The Goliard Online - Reviews, opinion, complaints, original writing, analysis, humor, and pith

the Goliard
Volume 1 Issue 2

March 2002

the Goliard
Current Issue
Prior Issues
Policies
Contact Us
Features
Writing a %#$*! Letter
Adventures of Tar-man
Movie Man
Our Man
Original Writings
Books and Book Lists
Culinary Reviews
A Correspondence
To No Avail Slaps the Tail
Millennium Mélange
Search


Original Writings 

[What's This All About?]

 

 

The Night Guy Series

Part 2 - The Dumbwaiter 

I reported for work as usual that New Year's Eve, arriving just before ten p.m., ready to begin my routine and with no idea that the coming night would differ in any way from any that had preceded it. As was my habit upon arrival, I set out to survey the grounds in order to get a feel for what members might be getting a jump on their resolutions with a late night nautilus circuit, lap swim, or game of racquetball. I dropped my books behind the front desk, set out a pile of fresh towels, locked up any drawers containing valuables and headed to my locker where I pulled on a sweatshirt and wedged a large chaw of plug into my cheek. Grabbing a tennis ball can to spit in, I wandered out into the night air.

I walked along the nets of the acres of tennis courts where I would pick up any forgotten articles and turn off any last lights and then took a slow, leisurely stroll along the running track that follows the Rillito River or more accurately, its wash bed, since such waterways in the desert are thirsty 99 percent of the time. It was a cold, crisp, desert night with the stars mostly visible even over the city lights and I poked along, breathing the air and spitting tobacco juice on the cinders. I took my time checking the utility gates, maintenance shed, and basketball and volleyball courts before heading back towards the pool and outdoor hot tubs.

As I approached the main building, I could see telltale blue ripples reflecting off the walls and wondered if someone was indeed swimming laps or if my old friends the toads had braved the cold to come out for New Year's and once again needed rescuing from a chlorinated shriveling. When I got to the pools edge however, I could see it was just a surprised rat who had made a wrong turn.

During the past summer, I had been constantly amazed as the same toads hopped into the same pool night after night after night. I couldn't help feeling sorry for them because the only reason they were coming up out of the wash in the first place was on account of these huge bug lights the groundskeepers had hung from the verandas. They would gather about below them in the cool hours of each night and gorge themselves on the insect carcasses that rained down. When it had first started to get colder, they had become even more numerous I suppose to fuel up for some amphibious hibernation scheme they had going.

These bug lights, installed for the first time that summer to appease tennis players who had been complaining that cicadas and moths the size of cans of tuna would often dive out of the night sky during crucial points, were located across the pool from the wash and, the toads, being toads, didn't seem to have it in their brains to recall that the last time they hopped into the pool and swam across it, they ended up banging their noses on the other side until somebody, almost always me, came along, scooped them up with a leaf skimmer, and deposited them at the smorgasbord. By the time morning arrived and us creatures of the night sought nothing more than a cool hole in which to hunker down and wait out the day, I would be squinting through my morning rounds and the same toads, now visibly fatter, would be back in the pool, snouts dully thumping into the opposite edge. Too tired at this point to initiate any creative conditioning programs, I would simply lift them out and point them towards the wash so we could all take our drooping asses off to bed.

As I observed them during our nightly dealings, I quickly determined that they had lost all natural sense of themselves and had become lazy gluttons, filled with indignance and a beady eyed, reptilian logy that was unsettling to observe. I continued to rescue them however since I saw budget for no alternative that didn't involve disposing of their waterlogged and overfed bodies at the end of my shift. If god takes care of drunks and small children I guess they were the drunks and I was their god.

As I recalled summer nights spent, relaxing by the pool in a chaise lounge, spitting plug on the grass, and listening to the crunching as they ate, it suddenly occurred to me that their lives, that had seemed so mundane and worthless, were actually not unlike my own. The only difference was that they had needed me to lift them out of the pool and I wondered for a prescient moment who held the leaf skimmer over my life, and why whoever it was, was leaving me in the pool so long. What would happen to the toads the next summer if I grew tired of treading water. pulled myself out of the pool and headed on down the road? What if I simply went under and drowned?

Called out of reverie and into action by a burst of the rat's agitated splashing, I retrieved the leaf skimmer, deposited the exhausted rodent on the cool deck and watched as he or she shivered spasmodically and went skittering away. I guessed that any night guy, would act as I had given the alternatives. It suddenly seemed like the perfect time to seek out Dirty Harry.

Dirty Harry was the club's night janitor and, in what can be seen as additionally symptomatic of my condition at the time, served as one of my few links to the outside, non-fictional world. It being a major holiday eve and being familiar with Harry's habit of overstuffing himself to celebrate even the most minor of occasions, I wasn't sure if he had even been able to waddle into work but I found him in his traditional, non-holiday position, snoring and obesely asleep in a makeshift laundry room nest fashioned of the same towels unsuspecting members would be using to pad and preen with a few hours later.

I stood over him for a moment regarding him fondly and appreciating him for what he was, a huge, lurching swiller of rotgut who sucked and chewed cigars and held his sides when he laughed, which was pretty often since he was constantly inebriated and a happy drunk. He kept an unmarked gallon jug of alcohol in his locker which he would use to fill cups throughout the night and, often times, bring up to the deck where it would rest on his lap as he sat pontificating about things great and small. His jug, he often explained, was as dear to him as a baby's blanket and made him more mirthful by the mouthful. I also remember him well on this particular night because he clutched a bamboo fishing pole to his heaving chest as he slept.

"Hey Harry," I said, poking his stinky, rubber boot with a junior tennis racket I had found on one of the courts. "Hey Harry, You gonna sleep into next year?"

"Whaaaa the Hell?" he finally growled after much prodding. "Who's that? Goddamn it Nate, I thought you was my ex-wife for a minute."

He sat up and rubbed his hirsute belly vigorously which was exposed because his shirt had rolled all the way up to the Zeke patch, loosely sewed over his udderous left breast. He owned a multitude of generic work shirts all with different names other that Harry sewn on them that he hoped might steer any complaints elsewhere even though he was the only night janitor and not likely to be mistaken for any other person that had ever come into the club.
Done tending to his belly, he suddenly started grunting and held out a finger for me to pull while he leaned to one side and let loose a reverberant, oily fart, unmuffled by the towels and uncontained by underwear. I can report the latter fact unfortunately, because I was positioned just aft of Harry's generous stern and couldn't help notice, as he assumed that plumber's pose, that he wasn't wearing any.

"Happy New Year's to you too." I said, looking quickly away.

"Damn L-triptophan," he said scratching again like an allergic baboon. "I had left over turkey over to my sisters today and its left me tired and gaseous."

"Apparently so."

"What's this about it being the New Year already anyway? That can't be right. We ain't had nothin to drink for one thing and for another I swore we was gonna go fishin over the holidays. And we ain't done nothing but work."

"Well, I see you got your pole there." I said. "You should have been with me a few minutes ago. You could have fished a rat out of the pool for me."

"Rat's. Why would I want to fish for them? They do half the work for me around here eatin up all the crumbs and popcorn. It was probably one of the guys I brought in with me a few months ago. Did I ever spin ya that tale?"

"I don't think so. I probably would've remembered that one."

"Yeah. It was a brilliant move by me I have to say. I let about five of them loose a while back to help with the cleaning. And when the time is right, I'll report finding a big ol' rat harborage to Crabbe letting her know of course that I also run a pest control business during the day. Can't you see her wrinkled face when she hears she got harborage. Besides I can catch those fat suckers with my hands. Don't need no pole. I'm going fer the big game this time and you're comin with me Nate. It'll be a chance for you to finally do some work around here instead of just sittin on your ass readin all the time."

Against my better judgment, I let myself be drawn into Harry's wake as he hitched up his pants and lumbered off in the direction of the front desk, wondering what he had in mind but carrying an unusual and cavalier feeling that had been fermenting within me at least since I articulated the whole leaf skimmer thing and probably even a little before that. Of course he wanted to stop by his locker on the way to fill a big plastic cup with ice and rotgut and as always he offered me some. This time I let him fill me a small Styrofoam cup full. I had tried drinking with him a few times in the past and it hadn't worked out so well as Harry, who lived in the camper perched on the back of his pick up, could finish cleaning in a few hours, be drunk as a sweat smelling skunk, and go stumbling out to sleep it off in the parking lot while I attempted to greet members and deal with the unpredictable Ms. Crabbe in the morning. On this night however, as Harry held his cup to the heavens, clapped me on the shoulder, and boomed "Here's to us night guys Nate. Come on in 1986 you bastard, we's ready for you", I found myself choking down a unhealthy sized mouthful.

"Now this here's the plan," said Harry, after we had made our way to the front lobby and checked the video monitors to make sure no one had come in and lurked somewhere on the grounds. "You post yourself by the front door, keep watch on the parking lot, and stamp your feet if anyone is coming. I'll do the casting."

I had no idea what he was thinking of but figured that he maybe he was planning to practice his aim by hooking towels out of the bin or something. Suddenly, he ambled across the lobby to the Pro Shop door and wedged his flabby arms through the metal grating of the gate. Then, using his pole to flip on a light switch and before it really dawned on me what his intensions were, he began flicking the rod into the room and in no time, had reeled in a pile of expensive sweaters, tennis rackets, women's swim suits, golf shirts, and sun visors.

"What the fuck are you thinking?" I gasped, as soon as I had stopped laughing. "How am I gonna explain that I was sitting here all night and didn't notice somebody trolling for merchandise right in front of me. They'll have to assume I did it myself."

Harry, still beaming at the fruits of his pinpoint aim, threw an arm around me, almost choked me by suddenly scratching his chin, and said, "Don't worry Nate, odds are they won't even notice."

"Not notice? There must be 1000 dollars worth of....."

"Nate, Nate. Listen to me will ya. Today is the first of the month not to mention the year right? That can only mean that someone had to do inventory recently and won't be doing it for another month or more than likely another year the way things get done around here. By then there'll have been millions of things that could have happened to the stuff. And you and I will be long down the road."

"We were here last year."

"Never the less."

I must not have looked convinced and he continued.

"Besides Nate, you know how we feel about what we're being paid around here. Goddamn it, we ain't even bein paid time and a half for holidays. And what benefits do we get? Free club membership? What the hell good is that to a fat old outta shape bastard like me? This is just another episode of wage adjustment with our year end bonus thrown in. Now settle down why don'tcha and check if there ain't somethin that suits ya in that pile. And look through the door and see if there's something else ya might want. Just say the word and ol Harry'll reel it in like a goddamn Colorado river carp."

Harry picked up his cup of rotgut from the floor, again held it aloft and added in a thunderous voice, "Step on up here 1986 ya som'bitch. We're gettin good and ready to give ya an ass whoopin."

I drained my cup and looked worriedly back at the pile.

"Well at least let's get this stuff out of sight somewhere. What the hell are you going to do with it anyway. None of the clothes could possibly fit you and I've never heard you mention playing any tennis."

"I'll probably mail some of it up to Utah to my little Missy and take the rest to the swap meet if you don't want it. I told you she'll be leavin her husband soon didn't I?"

I'd heard all about her of course during our two years together and would have suspected she was entirely a figment of Harry's sotted imagination had he not shown me some of her perfumed letters which were reasonably well written in a flowery hand. I suppose he could have had someone else write them for him but it seemed likely that if that were the case he would be pursuing the actual writer instead of some mythical married girl from Utah.

"Leaving him again?" I said. "I'm getting tired of this story. The only way she's going anywhere is if you drive your camper up there and get her."

"Nope. I'm just bidin my time," he said, grinning like a lothario at happy hour instead of a sweating, three hundred pound baldster with a fishing pole. "Ol' Harry's doin fine right now just playing the field. Come on, let's stash this stuff in the locker room. Fishin always makes me thirsty."

Soon, we had grabbed his jug and were sitting up on
the deck with me spitting and him smoking, stamping
our feet to keep warm and hoping to see shooting
stars. The rotgut was going quickly to my head and I made the mistake of wishing out loud that I had a beer. Harry seemed surprised.

"So you don't like my Gumka?" he said, pretending to sound hurt and flicking a cigar butt behind him onto the roof.

"Gumka?"

"Yes Gumka. That's what I'm callin this refined and aged mix we're drinking of, well what the hell is it, I lose track. It's mostly gin I guess, but with rum and vodka mixed in. And I do believe I detect a touch of that Jagermiester I spruced it up with a few weeks back."

"It taste's like lighter fluid," I said, fighting down another sip. "If only the Quik Mart still sold beer at this hour. I'm tellin you I'd run get a quart of Coors or something."

"You drink that piss? I'm surprised at you Nate. Why support those communists? Nothing but a bunch of union busting Rocky Mountain Krauts. What's wrong with good ol' American Bud anyway?"

"Are you trying to tell me that the Busch family is measurably more ethical and American than the Coor's family?"

"You're goddamn right I am. That's Adolph Coors at the helm you know. Where have you heard that name before? Adolph? And besides, look at a Bud can sometime and you'll see red, white, and blue. Coors comes shrouded in yellow and khaki. Bud is as American as it gets little buddy."

I scratched my head at this latest outburst which came from a man who I happened to know never paid his taxes or voted and had been kicked out of the army for picketing the Vietnam war from inside Vietnam."

"Well, for one thing, it's Bud-Weiser remember and weiser sounds pretty damn foreign to me. How can you love America so much when you hate your own government? You're one big contradiction."

"Aaaaah Bullcrap," Harry said, dismissing me with a shower of cigar ash from a newly lit stogie. "I love America because I can hate the government. Anyway, if it's beer you want there's plenty of it right here. We're sitting on the deck of the goddamn club lounge ain't we."

"And just how do you propose we get into the club lounge?" I asked warily. "It's locked up from all sides and if you think I'm going to sit here while you break a window and watch you cast inside for bottles you're drunker than usual. That'd be my ass for sure."

"Just come with me," Harry said, struggling to his feet and careening towards the stairs. "I've been plotting my way inside this bastard for a long time but couldn't do it alone and always figured you to be too straight an arrow to give me a hand. At least until tonight."

So I fell in behind Harry's swaying form once again as he led me back downstairs to the outside window of the snack bar where he used his pen knife to trip a latch. He then had me climb through and barked directions as I groped my way around to the side door of the restaurant. When my hand found the lock, I took a deep breath, slid back the bolt and let him in. Once inside, he was as stealthful as a Hippo creeping through dark by ways and nooks until he located a sliding panel that separated the bus station from the kitchen which he then pried back with a disappointing snap. Again I shimmied through and unlocked a door. We did all this by the flickering of a lighter since the fluorescent kitchen lights would have flooded through the windows, illuminated the entire spa area and had us on display like neon tetras if anyone were to come in. Soon after much crashing of pans, we stood in the center of the kitchen with me holding the lighter while Harry fixed himself a sandwich. With the bar still directly above us, I was confused as to our next move.

"I thought we were getting beer," I said nervously, whispering for some reason. "I hope we didn't go through all this just so you could chef yourself up a big hogie. What's the plan? Do they store beer in a cooler down here or something?"

"Just relax there little man. And keep the light steady will ya? I can't tell if this is tartar sauce or mayonnaise. Damn it! Now that I smell it I think it might be yogurt. Who the hell runs this kitchen anyway? They need a new labeling system down here. Maybe I'll drop a note in the suggestion box if I think of it. Say, don't let me hog all the room here. Go ahead and fix you up one of these triple deckers."

"No thanks," I said. "In fact I think I'm going to head back out to the front desk to see if anyone's come in."

"Now don't go getting all ancy. And bring that lighter over so I can find the cooking alcohol. They always keep liquor around kitchens, you know, for flash frying stuff. Ol' Harry's seen his time behind the line you know. Here it is, sure enough, ol' Jack Daniels himself. Take a pull why don't you. Ya seem a little jumpy."

I wet my lips with the whiskey but it didn't help any and I was about to bail out all together just as Harry unveiled his plan.

"Ya see Nate, come on over here," he said with a mouthful of triple decker as he led the way over towards the dishwasher's station. "Now if you want that beer listen close and I'll tell you how to get it. I can't show you cuz I'm too fat but I can tell ya."

"Well, what are you waiting for? Let's hear it then."

"We'll send you right up the dumbwaiter."

"What?" I said, my mouth dropping open.

"The dumbwaiter."

"Oh no!"

"Oh yes," Harry said, pushing a button that opened the creaking doors. "It'll be no sweat. You can just hunker right down in here, take a smooth little elevator joy ride, and out you'll pop right behind the bar. I'll cram a couple of them jugs in with you, and when you get up there you can fill them up with whatever beer you feel like drinkin. And if you think of it, you could grab me somethin off the top shelf."

I didn't like the idea a bit but Harry was determined that I drink with him so after much bickering, I let him convince me to contort into a fetal ball around three large glass bottles and held my breath as he sent me lurching up the stinking shaft. When the dumbwaiter stopped at the top however, a small flaw in Harry's plan became evident. It seems that you can call or send the machine from either end, but someone needs to be stationed at the destination to open the door when it gets there. Cramped in the pitch black with visions of the morning bartender suffering a heart attack when she discovered my suffocated corpse, I fought off waves of panic and rotgut nausea long enough to bang and shout as loud as I could. After what seemed like an interminable amount of time, I felt myself dropping jerkily back down.

"How the.... What in the shit... the good jesus of the.. is the.... How did you expect me to get out once I got up there?" I stammered furiously. "Goddammit. I don't think that thing is meant to hold my weight."

"What happened," Harry said blithely, helping me to my feet and swaggering back to the stove where something sizzled on the grill. Where's your beer?"

"I said I couldn't get out of the damn thing." I was preparing to let myself out of the kitchen. "And how are you going to clean up the mess you've made. How are they not gonna know that someone was in here screwing around?" He began to explain but I interrupted him. "You're meat is on fire."
A feeling of doom was starting to wash over me.

"Nate, Nate. You have got to settle down my man?" Just calm yourself a minute." Harry was prying the flaming meat from the grill, and threw it in the sink as he burned his fingers which he sucked on as he tried to console me. "Now what is the problem."

"The problem is that there was no way to get out of that dumbwaiter once I went up the shaft. That's one problem at least."

"Well now let's see here," said Harry, returning to the sink to rinse his meat under a faucet and then throwing it back on the grill. Looking like Chef Prudomme in the blue glow of the gas jets he said, "How about if we prop the door open with a hunk of something?"

"What?"

"Yeah. Look Nate I think that'll work. Then when you get up there, you just reach out and push the open button. And there you are."

I jumped on a counter and started to climb back out the way I'd come in but I stopped mid-straddle when I realized that Harry couldn't follow me and would have to go out the door which would then be left unlocked. He had me trapped and knew it as he helped me off the counter and handed me the Jack.

"Come along now Nate. It was because you had to have beer that we got into this whole mess remember. Now just hop in there one more time and I'll send you on up and you can fill them jugs. Meanwhile, I'll melt some nice butter on this fillet here, slap it on a bun or something and we'll be sitten back on the deck in no time drinkin, eatin a mignon burger and havin us a legitimate New Year's celebration. Now get back in there and I'll wedge in a slab of cheese or somethin so the door won't close."

It took a couple of tries until he finally found an egg beater that wouldn't be knocked out on the way up and finally I debouched behind the bar, and rolled out onto the mat in a heap. I got the jugs filled quickly mixing indiscriminately from all taps, sent the load of beer down and rattled the doors and shouted so Harry would send for me and I could follow them down on the next trip. When I was safely back in the kitchen we tried to make sure the grill was pretty clean and all the walk-in coolers were closed. I was sure we had betrayed ourselves somehow but was so anxious to be out of there that I didn't really care. We locked everything back up and were soon back on the deck again as Harry had promised, with our feet up on a table, drinking and watching as the ripples chronicled the fate of another rat.

"Here's to ya Nate, Harry said, switching a sinewy wad of steak to the other cheek and raising his Gumka. "You did a damn fine job in there and under all sorts of pressure too. All sorts of pressure. I think when your night watchman days are behind you, you could do yourself proud as a cat burglar or cop."

"I'm not sure about that," I said, noticing that I felt decidedly loopy. "We're bound to be caught for this."

"Ah horseshit," Harry said, finally giving up on the hunk of meat, spitting it on the deck, taking a shriveled cigar from his shirt pocket, and holding the lighter to it until it flamed. "The morning guy's will stumble in half asleep and hung over and if they notice anything at all they'll just think the night guys are shafting them again. That's how this world works Nate. Everybody is sure they're getting shafted by somebody else and nobody'll suspect us because they don't even know we exist. We got nothin to worry about 'cept that this ceegar is just too foul to be worthy of a celebration like this. Damn it but I'm am gonna have to have some after dinner tobacky. You got any of that spitten stuff with ya."

He flicked the cigar over the rail, caught the pouch I tossed him, and packed an ample wad in his cheek. We leaned back to drink and spit and he talked of his brief stay in Vietnam and things related. I soon realized that I must have consumed nearly a gallon of beer.

"It's sure startin out as a nice sunrise," I said, nodding groggily towards the orange glow that was rising up over the pool to the west. "Boy time really flies when your involved in these capers. I'm starting to really see the wisdom in some of this wage adjustment stuff. I should have listened to you earlier on but what the hell was I supposed to..... ya no something Harry it really doesn't seem late enough to be early mornin already."

Harry took the time to spit a long stream on the deck and fold his hands across his majestic belly before announcing calmly, "I think you might be right Nate, that don't really smell like no sunrise to me. I do believe some bodies snuck in on us and lit something afire."

I bolted up, rushed to the rail and looked down to see Harry's cigar caught in the edge of the awning below. A large crescent shaped hole had formed with a smoldering ring of fire burning at it's edge. The air was foul with incinerated rubber.

"Jesus Christ you're burning the place down!" I flapped my arm and ran around trying to clear my head and find a hose but Harry was all business. Before I even sensed what was happening, he had charged to the edge of the rail and dumped his jug over the edge. The awning exploded into blue flame."

 

Copyright 2002. All Rights Reserved.