- Mack Eisenmann
3:34 Outside the Ladies Room
3:24 Outside the Ladies’ Room
“You just got to time it right, is all,” Slogger said. He sniffed and scratched the rim of once-blonde hair circling his mostly bald, mostly shiny head.
“I think I get it,” the other one said. He was taller and younger than his companion. His hair was boring, and his body folded uncomfortably under its own length as he half-draped himself over the cleaning cart. He looked like a damp cat stretched out paw to paw.
Slogger said, “No, you don’t know what I mean. Let me tell you. I save that one for last, ‘cus by the time you get through all the trash cans and the men’s rooms it’s about four o’clock.”
“Okay,” the tall one shrugged. He stared at a poster of groomed college students waving from a silky grass lawn. The poster looked extra new and shiny against the uneven, over-painted brick wall.
Slogger snapped his fingers and said “You listening?” He huffed and leaned an elbow on his own cleaning cart. “I’m trying to save you some misery here, kid. Got it?”
The older man’s name wasn’t actually Slogger, but the wet cat didn’t want to remember his real name so he made one up, even though he couldn’t make himself forget the man’s name was Tony. He called him “Slogger” because of the man’s rough, heavy walk. Slogger carried on. “Four o’clock’s the best time, you know why? I bet Cordell didn’t tell you that. Hey, don’t keep that there,” he said, swatting at a plastic bottle filled with yellow liquid, “The chemicals got to go on the bottom rack.”
“Right,” the wet cat said, not touching the bottle. Slogger kept talking.
“Four o’clock. ‘Cus not many classes start in this hall after then, got it?”
The other shrugged.
“Hey, you’re gonna want to remember this. There’s not many people rushing around the halls at four o’clock. All the guys go straight home or hang around outside, but there’s still plenty of girls in the building. You know why?”
“How should I know?” the wet cat said. He looked at the smiling-perfect poster again. One of the young men on the grass was going bald, but he was handsome enough you didn’t really notice. Still, it seemed strange they would put a guy like that on the poster.
“Hey, move those chemicals to the bottom rack. If that bottle spills, it’ll run over the whole cart, and all those paper towels and toilet paper and soap you gotta throw away. Cordell makes you replace it, too. Outa your own pocket.”
“I know,” the young man said. He didn’t move.
“Hey, and let me finish. All the girls like to stick around in the bathrooms to put on lipstick and look at themselves in the mirror. There’s at least five of them crowded in there every day at four, guaranteed. You should see them scatter when I poke my head in.”
The younger man’s face changed. “Why don’t we just clean the bathrooms when everybody’s at class then? Or knock on the dang door?”
Slogger rubbed the strip of hair behind his ear and smirked.
“Even saw one pulling on panty hose, once,” he said. Something about Slogger’s voice made the wet cat imagine he had the girl bottled up like a dead butterfly on a shelf at home.
“You shoulda seen how that one shrieked,” Slogger said, “Thought about drilling a hole through the wall for a while, but I figured that wouldn’t be as fun, you know?”
The wet cat looked out of breath. He pictured the girl trapped in a jar, constantly adjusting her pantyhose and looking over her shoulder through glass walls.
“I don’t do anything, o’course. We’d never do anything, right? We’re just the poor dumb janitors, for heck’s sake,” Slogger said, “We can get away with it.” He bowed his head and made his face look like a scared deer. “You just gotta say ‘Sorry, Miss, I didn’t realize nobody was in here…’” he mimed pulling a door shut and tossed a toothy grin at the younger man.
“Aren’t you gonna get told on?” the wet cat asked. He rested his forehead against the bristle-end of a broom, looking wetter and more cat-like than ever.
Slogger said, “Why’ve you got your broom stored with the bottom up like that? All the crud’ll rain down over the tissues. Did Cordell tell you they make you pay for any of that stuff you ruin? Right outa your paycheck.”
“Somebody is bound to get you in trouble, right?” The wet cat’s voice pleaded.
“You kidding? The girls like it, I know they do.”
The wet cat pushed his face against the broom.
“You’ll get it,” Slogger said, “Just wait ‘till they look at you. Just wait ‘till you’ve been scrubbing floors all day and they walk past.”
“Well what the– Why’s that…” The water-drip uncertainty of the young man’s voice faded away. He wanted to swear, but the words always sounded like clinking china stuck in his throat. He didn’t say anything else.
Slogger went on. “It embarrasses them. And I like seeing girls tucking in their blouses and trying to cover up the tops of their panty hose and squealing at my reflection when I open the door. That’s the end of it. ‘Cept some days I’ll wait outside the bathroom and watch them run past me like they think they’re naked.”
The wet cat was silent.
“They dig running like that, it’s good for them,” Slogger said, checking his watch. His arms were short and thick, and paler than they first looked through all the hair.
“Thirty minutes to go. C’mere, I’ll show you where we can take a smoke without Cordell smelling us. And watch those damn chemicals, kid. She’ll make you pay if you ruin those paper towels.” !