Enzo Stephens: Buffer


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Buffer

Enzo Stephens

“Ahh, these kids. So precocious!”

Eggs McMichael chuckled to himself at the cluster of teen boys gathered outside the doors to the girls’ gym locker room.

That’s where the action was, if one was a hot-blooded young lad, firing with all kinds of torrid passions and emotions. Especially after a girls’ swim practice two days before a big State Meet.

The girls would be hopped up themselves, anxiety fueling their steaming blood, overriding the sheer physical exhaustion that follows a tough practice.

But there were the boys, laughing, roughing each other playfully, spewing coarseness and profanity as they hovered before the twin, barred doors that essentially blocked the boys from becoming Men.

Eggs turned away from the coarse boys, focusing his attention on the whirling and whizzing floor buffer, as he expertly and effortlessly slid it over well-trod tiles that were practically begging to be polished.

“Polish me, Eggs!”

“Don’t forget me, Eggsy!”

“I hear you, you greedy tiles. I’ll getcha. You best bet that I’ll getcha for sure, don’t you fret none.” More chuckles, as if the tiles would talk back to Eggs, maybe chuckle right along with him, sharing in the humor.

But, despite the demanding tiles, Eggs had a system, and he was damned good at it too, so the pushy tiles would have to wait their turn!

The tiles were twelve by twelve each, with twelve tiles stretching from wall to wall, making for a twelve-foot hallway, which was damned narrow if trying to jam 300 caterwauling, rambunctious kids through it all at once.

Be that as it may, Eggsy would run that buffer right up against one side, just beneath a row of bright red steel lockers, and then shuffle-step sideways, all the way across the hall, leading the monstrously heavy buffer on a whizzing dance until it bumped up against another row of lockers on the opposite wall.

Back and forth, back and forth; the buffer would whoosh and hum and thump its way over the entire hallway until—and sometimes this downright surprised Eggsy, the buffer would bump right up against the heavy double-steel doors at the other end of the hall.

Surprise! You’re done, Eggsy old pal old sod. Now take a breath and stop and admire your work, buddy-bud. 

And sure enough, old Eggsy would look back up at the hall he just traversed with his mechanical dance partner, and the afternoon light would catch it… just… so, and that damnable hall-floor would flat out sparkle. And that was just damned fine. Finer than fine. It would make Mama proud.

She always said, “Eggsy, you know it don’t matter what you do to make your living, boy. Just do it as best as you can and do it like that every time. Even on days when you feel like an old banana peel rotting away on a steaming hot sidewalk, you just do… your… best. You got me?”

Oh yeah, Ma, I got you!

On this day, even though thick, gray clouds hung over the face of the glittering sun, the floor gleamed with a beautiful diffuse light that seemed almost… ethereal.

Eggsy smiled, choosing to ignore the pack of horny dudes acting like asses in front of that girls’ locker room.

Precocious punks ruin everything.

Eggsy made his way to the Janitorial Closet and pulled a wide cloth push-broom, shut the door, and stood at the end of the hall, waiting for the girls and their array of lustful escorts, because surely the girls’ feet would be wet. Some would be dripping a bit of pool water from their hair and maybe their clothes because some wouldn’t change in the locker room.

Body image issues or some shit like that never made a lick of sense to Eggsy.

So Eggsy stood at the ready. He adjusted the large pack strapped to his back, taking a moment to pat the top of it gently, almost lovingly.

“Don’t you pay them coarse boys no mind, Mama. ’Member, t’was a time I was like that too. But you sure did help me get over them devil-afflictions, yeah, you surely did!”

“Hey retard! Who ya talking to?”

Eggsy glanced around, wondering if that was directed at him. ‘Retard’? Eggsy looked up at the cluster of boys in puzzlement. One of them, much bigger than the others, separated himself from the group and began walking toward Eggsy.

Eggs pointed a thick forefinger at his barrel chest and raised his brows.

“Yeah, you, ’tard.”

Oh, he was a big ’un, for sure, and the boy knew it too. He walked right down the middle of the beautiful floor like he owned it, and judging by how the rest of the boys trundled themselves after him, he may as well have owned it. And them too.

Eggs McMichael rarely spoke to anyone while on the job. Just wasn’t his place to do that. No sir. His job was to clean the place as best as he could so everyone who walked those floors would just know that this school was the cleanest school in the whole damned state!

He’d have to make an exception now, as the big boy was just a few yards away and looking damned mean. “Something I can help you with?”

“Somethin’ I can help you with?” Mocking, sneering, and Eggsy had no idea why this was so.

The crowd of young lads began laughing and jeering and hooting, moving closer and closer to Eggs, making him both nervous and uncomfortable. He edged backward until his butt nudged up against the doors.

“Damn, Butler, you see the shape of this dude’s head?”

“Shit yeah. Totally looks like an egg! One of them brown eggs, like something them nature lover’s mac on.”

“It’s even got speckles on it!” The laughter was flowing, and it was kind of infectious, too, so Eggsy smiled right along with the boys.

The big one edged closer to Eggs. “I said, who ya talkin’ to, egg-head?”

“No, no, my name is Eggs.”

“What? Are you shittin’ me?”

“No sir-eee. Eggs McMichael.”

“Get the hell outta here!” More laughter, then the big one seemed to collect himself, puffing his chest out a bit.

“One more time… Eggs. Who ya talkin’ to?” He stepped forward and poked Eggsy in the chest with his finger to, I dunno, make a point?

“My Ma.”

“What? I don’t see no one else around here.”

“No, she’s right here…” and he reached behind him and patted the top of his backpack.

“What the hell you talking about?” He gestured toward Eggs. “Grab that backpack and give it here!”

Two slimmer boys stepped forward, moving to flank Eggs, but stopped when Eggs raised his hand, palm out. 

He then slipped the backpack from his shoulders and set it softly on the polished, tiled floor, glancing at the gaggle of suddenly silent boys. Eggs then unzipped opposing zippers on the top of the backpack and plunged both hands into the bowels of it, stopping to look at the boys and smile.

“Well? Whatcha waiting for, fuck-tard? Give it up. What’s in there? Got some cash you wanna share with us?”

Eggs pulled his hands free of the pack and lifted a large ceramic urn. Highly polished, glittering in the dim, afternoon sun; faded orange with childishly painted flower petals arrayed on it. Complete with a pour spout and a thick, curved band of ceramic serving as the thing’s handle.

Well, our dear Butler was not happy with this development. He was expecting some sort of treasure, something valuable to pocket, then pawn for some always needed jake, not this bucket of shit.

He strode forward and whipped a heavy backhanded fist into the side of the vessel, sending it to a shattering crash on the gleaming tile.

Pieces scattered and flew, and ashes strew out across the floor, just as Eggy let fly with “MAMA!” and he dove to the floor, trying to gather up the ashes in his weathered and powerful hands. Rising to a kneeling position, his hands cupped before him filled to overflowing with ash and pieces of broken pottery, Eggs McMichael came to realize the futility of trying to save his mom.

Her vessel was gone, shattered on the floor.

Butler was a bully, but Butler wasn’t stupid, and right at this very moment in time, he understood to the very core of his being that he was in very grave and very immediate danger, and he snagged the elbow of one of his buddies and took off at a sprint up the hall, away from the grieving, sobbing, and crying janitor with the oddly shaped head.

The boys were gone, as were their echoes.

The girls burst from their locker room in a furious flurry of chattering excitement, making a beeline for the double doors at the other end of the hall.

Eggsy McMichael rested on his knees at the other end of the hall, tears and ashes and shards of shattered pottery littering the floor.

The dim sun strolled deep into the west, and the shadows in the beautiful hallway grew long and long before Eggsy McMichael raised himself to his feet and took up his push broom to clean up the mess.

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Please visit Enzo on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Enzo.stephens.5011

2 thoughts on “Enzo Stephens: Buffer”

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