a janitor - quotes and descriptions to inspire creative writing
The janitor looked like an old man with half of his bones removed. With each step he sagged, his head lolling closer to the highly polished floor. His throat was perpetually red and claw marked from the hefty scratches he gave it between tasks. Whenever he swept his head of thinning red hair bobbed to an unheard beat. Once in a while a lyric of "Thriller" would escape his barely-there lips stretched over yellowing teeth. In conversations with staff he would perform small bows and squirm until the encounter was over and he could revert to whatever inner dialogue bounced between those over cartilaged ears.
The janitor's bunch of keys was to him what a fancy sports car was to a lawyer. He dangled the huge bunch of variously sized keys from his overalls belt loops. He had the look of a powerfully built man gone slightly to seed, the protruding belly suggesting his predilection for cold beer, cold slices and cold meat pies. Although he never smoked on the job, his yellowed teeth gave his addiction away.
The janitor looked like life had taken him by the ankles and shaken him upside-down until whatever spark he'd had for life had drained away. I bet he'd had big dreams as a kid, maybe he'd wanted to be an astronaut, or write a novel. But here he was wiping up kid's vomit. I always thought he'd be the kind of person who'd kick a kid if he thought he could get away with it. But yesterday I saw some kindergarten girl trip on the stairs and gash her knee right at his feet. That beaten up face of his transformed into a reassuring smile and he took her to matron as kindly as if he were her Grandpa.
The janitor had an awkward gait, not that he was lame I don't think, rather his belly got in the way. Once you got over that and raised your eyes to his face it was round and baby-like under a fringe of white hair. I never heard him speak unless it was functional. Not once did he comment of the weather or ask someone how they were. Neither did he volunteer any information about himself. Yet his expression was pleasant, nice even. He had an air of one at ease with themselves. He had jobs to do and he did them, then he went home until his next shift in his little red Skoda. His car perhaps being the only clue to his life outside of the school...
The janitor fumbled his keys. His fingers were numbed by the wintry wind and his mind anaesthetized from drinking vodka until the dawn light kissed the clouds and he fell unconscious until his alarm blared. After some minutes of jabbing the metal in sharp motions he dimly recalled the school keys looking different and he fumbled in his cover-all pockets or another set. Once inside the rush of warm air and the smell of disinfectant put him on edge. He was at work now. He patted his pockets for the jar of caffeine pills, still there. Possibly he'd take one before the principal got in at seven thirty. No job meant no money, no money meant no alcohol and no home. Drinking at home was they only thing that dulled the pain, he wasn't about to give it up.
The janitor moved like someone schooled in dance. He wasn't cleaning so much as meditating, side-stepping and turning in fluid motions as if the mop were a beloved partner. We laughed until our bellies ached but he would only smile back, wink and keep on dancing. I bet when they old goat dies they'll find a juke box where his heart should be, stuck on repeat, playing the greatest hits from his long ago youth.
The janitor stared dead ahead, never lowering his gaze. Should a child get in his way he would trip over them with great performance, always dropping a swear under his breath. Sometimes we did it on purpose just to learn a new one, nineteen-something expletives are the best.
The janitor was quite the most spindly person I had ever seen. It was like his bones had grown faster than his flesh could keep up. It's common in teens of course, but from his rapidly receding hair line I'd put him somewhere around forty. His speech was always pressured and flighty, scattering from one topic to another with only the loosest of connections. He often paused to laugh at something that wasn't really funny, then stopped himself short, bobbing his head down, eyes moving quickly from one side of the corridor to the other. Then he would smile swiftly in a way that was sadder than tears, before edging backwards a few paces and turning like a man a decade or more older. The kids called him "Loopy Leon" and scattered garbage when they heard him coming, talking as if his "conversation" was two way.
The janitor had the look of one who had expected greatness from life and been sorely disappointed. According to schoolyard gossip his father had been a banker and his mother a big city lawyer. They'd sent him to the finest schools only be informed of his failures, his intellectual deficit and inherent laziness. Apparently when he reached the age of nine they simply gave him up as a bad lot, threw him into a public school and had another baby. They say the little sister lived up to expectations and is already a surgeon. My friend Mac bet me five bucks that he's only sticking it out here until his folks die, then he's gonna be spending their loot faster than we kids eat halloween candy.
The janitor walked stiffly as if still keeping time with his long lost regiment. His shoulders were drawn back, his neck muscular and his clean shave jaw quite square. This man who had lead soldiers now cleaned with military precision. There was no hint of shame or crushed ego, he took orders from the teachers like they were his superior officers and treated to children like his own battalion. Many of them would salute him as they passed in the corridors and he never tired of saluting in return. Then come November 11th he was guest of honour at the school assembly, and on those occasions his salute was mirrored back to him by every child sitting cross-legged on the floor.