It was just another ordinary day at work and as I Windexed the smudge prints left by the shrunken grandmothers and the wobbly toddlers in their vicarious octogenarian care off the lower lobby windows, I was approached by a small man, and by small I mean larger than a midget but smaller than a jockey after an all-you-can-eat buffet, who had hair that would've looked better if it were a toupee and a voice high enough to stop dogs from mating in mid-stroke and sniff the air for either masters or adversaries or bacon-wrapped shoe trees. His pants were too tight, his shirt was too loose and the strange grin he wore upon his face wouldn't have looked out of place on a gargoyle clinging to a parapet on the cathedral of Notre Dame or Lon Chaney in Phantom of the Opera. He wore a generic heavy leather jacket that you see at outlet stores along the highway and I knew he drove the huge 400 cc motorcycle parked in the underground garage with tailpipes longer than his arms and that every morning, like clockwork, he descended from his fourth floor apartment, stopped to check his mail and would deposit a empty plastic distilled water jug in the paper recycling bin under the mailboxes. This is a bin reserved for junk mail and newspapers and, as the sign the management put up reads, "not for household garbage", but that didn't deter him even though, after this, he continued down to the underground garage but was either too lazy to walk the few extra feet to the garbage room or he just liked to flaunt his midget superiority over me. So, when he said to me, that morning, "Say, I wonder if you could help me," I said nothing about his empty distilled water jugs and simply replied, "Sure, what is it?" Because I'm a janitor, not a shit disturber and that is the mark of a professional. I stood proud and tall beside my cleaning cart, my fingers lightly playing over the two colourful feather dusters placed strategically on the cart's two corners like fuzzy sentries as I listened to his story.
"Somebody poured what smells like rancid fish oil on the carpet in front of my doorway," he said. "I don't really know why, all I can think is that I was up late doing some stapling, about one in the morning, so, I don't know, maybe this upset somebody. That's all I can think of." His face took on a look of embarrassed necessity, the same type of look patients get when they have to ask a doctor to remove a foreign object from their rectum or nasal cavity or free their penis from a piece of PVC piping.
"Rancid fish oil?" I asked, and though I was completely amazed by this information, I maintained a nonchalant tone and poker face as befitting a janitor who has seen, and sometimes cleaned, most everything (except for three-toed sloth dung and the sweat-eroded shoe insoles of a despotic and deposed world leader exiled to Saskatoon and to this day I have never seen a discarded human heart stuffed into a an old Cuisinart).
"That's what it smells like. Anyway, I'm just wondering, you must have something on that cart you could clean it with. The smell is pretty revolting. I'm in 405."
"I'm sure I can find something to give it a spritz with. No problem." I said this with the authority meant to inspire confidence in the tenants because if their janitor is unsure, then really, you might as well blow up the world right now and be done with it. But truthfully, there was not much I could do for this thoughtless discarder of distilled water jugs in the paper recycling bin, and I began to think, based on this fact, that maybe he did deserve the rancid fish oil on his carpet. But I am neither judge nor executioner (except when it comes to silverfish). I am simply the janitor but it amazes me how tenants look at my cart and all its esoteric equipment (i.e. wooden door wedges, various soiled cloths, two or three aerosol cans and three bottles of liquid spritz cleaners, a screwdriver, a squeegee, an old ham sandwich, a toothbrush with shredded bristles, garbage bags, the aforementioned feather dusters, light bulbs, an Allen key set and a Hello Kitty change purse that I found in the garbage room, which I use to store various pieces of lint and squashed dried fruit that resemble famous movie stars of yesteryear (one day I hope to open a museum dedicated to this pursuit), and believe it has magical powers. That you could, say, disembowel a hippopotamus in the hallway (I'm not suggesting you do this, I'm just using it as an example of something extremely messy), and with the contents of my cart I could turn carnage to clean in minutes flat, spic-and-span and with not a trace of hippo guts or fluids to be seen or sniffed. Unfortunately, that is not the case. I'm supplied with only a certain amount of cleaning products that the management dictates and these piddling few are often not up to the task of cleaning the more tenacious and transoceanic substances like fish oil for example or platypus vomit. Nevertheless, I grabbed my bottle of Febreze and Fantastik and headed on up to the fourth floor to wrangle this fish oil into submission. That I had a cold and couldn't smell a decomposing body even if you rammed my head into its rotting chest cavity made no difference to me. I could tackle this problem head-on even without my olfactory senses.
1. Why are you stapling at one in the morning?
2. What are you stapling at one in the morning and why are these papers so pressing as to keep you up so late?
3. What kind of stapler are you using? Unless you're using some kind of industrial pneumatic stapling machine I fail to see how a wee bit of stapling could disturb any other tenants.
4. Again, I return to the papers. What kind of papers require this kind of stapling urgency. Is this distilled-water-jug-discarding-deviant part of some sort of fiendish cult? But if that's the case, wouldn't he be more discreet about getting rid of the plastic jugs in the first place? Distilled water has many applications, some as innocent as use in model steam boiler engines for miniature steam boiler enthusiasts or in household aquariums or in cigar humidors, but other applications can be more nefarious. Jet engines, sleep apnea machines, battery acid usage, a coolant for murdering son-of-a-bitch killer robots and more. The mind boggles at the many and evil possibilities that the man in unit 405 might be up to or contemplating. Imagine a testy sleep apnea sufferer with jet engines strapped to their back, semi-conscious, snoring and spraying battery acid from their nostrils. Now stop imagining because that image is real.
5. Who are these midnight interlopers that lie in wait, fish oil at the ready, anticipating the smallest neighbourly indiscretion in the wee hours of the morning, to rush from their condo unit and spread the musk of rotting fish on the carpeting? Do they know what their neighbour is busy stapling and understand the gravity of those papers should they be disseminated among the diabolic cult followers that await the printed instructions or instructional doctrines laid out in such pages and neatly stapled for easy usage? Are they part of an opposing cult (the Fish Oilers vs. The Midnight Paper Staplers perhaps), fighting for dominance and influence over the residents in the condo complex?
6. I had a good question here but I took some NyQuil and now I can't remember it. Neither can I remember why I took all my clothes off nor how a mouse trap has snapped shut on a small pinch of flesh at the bottom of my scrotum although it's surprisingly painless, maybe thanks to the double dose of NyQuil I administered a little earlier. Luckily I'm in the boiler room, safe from the prying eyes of the tenants. My only thought is that I was, in good conscience, testing the efficiency of the mouse traps in the building using my scrotum (the closest thing resembling a mouse I could find on my body due to the wispy hair and rodent-like shape), and so stripping naked was of the utmost importance to the project and then I can only assume I performed a series of jump squats over various strategically placed mouse traps, my dangling scrotum imitating a mouse delicately fishing for a piece of cheese to test the hair-trigger mechanism on the traps and their level of sensitivity. Judging by the fact that there was only one mouse trap attached to my scrotum leads me to believe that many of the other traps are faulty and I will bring this to the attention of my supervisor promptly. If only I had a smartphone I would take a picture of the evidence so as to prove to him how pressing this problem is. In the end he will just have to take my word for it. Or my reddened scrotum if he wishes or chooses to view it.
But what seductress from the many who live in the building could be pining for me to such a degree that they would toss their lacy undergarments from their balcony? I know this happens a lot to Rod Stewart or Englebert Humperdink but I never thought a janitor such as myself, even being a master of the erotic arts, could elicit such a response. It is true though that while mopping the foyers, I have sensed many an admiring eye lingering upon my body, taking in its folds and flaps and sausage-like encasings, for the way I approach lobby swabbing is very much like I approach making sweet (and sometimes bittersweet) love to a lady. Through the sway of my hips as my biceps and forearms work the mop to the corresponding undulations of my body fat as it responds to the torque of my hard-worked physique, I appear as a machine made for love-making and, throw into the equation, my agile mop-handling technique as I swish and pull and push and strain and one gets the sense that the mop is merely an extension of my penis, the mop head being my scrotum and the handle being, well, you get the idea. Completing the picture is the aroma I give off after I begin to sweat only seconds into my task, like a musk-ox on the tundra when the lichen is scarce during the winter months and the wolves lie in wait, skin taut over rib cages well-defined from hunger and their urgent howls turning one's bowels into incontinent barn owls roosting in the decaying timbers like those seen in a Norman Rockwell painting if Norman Rockwell had been manic-depressive and fixated on barn owls rather than painting kids in barber shops and family turkey dinners taking place at bus stops where returning Korean war veterans weep into their soup while ticker tape falls from the sky like factory soot and grandmother loses her glass eye in the gravy boat. It's no wonder, when I think of these attributes, that brassieres are raining down from the balconies into the boxwoods at my behest.
The fact was, this bra was presenting a problem to me. Do I just pick it up and deposit it in the dumpster like an unwanted baby chick when Easter is over? Wouldn't that be like throwing love away when really I should be embracing this opportunity? Yes, I thought to myself and then I thought it again, but louder, YES!, although inside my own head instead of out loud on the walkway, causing me to have a slight headache from the reverberations inside my skull. And then it dawned on me that what I needed to do was apply the untapped and uncharted corners of my mind to the dilemma at hand, harnessing the powers of the mystic arts to solve the erotic mystery befallen me. Fighting fire with fire, so to speak, or bewildering brassieres with beatific divination and psychic force. As a man of science as well as a janitor (the two are not mutually exclusive as the ingredient list on your average cleaning spray or solution will undeniably prove), I rarely turn to the murky world of psychic powers except when absolutely necessary and all other options are exhausted. There was only one thing to do to divine the brassiere's true owner (and not the drunk guy who might have found it, tried it on and went for a promenade the night before, before passing out on the wheelchair ramp to the condo complex only to wake urine and semen-stained and filled with shame and consequently flinging the brassiere back into the shrubbery before skulking home beneath the rheumy eye of sunrise), and that was to telepathically communicate with the saucy undergarment by strapping it to my head. Of course I was not about to do this in broad daylight so when I was sure no one was about, I quickly scooped up the brassiere, stuffed it into one of my roomy cargo shorts' pockets and slipped away to the boiler room to ruminate on the matter at hand. Safely hidden amongst the gurgling and hissing pipes and water tanks, I took the brassiere from my pocket and gently, no, tenderly, untangled its straps and then placed it upon my head in such a manner that I had a cup over each ear, as if they were hearing devices channeling voices from another world. Once I had the brassiere properly fitted and strapped to my noggin, I began my incantations that I learned from an old and wise heating and duct cleaning service repairman who in turn had learned the ancient words from a shaman he met at three in the morning at a Seven-11 where they both stood mesmerized by the hot dog machine watching the wieners turn on the stainless steel rollers in a kind of endless ballet of beef and pork byproducts, the small cylindrical bodies covered in globules of meat sweat and fat grease, which gave them their alluring sheen. There was also the odd fruit fly about I was told, making me wonder, why did they call them fruit flies when they were obviously crazy for meat?
Anyway, the shaman (who turned out to be an unemployed vertical blind assembler who had received his training in the mystic arts in a trailer park near Lake Manitouwabing outside Parry Sound, Ontario), passed on a ready-for-any-occasion incantation that I recited in a B-flat hum, a tone coincidentally used by Zen monks during their chants as well as being the same pitch as my vacuum cleaner, which accounts for the fact that it always puts me into a meditative, almost sleep-like trance. Not unlike three hits of NyQuil, a rousing round of masturbation and a bag of pork rinds while staring into the reddened coils of my hotplate upon which I burn pigeon droppings, the resulting smoke being known (according to the shaman) to energize the body and mind's psychic centers.
"O pitzle lugoonza mohibanaqua
Gluton flomemsbrie coolukahkah,
Gibble schlozz bloomba gungapibble plip,
Verscht bagunza toot smeltz Boris Yeltsin," I intoned as the bra cups over my ears echoed my voice back at me and soon I entered an enlightened state where everything became pinpoints of light followed by a murmuring voice from another realm that sounded a lot like Peter Lorre bemoaning the death of his flat-footed wife if that wife happened to be a chicken wearing a fetching polka-dot dress, galoshes and sporting a monocle. It wasn't long before a vision came upon me of a bewitching young lady, seductively wall-eyed with hair extensions that could withstand a Category 5 hurricane and lips puffed up from bee stings and puffer-fish liver sushi. Chalk one up for psychic abilities. I must have blacked-out from my psychic exertions for I awoke on the boiler room floor I don't know how many minutes or perhaps hours later, gasping for air as it appeared the bra straps had wound their way around my throat and I was technically suffocating there on the cold concrete. Fortunately, it seems one of the bra cups had slipped behind my head, cushioning the blow it must have taken when I toppled over backwards unconscious so at least I was only choking and not having to also contend with a cracked cranium. Sucking in air, I unwrapped the brassiere from my neck and head and smiled with the knowledge that my brassiere-tossing seductress had revealed herself to me in a vision born of telepathy and sorcery. Now I knew it was only a matter of time before we bumped into each other, whether in the elevator, the garbage room or perhaps the lobby where she could continue to ogle me secretly as I laid mop head to the tiling with slow, steady strokes sure to evoke my masterful lovemaking techniques. And perhaps, one day, just maybe, she might allow me to let my feather-duster light fish-oil scented fingers (or my feather duster itself) play upon her puffer-fish liver swollen lips and tousled hair extensions and bring her to heightened senses of erotic glory (depending on her allergies to feathers or feather duster schmutz, fish oil or sweat that smells like lichen-starved musk oxen for that matter), or maybe we would choose to go through the tunnel of unrequited love instead, letting our erotic fantasies build like a sensual tsunami while we continued to ignore each other knowingly beneath the halogen spot lighting of the expertly-mopped lobby. Of course, in the end, this could all be a ploy of the midnight stapler, the brassiere being a plant among the plants and the vision of the mysterious woman caused by a psychotropic drug sprinkled into the brassiere cups that, once strapped to the head and in contact with the skin, passed into my bloodstream like tree frog poison, or else could have been contained in the fish oil I scrubbed from his condo unit's doorway carpeting, entering beneath my fingernails, thus creating my hallucination and subsequent passing out on the boiler room floor. The truth may never be known, such are the mysteries that abound in the average day of a janitor whose erotic adventures drive those around him into fits of jealous rage and keep evil and eroticism in a tenuous balance, engaged in the ever dangerous game of condo complex cleaning where war is continually waged between the cunning and the naive with only me standing between them, mop in hand, erect and ready, battle-scarred and unsung. All I can say is that it if you're evil and hear my cart a'coming you better start running but all others of a sensual nature pay heed to my dry and wet-mopping artistry so that you might come to understand, through careful study, the force of your own hidden desires and the depths of your unbridled carnality. It's ready for you to explore but never to explain because that's the mark of a weakling who simply doesn't deserve to stand upon my freshly mopped floors or expertly vacuumed carpeting upon which not a speck is to be seen, even though deep within the fibers lie the microscopic salt crystals from the dried tears of distilled water and fish-oil deviants who dared to defy me and ended up on their knees, weeping and begging for my mercy as I wielded both mop and feather duster before them. Not even Febreze can cover up that fearful stench.