Custodians don’t save the world every day, but there’s always attacks from the unknown, recalcitrant teachers who think they know what’s what, big mice, board members who think they know it all, or bad guys wanting to do bad things. Not to worry. Us professional Custodians are highly trained to take care of any situation. Especially ones specific to Greenwood Elementary school.
The Custodian 1
The night Custodian, a man in his 40s, ruggedly handsome, wearing a dark cap pulled low, T-shirt, and khakis, pushes a custodial cart along the outside passages of Greenwood Elementary school. He approaches the bullpen, an enclosed uncovered space next to the main building where dumpsters, old furniture, pallets and boxes are kept.
The steel gate is open.
A woman’s short little scream comes from the bullpen.
Calm and cool as always, The Custodian looks in.
MISS PENKI, a teacher in her 30s, pokes agitatedly between two trash Dumpsters with a broken mop handle.
She spies the Custodian. Drops the handle, then nervously wipes her hands on her skirt as she backs away.
“Oh, there you are. I caught a mouse in my classroom on one of those sticky traps. I was throwing the filthy thing into the trash when it squeaked at me. It dropped down there. I pushed it back. Just let the thing die by itself. If you did your job, I wouldn’t have to do things like this.” Miss Penki shudders and quickly walks away.
The Custodian watches her with a frown and narrowed eyes. He enters the bullpen and looks between the Dumpsters. With the handle he slides the sticky trap out. It’s torn, and there is no mouse. He hears a scuttling claws-on-cement sound. He turns to look into a dark cluttered corner.
Large, human-sized, beady red eyes regard him. Slowly they blink, then whatever owns the eyes turns and is gone.
Thoughtfully, the Custodian folds the trap together, shakes his head, and pitches it in the trash and resumes with his cart.
The next day the Custodian closes the door to his office. The school is quiet, most kids have gone home.
A kid stops in front of him. Looks up. “Mr. Custodian, the principal wants to see you in her office.”
The Custodian nods. He ruffles the kid’s hair as he walks away.
The Custodian leans against the wall, hands in pockets, casual.
The Principal, a handsome Hispanic woman, lounges in her chair.
“Miss Penki seems to be missing. She was there for fourth period, but didn’t show up for fifth period. Her car is still here. Have you seen her lately?”
The Custodian raises an eyebrow.
“Apparently she had some uncomplimentary words to say about you yesterday. Not doing your job?”
The Custodian hangs his head, but doesn’t mean it. Their eyes stay connected.
“Do you have any ideas where she might be? Or do I need to call the police?”
He frowns then thinks of something.
The Custodian and the Principle stalk toward the bullpen.
“She just pushed it away? Fool.”
The bullpen is in the shade, a little spooky.
The Custodian moves some pallets and boxes from where he saw the eyes. He finds a two foot diameter hole into the building. He steps back, picks up the broken mop handle. Casually spinning the handle like a martial arts bo-staff, he studies the hole. Still expertly spinning the handle, the Custodian continues to study the building as he goes to a storage closet.
The Principle waits as he gets a plastic jug and flashlight from the closet.
At an unmarked door they look at each other. He hands her the jug then opens the door all the way. They enter a dark, narrow, dusty passage littered with old boxes, old equipment, old furniture. At the end, a side passage.
Squeaks, scrabbling and a muffled keening cry for help come from that passage.
At the end of the passage, he finds Miss Penki, hands, knees and face stuck to a giant sticky trap on loose gravel. Mice scramble out of the flashlight beam which picks up the big, beady red eyes of a two-foot-tall Rat.
The Rat snarls a warning.
Eyes on the Rat, otherwise unperturbed, the Custodian takes the jug and pours liquid around Miss Penki’s feet, knees, hands and face.
The Rat makes a grab for her foot as it comes free.
She emits a short yelp.
The Custodian drives the creature back with the handle
while the Principle helps Miss Penki get free of the trap.
The teacher opens her mouth to speak.
“Not a word, Miss Penki,” the Principle warns.
A very unrat-like ROAR sounds behind the Principle and Miss Penki as they stumble toward the door. Behind them comes fight sounds: scrabble of gravel, handle whacking, growls and grunts. Twin red beams of light burn smoke trails on the wall.
Miss Penki collapses on the grass. “Oh my God. What was that thing?”
“There is no thing, Miss Penki.”
“What? What just happened to me?”
“Miss Penki, in the unfortunate event that you have to kill a mouse around here, do it quick and clean. Do not shove it under a Dumpster to suffer and die of thirst or hunger. Do you understand?”
Miss Penki’s eyes grow wide. She looks to the bullpen then the open door. “You mean…?”
The Custodian closes the door behind him. He carries the sticky trap folded together. Blood spatters him. His clothes are slightly ripped. The handle drips blood. He nods to the Principle. She nods back.
“Put in a damage form. The school will buy you a new pair of pants and shirt.”
The Custodian nods at her, shoots Miss Penki a look, and heads for the bullpen, twirling the bloody mop handle.
The Custodian 2
The Custodian, 40s, a regular guy wearing khakis, T-shirt and cap, loads his custodial cart in the custodial closet of Greenwood Elementary school. After his cleaning equipment he loads a paper bag with something of weight in it on top of the cart. He moves out, making sure the door is locked, and wheels the cart through the school.
A teacher exits a classroom in front of him. “Have a good night.”
He nods, lifts a finger, and continues on.
In a classroom he set up a step ladder in the center of the room. He takes the bag from the cart, mounts the ladder and pushes aside a ceiling tile.
In the background, in a dark corner there is a hint of movement. At the edge of his vision, another hint, moving closer, down low.
Barely audible there is whispering childish chitter chatter. “Stop him. Bad man. Don’t do it, Mister. Hurt him. Stop him.”
He ignores the voices, pulls out a homemade bombattached to a cell phone out of the bag and sets it inside the ceiling.
“No, no. Stop him. Hurt him.”
The ladder shakes for no visible reason.
Expression calm, the custodian steadies himself until the shaking stops.
He stows the ladder in a closet then picks up the small trashcans and carries them to the large can on his cart. He pulls a comic book titled, “Invasion from Space!” from the trash. He shakes his head, rolls his eyes at the absurdity of it, and flips it into the trash.
The next night he pushed his cart, with another bag, through the school. In another classroom he sets up a ladder again.
The childish voices chitter and laugh.
In the dark rectangle of a door into the interior of the building, faint shapes the size of children move about.
As he lifts the ceiling tile and sets the bomb a waiting scorpion springs. With barely a wince he draws his hand out. The bug hangs from his wrist. Casually he picks off the wriggling creature by its tail and flings it back into the ceiling.
The paper bag goes into the trash. Lights out. Door closed.
Another night, another walk through the school with another paper bag. Another classroom. Another bomb. The custodian steps down the ladder. On the floor a stuffed animal, that wasn’t there before. He steps on it, falls backward, landing by a teacher’s desk.
Seemingly on its own, the computer monitor slides to the edge and tips over. He catches it, one corner an inch from his head.
Giggles turn to frustrated screeches.
Monitor returned to its place, he closes the interior door and resumes his normal routine.
Another night the custodian lounges at his desk eating a sandwich and reading a gun magazine. The door is open.
The Principal, a handsome Hispanic woman, appears in the door. “Have a good weekend. Be careful.”
Their eyes connect with hidden meaning.
He nods gravely. Waves with one finger.
She nods back and is gone.
Another night, while he pushes his cart between buildings he notices a light on in one of the classrooms. Leaving his cart he approaches the room, opens the door.
One wall contains a large black hole. Deep inside, as if in a downward slanting tunnel, he sees flickering firelight.
The chitter chatter grows more excited as the light grows brighter. “Yess. Yess. He comes. Finally He comes. We will rule. We will kill. We will eat.”
Preceded by torches, the silhouette of a huge grotesque creature climbs the tunnel.
The Custodian closes the door and walks away. He takes a cell phone from his pocket, dials a number. There’s a faint sound of a cell phone chirping.
Then- BOOM! The classroom explodes with a blast of white light, totally contained inside the room. Mixed with the blast – an unearthly scream of pain and anger.
Lips forming a minimal smile of satisfaction, the custodian pushes his cart away through the school to resume his duties.
The Custodian 3
A little girl around 8 wanders onto Greenwood Elementary school grounds from a large family group in a park next door.
The Custodian, 40s, a regular guy wearing khakis and a T-shirt, empties trash from a classroom. He sees the girl, a student he knows. He looks from her to the family who hadn’t missed her yet, back to the girl. He scans the school, nobody around. He moves toward her.
Later, a call comes through on his radio. “Custodian, would you come to the office right away. We have a small emergency.”
Outside the office a group of adults all talk at once. The group includes the Custodian, the principal – a handsome Hispanic woman – two cops, a detective, and a few teachers.
The detective, a-seen-it-all man in his 50s, says, “So you sent the girl back to her family?”
The Custodian nods.
“Okay. We need to search the school, every room, every closet, every cabinet, every nook and cranny.”
Trading a glance with the Principle, the Custodian moves off to search by himself. He unlocks and enters a door between the Boys’ and Girls’ bathrooms. He enters a long narrow space crammed with supplies, chairs, playground equipment and plumbing.
He flips a light switch, no light comes on. He shakes his head – who’s responsible for fixing that light?- With a small flashlight he moves through the space. Halfway in he pushes aside an old file cabinet. Behind the cabinet – more plumbing, and the girl. She is tied up, mouth taped over. Her wide-open eyes follow the Custodian’s every move. He kneels beside her, puts a finger to his lips for quiet.
She nods, quick little nods of assent.
He gently brushes her cheek with the back of his hand, then loosens her bonds and speaks low to her. He gives her a one finger wave then moves the cabinet back.
When the door thumps shut she is left in total darkness.
Sometime later, after dark, she hears the sound of the door opening, then closing. She sees flickering light from a flashlight. The file cabinet moves aside with a screech. Behind the approaching bright flashlight is the dark shape of a man.
“Come on, Sweetheart. I’m your daddy now and I’m going to take you home. It’s way past your bedtime.”
The man picks her up, carries her to the main space, and pushes the cabinet back in place. At the main door he pauses, listening. He opens the door, steps out into the night. As the door swings shut behind him a fist comes out of nowhere, smacks his jaw. He’s out. The Custodian catches the girl as the man drops.
In his arms, her eyes smile at him, not scared at all.
Two cops lead the handcuffed man, one of the teachers in the previous group, past another gathering of cops, paramedics, the Principle, the Custodian, and the girl’s parents.
The father hugs the girl tightly. Over his shoulder the girl eyes the Custodian. She gives him a one finger wave.
The Custodian, returns the wave, turns and walks away through the dark school.
The Custodian 4
The Custodian, 40s, wearing khakis, a T-shirt and a dark cap pulled low, locks up the Boys and Girls bathrooms in a stand alone building at the edge of Greenwood Elementary School’s playground.
He places a large sign in front – “BATHROOMS ARE CLOSED.”
While pushing his custodial cart away a man in an expensive suit and his 10 year old son approach him in a hurry.
“Hey. You’re the custodian aren’t you?”
The Custodian stops. Nods at the man. Nods at the kid.
“Open the bathroom will you? We both have to go.”
The Custodian points to the sign. Shakes his head.
“Come on. My son is a student here. You can open it for minute. We won’t make a mess.”
The Custodian spreads his hands, shakes his head – what can he do?
“Dad, it’s okay. If the Custodian says the bathrooms are closed, they’re closed.”
The man gets in the Custodian’s face. The Custodian is not intimidated one little bit.
“Look, I’m on the school board, the one you work for, I’m telling you to open that bathroom. Now.”
The Son tugs on his father’s coat. “Dad, it’s closed. We can go in the bushes. Like camping.”
The father slaps the boy’s hand away.
“I am going to piss in that bathroom. Are you going to let me in, Custodian?”
A slow shake of the head. No.
“Then enjoy your last night as a janitor, buddy.”
He attempts to push the night man out of his way. The Custodian doesn’t budge. The Father is forced to go around him. He points at his son. “You stay here.”
The father stalks off across the playground.
Hands in pockets, the son and the Custodian watch him go.
“I’m sorry. He sort of likes to be in charge. You won’t get fired will you?”
The Custodian ruffles the boy’s hair and tilts his head toward the bushes.
The son moves to the bushes to piss.
A few minutes later the father stalks across the playground, chin leading the way. He clenches a fistful of keys which he shows to the Custodian as he passes. “The Principal knows who she works for. Come on, son.”
“I already went. Dad, if the Custodian says –”
“I don’t care what he says. He doesn’t work here anymore.”
The Father unlocks the door, throws it open and disappears inside. The door thumps shut with solid finality.
“Will he be okay?”
The Custodian gives the boy’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze.
“I’m sorry.” The Principle, a handsome Hispanic woman, says as she joins them. “He said he wanted to open his son’s classroom, not these bathrooms.”
The Principle stands behind the boy, hands on his shoulders.
The Custodian stands legs apart, arms crossed, head down – waiting.
“He does think a bit much of himself, but he is on the board. Couldn’t you –?
Aahh! Aaahhhh! Hel–!
The Custodian draws in a deep breath. From his cart he takes a machete and a well-used baseball bat.
Spinning the bat and blade to loosen up, he strolls to the door, and enters.
From the bathroom, mixed with the father’s cries, comes an otherworldly screech of rage.
“Well, after this I hope your father will understand that when the Custodian says it’s closed, it’s closed.”
“Yes, Ma’am. I hope so, too.”
Thanks for reading The Custodian Stories. If you have any ideas for further stories, let me know.
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