch and flabby fluctuation of my body. If these tattoos didn't do the trick then obviously the tenants of this building must be brain dead, I thought. They and I would be put to the test much sooner than I expected.
For as I was almost finished sucking up the dirt, dog hair and inexplicably, corn niblets on the third floor carpeting, a door opened and a beautiful young Japanese woman stood there in her bathrobe and fuzzy slippers (I mean the good fuzzy, not the trashy googly-eyed, bunny-eared and pink-tongued variety like my meth-head sister-in-law wears in the trailer park whether she's smoking some rock or berating her garden gnomes for peeing on the astro-turf) and asked me if I could help her. Actually, I couldn't hear what she said originally over the sound of the vacuum cleaner so I shut the machine off and cocked an appraising and sympathetic, if slightly ringing ear.
"Do you know who I should contact about the apartment?" she asked "I'm staying here while my friend is away and I'm just, just wondering who I can talk to about some problems in the condo."
I struck a bit of a pose I'm not too ashamed to admit, leaning in such a way on the vacuum cleaner handle to both show-off my multitude of tattoos and create a body posture sure to ripple my atrophied muscles. I could tell she was not immune to my charms as she pulled her bathrobe closer together at the neck, a body language move I knew to be both inviting and inquisitive while simultaneously feigning disinterest and confusion. The tattoos were working I thought. The art of seduction was in my favour.
"Well...well...well," I stammered and then continued, "I guess you could always try the strata council or speak to my boss, if you want. What's this about? Maybe I can help." I could only hope she could see the pair of pliers in my back pocket and know that when it came to maintenance, cleaning and problem solving I meant business. If a pair of pliers don't inspire confidence I'll be a monkey's uncle or an uncle's monkey, I'm never sure which. Either way, if a monkey and I were to go head-to-head in a pliers usage contest, I'm sure I'd win easily, even with the monkey throwing its feces at me.
"It's a problem with the stove and also some questions about security," she said and I almost didn't hear her, so mesmerized was I, my eyes buried deep in the soft surface of her fuzzy slippers. It was like my eyes were at play in the field of the Lord's lint trap but I quickly snapped out of my reverie. Now the mention of stove troubles piqued my curiosity and though I don't have a lot of experience with this appliance I do know my way around Sterno cans and a hotplate but when she mentioned security issues I was all ears and at that moment I finally understood what Litvack had meant and silently thanked the inventor of Q-Tips myself since it was only that morning that I had de-waxed the old canals for a moment such as this. Now readers of this blog may know that I am a master of self-defense as evidenced in my previous two-part series dealing with every conceivable debauched and depraved assault from crazed beekeepers to those driven to crime by excessive library fines not to mention liquored-up juvenile delinquents, beady-eyed hobos with painted clown faces, people who claim to speak Assyrian while reaching for your wallet and animal husbandry scientists whose semen-stained smock coats from artificial insemination experiments gone awry are only an indicator of their deep and twisted diabolical natures, so I felt in this one area I could help the poor young lady in her predicament.
"Listen," I said, sounding both confidential and erotic at the same time, not an easy task when you're wearing filth-stained janitor's pants. "The stove is not really up my alley but security is my middle name. Actually Orville is my middle name but I don't want to get into that. I once killed a man for making fun of it, well, I didn't actually kill him as much as just admonish him and then he hit me in the face and I spent a little time crying in the bathroom of a Dunkin' Donuts, but what I want to say is if you're having any security problems, any threats on your life or anyone having designs on your fuzzy slippers or claiming they're a hairdresser and want to comb your hair but they're wearing nothing but flip-flops and a dollar-store bandanna around their toupee, I can help."
"Oh, no, it's...it's nothing like that," she said, backing up into the apartment, almost as if inviting me inside although her perplexed face said otherwise. Perhaps I had unleashed too much eroticism in one big wave and I could see her eyes darting from one Barbie and My Little Pony tattoo to the next. The one on my forehead (a blue pony with a rainbow mane and tail) might have been overkill but I'm never a man not to take risks or have any regrets.
"Uh, that's okay, I'll just...just..."
I didn't hear the end of her sentence, not because of ear wax buildup (I'd already attended to that problem earlier as I've explained), but because she shut the door in my face. Obviously I'd misjudged the potency of my erotic tsunami and vowed in the future to tone it down a couple of notches, both in the tattoo and self-defense departments. There's a fine line between tooting your own horn and blowing taps for your penis as the sun sets on the battlefield of love and I realized I'd have to learn to strike that uneasy balance and temper my erotic powers. Still, I chalked this one up as an encounter that, with a few less My Little Pony and Barbie tattoos, would no doubt result in a future tryst between this charming girl and myself and we would make mad, passionate love and then try out some self-defense moves naked and when the stove caught fire while cooking our frozen jalapeno and cheese poppers, we would laugh and beat out the flames with her fuzzy slippers. I took heart that eroticism was still alive and well in this condo complex and could hardly wait until our paths would once again cross, although I was sure by that time I'd have two or three more erotic adventures tucked under the belt of my vacuum cleaner attachment fanny pack that I adapted for the purpose myself to hold the various specialty nozzles that mark my work as that of a professional.
Later that day as I made my way home, I walked by a construction site where a worker yelled at me, "Hey, nice tats you faggot." I barely gave him the time of day (since I wasn't wearing a watch nor am I one of those people who can tell time by the position of the sun). Still, I thought, if he only knew all the women these tattoos had attracted maybe he'd saved his derisive comments for himself, especially when he got home from a hard day of pouring concrete and was masturbating frenetically and despairingly into a bowl of Cap'n Crunch while listening to phone messages from collection agencies. I don't know why I think he pleasures himself into a bowl of Cap'n Crunch except he just strikes me as that type of person. As for why I specifically chose that cereal, I was always fond of it in my youth and I'm just figuring this as a little product placement to generate some extra cash. So, to the people who make Cap'n Crunch, if you're reading this consider this one a freebie. After this though it will cost you.
Later that evening my landlady called me to the rooming-house phone and I bounded down the staircase expecting it to be some condo tenant wanting to arrange a little erotic rendezvous in the janitor's room. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it was my boss on the line and although I imagine you could call him an erotic guy, despite the excessive ear and nasal hair, he wasn't really what I had in mind when I had applied the tattoos earlier that afternoon. I had been thinking more about the fairer sex at the time, even if they too had an excess of hair sprouting from their head orifices for that could be a very tactile erotic experience and I was working it out how I could let him down gently when again, I was surprised.
"Listen, Haltiwanger, I've had some complaints at the building," he said. I was flabbergasted. Who would possibly complain about, number one, my fine janitorial work and number two, the deep levels of eroticism I brought to the condo complex?
"I don't understand," was all I could stammer.
"Okay, I'm not going to fire you, yet, but you've gotta stop talking to the tenants. One lady in the east building said you were babbling something about bees and ventriloquists and being raped by squirrels and combing her hair while you're naked with a banana on your head..."
"Bandana. I said bandana and not on my head but on the head of some toupee-wearing miscreant who wanted to steal her fuzzy slippers."
"Okay, we're not even going to talk about it. I don't want to know what goes on in that twisted brain of yours but if you don't stop talking to the tenants I'm going to have to get rid of you. The head of the strata council had a few calls and I've calmed him down so just don't open your fucking mouth when there's people around. Nobody around, in the stairwells or furnace room, fine, go ahead, talk to yourself as much as you want, although try to keep it to a whisper. Screw me up again and you're out the door. And somebody said you have some kind of kid's sticker on your forehead so get rid of that too before you show up for work tomorrow."
"The head of the strata council!" I said. "That wouldn't be that guy up on the fourth floor of the west building...what's his name...Eugene?"
"Never the fuck you mind who he is, just do what I said and everything'll be alright."
"Will do, boss," I replied but inside my mind I was already putting together the pieces of the puzzle and this Eugene guy was at the centre of it all. I knew he was jealous of me and had been plotting my demise for a while, taking care to strew all manner of debris on the carpeting outside his door to see if I picked it all up with the vacuum cleaner and generally laying traps for me to trip me up and make me look bad to the tenants and strata council. I would have to deal with him later, when my erotic adventures were not so pressing but in the meantime I would have to walk softly and carry a big mop (and maybe a spray bottle of Windex in my back pocket). I felt this would in no way put a damper on my erotic adventures but I would definitely have to be more discreet about my little tête à têtes. Ah well, it's all part and parcel of being the virile and tattooed guy that I am but still I must say uneasy lies the head that wears the erotic crown in the kingdom of the janitors.