I haven’t posted for quite awhile, so with a new book, a new novella and a much revised short story out I thought I’d make it hard on myself and start my What If? Blog again.
We’ll see how that works out.
As some of you know, besides being a writer – click here to check that out – I’m also a night Custodian (that’s Janitor to those uninformed about the proper nomenclature, you, of course, knew that) at a High School. Now you might think cleaning toilets, mopping floors, and picking up trash is mundane, yucky work.
Well, in can be, but, every time you go into a student bathroom that was sparkly clean twenty-four hours ago it’s an adventure. You never know what you’ll find!
The Custodian checked his blue cart in the custodial closet of Grace Glass Elementary School. He secured a trash can on the cart’s front platform, checked for trash bags, paper towels, rags and a couple spray bottles. Besides the usual supplies he set a paper bag with a heavy package inside on top of the cart. He flipped off the light and rolled outside into a quiet evening, students long gone.
Covered walkways accessed all the school’s classrooms. He collected trash from the teacher’s lounge, and the work room. Stopping outside the administration offices, a door opened and Principal Sanchez, a pretty middle-aged Hispanic woman, came out.
He smiled and nodded.
She returned his smile. “Have a good night.” She regarded the paper bag. “Is that…?”
Smile gone, he nodded again.
She gripped his well muscled arm. “Be careful.” She walked out the main gate, and he locked it behind her.
The custodian trashed the offices and the classrooms beyond then worked his way through the classrooms of two other long, single-story buildings. Beyond those were four square buildings with four classrooms each. In room 7 of D building, he blocked the door open and flipped on one set of lights. After dumping the trash, he retrieved a stepladder from an interior hallway and set it up in the middle of the room.
From the cart he brought the paper bag and set it on top of the ladder. He mounted the ladder and slid one of the ceiling tiles aside.
At the edge of his vision he noted a hint of movement. He ignored it. Closer, another hint, joined by childish chitter-chatter. Closer, from another direction, childish whispers. “Stop him. Bad man. Don’t do it, Mister. Hurt him. Stop.”
The Custodian ignored the voices and pulled a homemade bomb out of the bag and set it inside the ceiling.
“No. No. Stop him. Hurt him.”
Ladder returned, he turned out the lights, shut the door. In the trash he noticed a comic book. Its title, “Invasion from Space!” He shook his head and rolled his eyes at the absurdity of it. Flipped it into the trash.
The next night, another trash run and another paper bag. Inside Room 8, more chitter-chatter and excited laughter. He set up the ladder, slid aside a ceiling tile and placed another bomb. He jerked his hand out. A scorpion hung from his hand by its stinger. Ignoring the chittering laughter, with only a slight wince, he plucked it off and tossed it back into the ceiling.
Next night, Room 9, another bomb. He descended the ladder and stepped on a large stuffed animal that wasn’t there when he went up. He fell backward, barely missing a teacher’s desk. A computer monitor moved with jerky movements to the edge and fell. The Custodian caught it inches from his face.
Monitor replaced, he continued on his steady rounds.
Another night. The Custodian lounged in his tiny office eating a sandwich and reading a gun magazine. Principal Sanchez peeked in the open door.
“Have a good night. Be careful.”
Their eyes connected with hidden meaning. He nodded gravely. Waved one finger.
Lips tight, she nodded back and left.
On his usual trash rounds he noticed a flickering light in classroom 8. Wary, he opened the door.
One interior wall contained a ten foot diameter black hole. Deep inside, as if in a curved, downward slanting tunnel, reddish light cast vague dancing shadows.
The chitter-chatter became more excited as the light brightened and the clank of weapons increased. “Yess. Yess. He comes. Finally, he comes. We will rule. We will kill. We will eat.”
The Custodian breathed deep, nodded, and closed the door. Walking away, he took a cell phone from his pocket. With his thumb, he dialed a number. Hit send. There was a faint sound of a cell phone chirp.
BOOM! The interior of classroom 8 flashed a blast of white light, the explosion totally contained inside. Mixed with the blast, an unearthly scream of pain and anger.
See, it’s not all scraping gum or setting up chairs.