Monday, February 28, 2011

Scarry Night Challenge: The Janitor

Three weeks ago, Patti Abbott called for stories around 800 words containing the line, "I really don't mind the scars." My contribution is below, followed by some notes and links to other stories in the challenge:

The Janitor

by Gerald So

I didn't know the kid's name.

It didn't matter.

Twelve years of preppies had smirked at or ignored me. I hated it, but I also understood. I was a walking example of what you didn't want to be when you grew up.

Fat Boy leaving a trail of candy wrappers for me to sweep was a break in the routine. As I caught up to him, he bolted out the door and jumped on a bus.

A million laughs. Friend of his probably caught it for YouTube.

I had to work against a tide of fleeing boys to get back to the janitor's closet. Not as hard as it sounds. Like I said, most kids give me a wide berth so as not to catch any viruses I might have.

The janitor's closet is locked by default. You can only get in if you turn your key and the knob at the same time. When was a kid, I thought the closet was really a lounge, like with a TV and vending machines. It's just a closet with barely enough room for two people.

Which is why she always surprised me.

Beth Townsend, eleventh-grade English teacher. Also Beth Townsend whom I'd known since I pulled her pigtails.

When the door locked behind me, Beth said, "How was your day?"

I grinned. She was the talker in the relationship. When we did talk. Mostly we groped and banged each other's brains out.

Speaking of groping, I was getting to it when Beth pulled back.

"What is it?"


Something in her voice told me exactly what it was.

"Hang on," I said. I flipped the light back on and reached for her hand, gently. Moved my fingers up her arm, gently.

She grimaced, and I felt it, saw it. The purpling flooded my eyes.

"Who did this?" I asked.

I already knew. I could smell him on her.

"Who?" I asked again.

She told me who, and what, and when. And then she said, "Don't go up against him. He's stronger than he looks. He doesn't know about us."

I didn't say anything. Just held her and danced to the silence until I knew we were the only ones in the building.

I took her to my place and asked her to stay.

She agreed.

* * *

I can't remember the last time I slept between two and six A.M. In high school and college, it was the term papers. Since then, it's been the nightmares about term papers. Even as a kid, though, I had a hard time sleeping when I might see Santa.

All those term papers got me an English degree, but burned me out by graduation. Janitor was the only job insomnia would allow. But the job was how Beth and I reconnected. The job was how I entered Principal Jennings' house at one A.M. (I'd duped his key years ago.)

He put up a fight. Scratched, kicked, bit. Beth was right; he was stronger than he looked.

I hauled his body to the dump and left it in one of the cars to be compacted.

When Beth saw me, she'd say, You shouldn't have.

But I'd tell her, I really don't mind the scars.



I've never been a night owl. If I had a paper to do, I would nap when I got home from school and start working after midnight. I often work in the wee hours today, when there are no distractions. "The Janitor" was inspired by everything that happens while most of the world is sleeping.

I first saw the narrator driving back at dawn, having buried a body. To lessen the likelihood the body would be identified, burial became mutilation by trash compactor.


Others Take the Challenge:

(Links updated throughout the day.)

Patricia Abbott, "Burnt the Fire"
Absolutely*Kate, "Oh Soul O'Mio"
Cameron Ashley, "Robbie V Wants a Job"
Kevin Barker, "Somewhere Around the Time They Fell"
Jack Bates, "Karaoke Ain't for Wussies"
Eric Beetner, "Scars"
Fleur Bradley, "Restraining Order"
Paul D. Brazill, "The Endless Sleep"
Cormac Brown, "Stone"
Salvatore Buttaci, "The Mote in Thy Brother's Eye"
Jimmy Callaway, "Nueva LocalizaciĆ³n"
Chris Deal, "The Body Marked"
Chad Eagleton, "The Pit"
Loren Eaton, "The Curse of Nature Aflame"
Matthew C. Funk, "Growing Scars"
Christopher Grant, "A Lou Ford State of Mind"
Glenn Gray, "Scar"
Alan Griffiths, "Razorblade Kisses"
Jerry House, "The Romanian Witch"
Grant Jerkins, "A History of What Happened"
Dana C. Kabel, "The Eye of the Beholder"
Rosemarie Keenan, "Break Up to Make Up"
R.L. Kelstrom, "Scars"
John Kenyon, "Countdown"
Dana King, "Slump Buster"
Rob Kitchin, "Insurance"
Jo Neace Kraus, "Our Scandal"
K.A. Laity, "Miss Lonely Heart"
Allan Leverone, "The Savior"
Evan Lewis, "Skyler Hobbs and the Fate Worse Than Scars"
Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw, "Penance"
Brian Lindenmuth, "My Brother's Keeper"
Heath Lowrance, "Gator Boy"
Julia Madeleine, "Celeste"
Todd Mason, "I really don't mind the scars."
Matthew J. McBride, "Flood"
John Norris, "I Carry It With Me Wherever I Go"
Anita Page, "Don't Be Afraid"
Eric Peterson, "Scarred but Smarter"
Anthony Policastro, "Scars"
Graham Powell, "The Tale of the Tape"
Keith Rawson, "The Lesson of Blood"
Richard Robinson, "Give and Take"
Stephen D. Rogers, "Punished is Never Past Tense"
Randy Rohn, "Special Days"
Chad Rohrbacher, "Open Heart"
Kathleen A. Ryan, "Beholden"
Sandra Seamans, "Scar Tissues"
Kieran Shea, "The Shift Change"
Gary Stevens, "Jenny"
Malachi Stone, "Hardass"
Liam Sweeny, "Trophies"
Katherine Tomlinson, "Scarification"
Albert Tucher, "The Ancient Fucking Mariner"
John Weagly, "Customer Service With Myron the Mauler"
WellesFan, "Second Act"
Michel Williams, "Midnight at the Onyx Club"


Todd Mason said...

Thanks for compiling a list, and your story is solid, Gerald...A janitor can be depended upon for a tidy disposal...

pattinase (abbott) said...

It always comes out well when you use something you are familiar with. And I was once a tiger tamer.
Yes, thanks for the help with the links. Quite a few days.

YA Sleuth said...

I love how much you told without telling. Really nice.

Jack Bates said...

Thumbs up, Mr. So. Enjoyed it. I've worked with a custodian or two who I wouldn't be surprised if they operated in a similar fashion.

John DuMond said...

That was a cool story, Gerald.

Alan Griffiths said...

Nice story, Gerald; congrats.

Sandra Scoppettone said...

I liked this story a lot. You told me exactly what I needed and no more.Excellent.

R L Kelstrom said...

Love, murder, and scars. Perfect combo. Nice, tight writing.

chad rohrbacher said...

Sorry for the lateness -- steadily working my way through all of them.

I like the janitor angle -- you described him and how he was treated very well.

Poor English grads.

But they are creative when having to do crimes....