Kazek at Work
The halls now silent, the tunnels dark, Kazek turned and walked with a condemning sigh toward the closet door. Earlier he had propped it open with a bucket of Nuulux Floor Wax in order to bring out the floor waxing machine. The door for some mysterious reason always wanted to be closed and once a week it had to be persuaded with a bucket, a bag of salt or whatever Kazek could mindlessly grab at arms reach. After an hour or so of deftly gliding the machine, the hall floors were de-gummed, unmarked, and now lay clean, waxed and ready for another school day.

Last weeks shipment brought in a pallet of new wax. To his surprise the Nuulux logo had been changed, the new letterforms borrowed from a strange, alien alphabet. What was even more striking was the color of the bucket. Since his first days at Maine East High School, the wax came in olive green buckets, a color that he was very much fond of. Now to his surprise they were a bright blue, almost hurting his tired eyes in the florescent light.

Even though he thought the color was a bit "inappropriate" for floor wax - he did feel a slight twinge of something, of excitement or hope. This new color was a sign of some kind of impending change, a harbinger of good fortune perhaps. With this he was convinced and decided to cast out numbers for the weekend lottery - the mental note was made and he felt good. But now, after a long day, walking back to the closet, his spirits were again entombed and he longed to be in bed, to rest and close his eyes. With his foot, he gently slid the bucket into the darkness, shut and locked the closet door.

In the locker room he cleaned himself up a bit and proceeded to change his cloths. Looking in the mirror, the sparse light cast his lined brow in deep relief. His face was gaunt yet hardy, the many years of both strain and smile branched out from his eyes onto glowing checks. His most striking feature was either his aquiline nose or the shock of bristles underneath it. The large greying mustache he felt drew attention away from his sharp nose by visually reducing it's length and making it appear closer to his face. This logic however was immediately ridiculed by Bogdan, the other janitor at Maine East High School.

"What are you saying my good friend, with such mustache I look only at that face when I speak to you! You are a walking nose with mustache! Shave it off and color your hair! I'm telling you!" Bogdan rebutted after Kazek explained his strategy.

Defiant and unwavering in his belief, Kazek cultivated and groomed his mustache with great care and regularity. Although graying considerably, some natural color remained. He decided that once all his natural color disappeared he would then seriously consider coloring it. Just as the color was fading in his mustache, the same was happening to his hair. What was once light brown, thick and flowing, was now fading and thinning. Kazek however felt lucky since despite the loss of brilliance and body, there were no signs of a receding hairline or balding.

Downstairs at his locker, he slipped into a fresh white tank top and felt the coolness of the shirt extinguish his hot sweat and stink. This temporary venire eventually gave way as a new crop of sweat beaded between his brow and pooled in his armpits. He hastily crumpled up his dark gray janitor's shirt and let it fall to the bottom of the locker. He had sown on the patch bearing his name with a pale red thread not realizing the contrast it would create with the dark shirt and navy blue patch. The haphazard zigzag pattern of the thread showed an inexperienced hand at work, yet the generous build up of thread, the thickness, revealed great invested time and care. His dark green Dickey work pants followed suit. They hung loose on his slight but deceptively strong frame. Patches of oil, grease and coffee faded but remained from late and infrequent washings. The green ones were his favorite, as they fit perfectly in the waist and came straight down to his ankle - helping to fill out his silhouette. His alternates, a newer stiffer dark gray pair of Dickeys bought at Kmart and not at Sears (where he bought the green ones) seemed lighter in material weight and were not as full in the leg as he liked. They also tapered at the ankle quite a bit, which made his shoes seem to jut out like skis. He felt that the few dollars he saved buying this pair of work pants was not worth the psychological effort in overcoming these deficiencies every time he put them on.

After dressing he patted his left breast pocket of his garage-sale acquired dress shirt to make sure his half-consumed pack of Marbolos was safely in place. Attending garage sales was his weekend passion. Niles and the neighboring Chicago suburbs were burgeoning with treasures laid out on the streets for all to browse, bargain and buy.

He was out with Bogdan last Saturday, they had an early start, which was rare since Bogdan seemed to be late for everything, including work. As soon as Bogdan arrived they jumped into Kazek's 89' Honda Civic and headed for the nearest streetlight. During the spring and summer months, suburban streetlight poles were encrusted with stapled invitations and placards promoting garage sale dates and destinations. On their third stop the pair luckily happened upon a moving sale. While picking through the offerings, Kazek's probing ears intercepted the news that the family of five were moving out of state (was it Indiana?) and simply had no room for all the extra stuff now overflowing on the front yard of their house.

Despite the mind-blowing array of furniture, toys, tools, cooking utensils, books, boardgames, cloths, shoes, nicknacks and other unexplainable doo-hikies - Kazek was only content on purchasing, what looked like to him, like a brand new Van Heusen dress shirt. The shirt was just his size - a 15, a number he had committed to memory. The shirt was long sleeved and caramel in color. There was a very subtle cream-colored vertical line pattern that he didn't bother to study for long - for something else caught his attention. A piece of masking tape near the collar read three dollars and without a second thought Kazek handed over three bills to a woman wearing a poker hat and a utility smock ringing with loose change.

With his cigarettes safely in place, he slide on a fresh pair of tube socks and then his sandals. He rummaged through his locker pulling out a large plastic bag that read Bacik's Delicatessen and a black thermos. The bag had two plastic handles that snapped together to make one complete handle. He peered into the bag and among the chocolate wafer cookie wrappers and an apple core, he was surprised to find half of his headcheese sandwich. The sight of the sandwich instantly reminded him that he needed to go back to the deli this Sunday, after church, to replenish his lunch food needs which usually consisted of liver sausage, canned ham, headcheese, freshly baked bread, butter and plum powidlo.

Still puzzled as to why half of the sandwich remained, he snapped the bag shut and went up the stairs. As he walked toward the building exit, his keys danced endlessly at his hip, eager to awake the silence, once outside, he pulled a cigarette to his mouth. In the quiet stillness of the empty parking lot, a yellow flare from a deep satisfying drag offered a beacon of light.