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No Easter #3: Pine Oil Blues

Woodcut by Stephen E. Lewis

As the monster cuts a path of death and destruction across Japan, Gene and John have more immediate problems.


Morning among the custodial staff was the time to address the issues of the day. Politics, human suffering and everyday bodily functions were dissected as pants dropped, work clothes were donned, coffee was consumed and cleaning materials were gathered. Walking down the stairs, I already knew what today’s topic was going to be.

“Wanna watch the gook-roast?” Mealy asked through a mouth full of breakfast meat, motioning to a live television broadcast of the monster’s latest attack on Tokyo. The monster was tearing its way through a large shopping mall, raising its head to the sky and moaning flame. As it began stepping on the stores, both Mealy and John broke out laughing.

“Dat’s not funny,” Buffet Guy said. “What if it was you in that mall? How could you laugh?”

“You can’t help what makes you laugh,” Mealy smirked. “If you laugh, it must be funny. That’s all I know.”

Rockets exploded on and around the monster as it continued its rampage, undistracted. The beast walked onto a crowded two-level highway which buckled under its weight, flattening the traffic below. The TV news announcers reported the battle as if they were calling a football game.

“What you are seeing now is sortie after sortie of US A-10 attack fighters letting loose 30 millimeter cannon fire at the rate of 4,000 rounds per minute…”

Rupert entered the room with a smile on his face that seemed to imply someone else’s pain. “D-d-da b-boss want t-t-talk t-to John and G-G-Gumellis.”

“Oh shit,” John reeled. “I don’t like the sounds of that.”

John and I took the elevator up one flight. When we reached Pontulio’s office, John knocked meekly on the door.

“It’s open.”

“Good morning, Mr. Pontulio,” John greeted him brightly.

“I don’t see what’s so good about it, cocksucker,” Pontulio sneered. He picked a toilet brush off of his desk, looked me directly in the eye and said, “Do you know what this is?”

I shrugged my shoulders.

“IT’S A TOILET BRUSH!” he screamed. He flung the thing at me and I caught it. “And what do we do with a toilet brush, Mr. Gumellis?”

“Toilets!” John called out before me, hoping to get on Pontulio’s good side.

“That’s right! Toilets! We don’t smoke Maui Wowie on the roof while the thing sits in the closet! This toilet brush is all that stands between you and homelessness! This is your livelihood! Get to know it! Sleep with it! Because if you want to drink any milk around here, this is the tit you have to squeeze.”

I looked at John who was holding his hands over his face, trying not to laugh. Big mistake. The moment our eyes met we both exploded hysterically.

“Don’t laugh at me!” Pontulio screamed at John. “I’ll wear your dick like a necktie! And you…” Pontulio turned back to me. “You long-haired motherfucker. Nobody on God’s green earth laughs at Mario Pontulio. I was scrotum deep in Charley while you were listening to Led Zeppelin from your mommy’s uterus! I was sucking death’s dick before you were born!” With that last line he poked his finger in my chest. “I’ll tell you now, you and Coolio over there are on top of my list to clean the pit this year!”

The pit, a series of filters contained within the sump-pump that needed to be replaced each year, was an ominous legend amongst the crew. When the sewer system was opened up, anything flushed down the sinks or toilets of the building fell at the feet of a custodian, armed with only gloves and a fisherman’s wading outfit. Pontulio took great pleasure in delegating this responsibility to the janitor who caused him the greatest amount of grief during the year, making him do it during lunch hour, the busiest possible time for the school’s plumbing system.

“Do I make myself clear?” He stared at me.

I gripped the brush tightly in my hand and all I could think about was how I wanted to shove the handle through his eye, straight into the soft meat of his brain.

“THANK YOU!” Pontulio shouted, our cue to go.

“That stuttering little pederast must have dropped a dime on us smoking on the roof,” I fumed as we walked out into a crowded hallway of kids. Memories of being one of them came vividly back to me. Mostly, I missed the ignorance. At 14, it’s impossible to envision a lousy future for yourself, you haven’t died enough yet.

“Jesus, Gumellis, if you’d have told me five years ago I was gonna be sticking my hands in pure human shit and piss when I grew up, I woulda said you was crazy. Shit, I outghta just walk the fuck out. Sweeping floors and wiping walls for these racist motherfuckers like I give a fuck whether they be clean or not. Like I give a fuck!”

I could only agree. I still had five bathrooms to mop and a staircase to paint.

When I went back downstairs, the guys had left. Their empty potato chip bags and soda cans were scattered across the table and the TV was still on. The attack had ended and highlights of the conflict were being rebroadcast.

“Right there, Jack, you can really see the power of the Tomahawk missile in action…”

The power of the Tomahawk missile? It didn’t do shit. As the monster’s fist sank into the side of a tall office building, I thought to myself, “This is not my fault and it has nothing to do with me.” The monster lifted its head to the sky and spewed forth a flame from its mouth so bright that it turned the screen to static. The image was repeated in slow motion, as though it were some key play in the World Series. As fire crawled across the sky, painting the blue day an unholy electric white, it was impossible to deny in myself a feeling of deep satisfaction.

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