Janitorial work may be my bread and butter and erotic adventure the deli meat slices in the centre but there's also the mentoring side of me, willing and able to recognize and nurture erotic janitorial talent when I see it and assist such persons in channeling their energies in wholesomely erotic ways while avoiding the creepiness factor (for instance, mopping in only a jockstrap and orthopedic shoes or suggestively licking Windex from the lobby windows while tenants are entering the building). Instead, I teach them to embrace the more subtle and sensual nature of the work by incorporating their natural God-given talents into seductive body language while cleaning, using crouch-and-polish exercises at home to strengthen their loins and showcase their buttocks or practicing fluidly switching from right to left hand during vacuuming to increase hip sway and bring out the best in their neck veins. Additionally, I have a further at-home-study program called "Making your sweat work for you," but it's not for neophytes but instead for the chosen few who I deem ready and worthy to take janitorial arts to the next step of erotic delight. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a student who is able to succeed at this high a level and withstand the rigors of my training regimen and the few who I did approach in janitorial supply stores or at bus shelters that I believed might be capable of realizing their erotic janitorial destiny tended to pelt me with half-eaten hot dogs or whatever else they had in hand. One fellow spritzed me with some kind of air freshener called Brazilian Carnival that left me feeling like my lungs were being constricted by a thong bikini and the only party I could see were the specks of bright, white lights dancing behind the corneas of my partially blinded eyes. That didn't stop me from admonishing him and passing on a bit of sage advice when I told him to his face (I think it was his face as I was blinded by the spray), "If you listen to me I could put that Brazilian carnival in your pants instead of keeping it penned up under pressure in an aerosol can), whereupon he hit me again, this time unfortunately with a fist rather than a delicate and exotic scent and right in the left eye where I'd already been blinded to add insult to injury or maybe it's the other way around. Either way, they both hurt. I told another promising young intern I met as he squatted to unlock his bike, "You have a fine set of haunches. Have you ever considered a career in the janitorial arts? I could show you how to attain erotic heights most men can only dream of and few will ever achieve." He too hit me, this time in the shin with his bike lock. Some people apparently just can't take a compliment. I'm also amazed how people can be so adverse to learning how to have women eating out of the palm of their hand, whether that hand is holding sunflower seeds, kidney beans or liver pate canapes with maybe a little sprig of parsley on top. I'd eat out of anyone's palm if they offered me that.
Be that as it may, I am not discouraged in my endeavors and when it comes to the affairs of other janitors who are not as well versed in the erotic side of the business as myself, I pride myself on maintaining an open mind when it comes to the peccadilloes of fellow cleaning associates. Nevertheless, there is one episode recently related to me that tested even my erotic boundaries. I'm not sure if I found the story distasteful, unsanitary or just reckless endangerment that might have resulted in a penis being pulled asunder from its owner and if this piques your curiosity, then by all means read on. Likewise, if you find yourself feeling a little sickened by this thought, stop reading, go outside and smell some roses or carpetweed or bramble thickets or whatever else might grow in your area or in the empty lot behind your rooming-house.
The story begins when my good friend, roofer, life coach, loving divorcee and soon-to-be-author of the self-help book, Shingles of Wisdoms, Ed Smeeley Jr. dropped by the other day to share a couple of cans of pork and beans and a 40-ouncer of malt liquor that we spruced up with 7-UP and one of those pine-tree shaped air fresheners you hang on the rear-view mirror of your car and that we let steep in the cocktail to add a zippy, fresh scent and flavour to what would have been an otherwise run-of-the-mill drink. Curious, I asked him if he had come up with any new wisdoms for his book.
"Funny you should ask because just the other night as I was laying in my army cot at the halfway house I was struck with this thought. Listen to this and let me know what you think. 'Life is very much like finding a decomposing squirrel in your eavestroughing. Nasty and disgusting, especially when you have to scoop the body, guts and hair out bare-handed but afterwards your gutters run clean and clear like a mountain stream and your soul feels, just like the gutters, rejuvenated and alive unless of course you contract rabies or some kind of fly-larvae disease from handling rotting squirrel innards and bug-eggs hatch in your brain and then, well, you just go insane and will only eat fresh dog meat until you're institutionalized.'"
I was suitably impressed and told him so. Trooper that Ed is, even with the restraining orders against him from his ex-wife and also being banned from various hardware stores for threatening to "nail-gun the next son-of-a-bitch who criticizes my roofing techniques to my face," Ed has proven that if your heart is as large as a football field or dirigible or the pancreas of an elephant, anything is possible and wisdom will flow much like the stagnant water in a gutter once it is freed from the rotting guts of inhumanity (in the form of decomposing animal bodies) that once restrained it. He also told me that you could swap the dead squirrel for an equally dead and decomposing raccoon or rat or any other type of rodent or verminous mammal, making this "shingle of wisdom," very flexible in its philosophical approach and easily applicable to any person or situation.
"Fire away," I replied and then was sorry I phrased it in such a way as Ed was holding a nail-gun in his hand and he's been known to have had a trigger finger in the past as well as a Pavlovian response to specific stimuli or commands. Luckily he put it down and then we refreshed our drinks with a few more dunks of the rear-view mirror pine-scented air freshener tree into our glasses of malt liquor and 7-UP before Ed Smeeley Jr. related this, on the surface, sordid story.
"What's his real name," I inquired, just out of curiosity since I was in the janitor brotherhood.
"It's also Reg," Ed replied.
"Oh, yes, okay, go on please."
"Anyway, Reg was working this office building, very new development, twenty-storeys and high-tech security everywhere. This joint had more cameras than a Japanese bus tour. Which is why I can't understand what Reg did. Now I'm not one to judge or get between a man and the object of his desire but the phrase "get a room," never made as much sense to me as in this case. It seems that Reg, who has always been a randy kind of fellow..."
"His name's Reg Randy?" I was astounded at this man with two first names.
"No, no, he's just a randy guy, you know, lecherous and nuts, in a sexual kind of way."
"Yes, yes, of course, I understand. Go on with this randy Reg story."
"So Reg, he decides, I don't know exactly why, that he wants to have sex with his vacuum cleaner. The one he uses in the office building. And not only that, he's going to mate with this machine right there in the hallway on the 20th floor, after office hours of course but still under the watchful eye of at least two different floor cameras storing the stuff on to the security hard drive. This doesn't deter him, perhaps because he's lust-crazed or else that he's completely unaware that he's being recorded or he's in love. You know what they say, love is blind, even under the unblinking security camera eye and old Reg seemed to prove this point by engaging in a variety of sexual positions with his vacuum cleaner using various attachments when the mood called for it and basically giving even the author of the Kama Sutra something to think about. I mean him and the vacuum did the 'beast with two backs,' the 'depraved bingo-caller of Irkutsk,' the 'pie-eyed back-hoe operator working overtime,' and even the 'morbid mongoose trapped in a trashcan with a starving cobra on a busy Calcutta street.' And all this with his SEBO X5. I mean we're talking top-of-the-line West German engineering. This machine has enough suction power to rip a man's penis from his body but it didn't stop Reg from sating himself in every way possible with a vacuum cleaner and with no regard for his own personal safety."
"Did you say a SEBO X5?" I asked, even more astounded than seconds earlier when I thought the guy's name was Reg Randy. "My boss has one of those that he let me use once. A beautiful machine that makes my Windsor Sensor XP-18 pale in comparison. It's like the difference between pushing a plow or driving a tractor. But this much I know. That thing can dismember a member in less time than it takes to say 'September, October, November, December,' and all without triggering the clog light."
"Well, you know these types of things better than me," Ed said as he nonchalantly nail-gunned a June bug that was distracting him, piercing its carapace with ease and turning it into just so much bug guts on my windowsill. "Anyway, it wasn't long before someone during a routine review of the security footage found old Reg there rutting with the vacuum cleaner. As you can imagine the footage made the rounds and there's one scene folks were talking about where Reg decided to insert the hose attachment into his asshole with the vacuum running full speed and the security personnel and property management people are still shaking their heads wondering how he didn't manage to suck out his own intestines."
"Fascinating," I said. "Even as a janitor who is no stranger to erotic adventure this story taxes even my imagination when it comes to the coupling of man and machine and yet, I can't say, I'm completely unaware of these affections. But I have a theory about all this," I continued, trying to change the subject from my small admission.
"Yes, a theory. That's good. I need a "shingle of wisdom" to come out of this story."
"I believe that randy Reg wanted to be caught. I think that secretly he wanted to speak out about the love that dares not speak its name, namely that of the love between a man and his machine and maybe, lost for words or for a way to illustrate his misunderstood desires, he found an outlet to broadcast it to the world, or at least to a property management company and some overweight and sleepy security guards with Cheezie dust on their fingertips and computer keyboards. Reg is a pioneer, a trendsetter, one who breaks the bonds and constraints of society, not afraid to show his love for his vacuum cleaner and be damned with anyone who frowns upon it. In the future, no doubt, we will laugh about our uneasiness about this forbidden love but right now Reg stands alone, proud and completely dust-free, including his internal cavities and that can be a dusty place, depending on your love life and how often you bathe. Should a child be produced from such a union you would soon hear people change their tune quickly as the thought of having offspring that are both endearing and adept at carpet-cleaning through genetic mutation so that there's no appliance go-between not to mention use for electricity means a new generation of vacuum cleaner babies. It would revolutionize the carpet-cleaning industry. Isn't that the future we were originally promised along with hovercrafts, hamburger patty-stackers for easy freezer storage, sheep that shear themselves and socks that stay up in a hurricane and are also resistant to snakebites but still look stylish on the golf course, even when beneath them lie throbbing varicose veins. In this sense, Reg is actually ahead of his time. He stands alone as a man who has the foresight and courage to find love and pleasure where most others would suffer only embarrassment, considerable pain and perhaps even dismemberment and years from now we will thank men like Reg as our vacuum cleaner babies whisk around us and sexually transmitted diseases are all but eliminated as we find erotic fulfillment with re-purposed hoses and nozzles."
"Hot damn!" Ed exclaimed. "Leave it to you, Dr. Haltiwanger, to see the big picture here. You've opened my mind to a whole new world of possibilities. The second I get home I'm gonna get out the old vacuum cleaner and give it a try."
"I hope it's not a SEBO X5. Unless you want to be circumcised."
"Nah, it's a Dirt Devil and I think I'm really gonna discover its devilish side."
"Do I sense a 'shingle of wisdom' coming on?"
"I'll let you know after I conceive some vacuum cleaner babies. My ex-wife will be jealous as hell. She always wanted children so wait until she gets a load of my offspring."
"Atta boy, Ed, got get'em."
"I'm naming my first vacuum cleaner child after you."
"I'm honoured. And if you see your friend Reg, tell him not to be discouraged or give up his janitorial dreams. We should be thanking people like him, not shaming them."
Once Ed had left, the pine tree-shaped alcohol-soaked rear-view mirror air freshener clenched between his teeth, I spent a little time ruminating over my own little infatuation I had once with a vacuum cleaner. Some might even say it was more than an infatuation and I would be inclined to agree for I fell hard for this voluptuous machine. It was an Electrolux, canister-style with the long hose and adjoining metal tube that connected with the various attachments and that you used to pull the canister on its squeaky wheels around the room. There was something about this Swedish-made machine, so different from the powerful West German creations with their aggressive personalities, that captivated me. Cool, even aloof in its Nordic way and yet the hum of her motor was like a meadowlark's song in the spring echoing across the fjord, if that meadowlark had laryngitis or a smoker's cough, and though I knew she felt self-conscious about her bulkier canister body, the svelte lines of the upright American and German-made models did nothing for me. And the newest models these days with their bag-less technology and see-through bodies have left nothing to the imagination and taken away the mystery and romance of dating. I mean if your future bride-to-be were to show up at your parent's house in nothing but a bra and panties to go to dinner and a movie how would you feel about spending the rest of your life with her? I, for one, like a little clothing between my loins and my beloved's body, if only to create a buffer zone to temper the passions and in the case of a vacuum cleaner, to prevent any burns to my jiggly parts from an overheated motor-casing. Eroticism is all about the unveiling and if there's nothing left to unveil then, much like already opened mail or the shell without the snail, the mystery of what lies within is as thin as the skin-of-your-teeth escape you made when your boss almost caught you peeing in the drain of the condo complex boiler room during your coffee break. Or the paper-thin excuse you created when your landlady admonished you after she snooped and opened your letter from the collection agency.
It was with this sudden wave of nostalgia and the lugubrious memory of unrequited vacuum cleaner love, along with the warm feelings flooding my body from my initiation and uncontested membership into the janitorial brotherhood, that sent me rushing from my rooming-house and off to the nearest janitorial supply shop. This was a visit that was long overdue.
"Six bottles of your best," I bellowed as I entered the store, "and throw in a couple of wet and dry mop heads, a rubber door wedge and two cans of your finest stainless steel polishing spray." I was in an expansive mood and I wanted to extend it to everyone within the shop, be they members of the brotherhood or just those on the fringes who wanted to rub shoulders or catch a glimpse of those initiated into the secret sect and the alchemical products they used to magically turn grime into gold. Don't let the term "elbow grease" fool you for it's really about the brain and not the body when it comes to janitorial duty. I've encountered fish oil on carpeting, barnacle-like dried mucous adhering to hand railings, dog poop in the stairways and bloodied cotton balls strewn like diseased confetti at the wedding of Satan's sister-in-law, Edna Rachowsky, but it wasn't elbow grease that helped me through those moments but rather my psychological and spiritual make up. This is something all of us in the brotherhood understand, which is why I said to Vern (that's what his name tag said), behind the counter, "Vern, on top of my six bottles of your finest give everyone in the store a bottle on me."
"Do I know you?" Vern asked, his eyes scrunched up like a wise sea turtle's and then he said, "I don't know what six bottles you're talking about but it'll cost $141.50 and I'll throw in a rubber door wedge for free."
"What?" I yelled, confusion pulling at my face as if there were fishhooks imbedded in my cheeks, yanking them down like a five-pound trout on the line, diving down to freedom at the bottom of a lake that, in the end, it would never live to see, instead spending its last remaining gill-sucking breaths flapping and flopping at the bottom of a dinghy gazing up at a sky that could only signal death. "I'm part of the brotherhood," I said, my voice filled with the conspiratorial tone that only janitors, Masons and out-of-work Aztec priests would pick up on. "As a fellow janitor I believe there's no exchange of money."
"Are you crazy? You think I give this shit away for free? And what th'fuck kind'a brotherhood you talking' about here?" Vern asked. "You some kind'a terrorist or faggot or Muslim faggot terrorist or pedophile priest with the Pope's number in your wallet or you one'a them guys that sacrifices goats in some Satanic cult 'cause if you're any one of those things then you're not getting the free door wedge."
"Now, Vern," I said, emphasizing his name in order to strike a chord of friendliness and familiarity before he could strike me, "I'm not one of those wise guys that comes in off the street with no regard or respect for the janitorial arts and just looking for a free hand-out to get the semen, vomit, poultry and pizza stains out of his carpeting. No, Vern, I'm a bona fide custodian or concierge as the French might say, two condo complexes under my belt and my hands so calloused from mopping that at night I have to soak them in pickle brine and Oil of Olay just to soften the callouses for popping. I'm not trying to pull the wool over anyone's eyes or pull the wool rug from under your feet or shear the sheep to make the wool in the first place that is then used to make the rug that I'm not going to pull out from under you and in the future there will be self-shearing sheep so that job will become easier over time. No, Vern, that's not the type of game I'm playing. I'm here to stock my cleaning larder with the finest ingredients known to janitors in the Western hemisphere, the better to serve the fine tenants of 652 Foxwilde Ave. and bring a shine, not only to their floors and walls and railings, but to the lives of the residents themselves, something I can see reflected in the eyes of both young and old or in the case of Mrs. Wong in 205, whose cataracts already give off a perpetual shine, seeing her smile so broadly I can count the food particles stuck between her decaying teeth and even discern the origin of each miniscule speck, be it soy bean, chicken foot or duck beak. That's the kind of commitment and passion I bring to the job and if this passion then translates to erotic adventures, be they of the animate or inanimate kind, it's of no planning on my part but only the result of my talents, sweat glands and subsequent release of pheromones that send many in the building to bed at night tossing and turning with thoughts of unfulfilled desires, much like a wet mop head that needs to be squeezed."
"If I give you a free door wedge will you leave?" Vern asked. I couldn't tell if the look of hope that crossed his face was from my inspiring speech or the fact that I might actually vacate the premises.
"I could settle for that, I guess, but I have one last question first." I was feeling uncharacteristically brave considering the situation but I was determined that nothing would stand between me and the brotherhood.
"Will you get lost after that because otherwise I'm gonna haft'a hit you and I'm already on parole so I don't need to stir up that pile of shit."
"Vern," I said, locking eyes to bring him over to my side and suddenly noticing his teardrop tattoos. "I'm looking for a vacuum cleaner strong enough to tear a man's penis from his body but unfortunately I can't afford a SEBO X-5. Any suggestions?"
"Okay," Vern said and he reached under the counter and threw a rubber door wedge at me. It bounced off my forehead and landed near the front door. "Get the fuck outta here right now."
"No, no, Vern, you misunderstand. I'm not looking to suck off my own penis, I'm just looking for a machine powerful enough to perform the task without me having to pay those fancy European-made prices. All you have to say is West German engineering these days and you're paying more than seven nights in Waikiki, luau included."
Vern, throwing caution and probation to the wind started rounding the corner of his counter, rage or else high blood pressure colouring his face. I, on the other hand, decided to air on the side of caution and so, retrieving my free door wedge, I beat a hasty retreat out the door. I stopped to rest a minute and catch my breath leaning on a trashcan when, with my acute peripheral vision that I've honed during my custodial practice so that no particle of dirt or dust might escape me, I noticed a man had followed me out of the shop and was beckoning me over. He held no weapon and on his face was an expression that promised clandestine information. I hastened over and then we stood next to each other, just two strangers admiring the flow of traffic and the odd dog defecating.
"Listen," he said, out of the side of his mouth, neither of us making eye contact in case Vern or his henchmen were watching from behind the store's smudged plate glass. "I couldn't help but overhear what you said in there and I have one thing to say to you and I won't say it again so listen closely. Kenmore Whispertone available in both upright and canister versions."
"Whispertone?" I whispered.
"Listen, don't let the name fool you. It'll strip the foreskin from your dick like skin from a chicken neck while you're whispering sweet nothings into its hose assembly. I too have tasted the forbidden love and loin-bursting ecstasy of vacuum cleaner suction and the Whispertone will haunt your dreams for days to come."
"Listen, everyone misunderstands me. I'm not looking to copulate with the machine, I just want..."
"Shhh," he put up a hand and cut me off. "I understand this is hard to talk about. Say no more, just remember Kenmore Whispertone. And wear a condom if you buy a refurbished one." And then he was gone as quickly as he had come, which wasn't that quickly actually because I could still see him shuffling down the street, his arthritic knees a testament to the buckling pressures they must have withstood as he tasted the forbidden pleasures of his vacuum cleaner and emptied his seed again and again deep into the canister of his Kenmore Whispertone.
I was left on the street corner pondering the erotic life of a janitor, its wanton ways and whimsies and the world-weariness that accompanies the dark romantic obligations that come with janitorial duty. And then I thought of Ed Smeeley Jr. and his much needed "shingle of wisdom" for this type of occasion and in a flash, there on the street corner, it came to me. "The weltschmerz of life is but a rubber door wedge keeping the door open to possibilities, and whether that adds up to love, despair or banishment from the janitorial supply store you'll never be content until you walk through that door, either to make love to a vacuum cleaner or be beaten with a wet mop head by a parolee." You can nail that "shingle of wisdom" to your roof and smoke your pipe comfortably beneath it.