by Bee Baumann
rum and coke
‘Make sure after you mop that you buff the floor, before morning.’ Mrs. Williams’s Junior Crowne’s direct supervisor led him into the staff lounge.
‘You can have some of Letty’s birthday cake, then please clean the dishes before the end of your shift.’
‘I will,’ Juni said and then followed her into her office. She put her bag under her arm, locked her desk and put her key into her purse then marched Juni out to reception and left in a swarm as the building emptied.
Juni, at once, let out his belt, and exhaled a longwinded breath, went into the staff lounge and eyed the fluffy angel food cake with its white frosting and red lettering that now held a plate full of crumbs and a crumbling ‘y’.
The building which always felt like it was holding its breath too while the woman spoke began to whistle. Juni nudged the silver button for a cappuccino. The machine whirred into action whipping milk and grinding beans, it did everything but waited for a tip.
He took out his phone and called his Grandee, the one who had raised him. The phone rang for the eighth time, but he stayed patient imagining her shuffling across the room from her chair, checking the number and looking down the list of phone numbers and photos that matched the ones she kept in a plastic protector next to the landline. Satisfied, she knew who it was she picked up the receiver.
‘My Word! Hello Juni, how are you doing in Chicago?’
‘Grandee, they gave me a birthday party in the office and I’m eating my cake, now. They all said happy birthday.’
‘That’s wonderful Juni, happy birthday! You come home this weekend to get your cake from me,’ Grandee said.
‘Of course, I’m coming home. You sound great Grandee, I’m glad you answered the phone,’ Juni said, to his grandmother who lived in Gary, Indiana. He called her once a week, had scheduled it in his phone so that he would not forget. He missed her corn and hamburger meatloaf and row house that smelled of bacon and cheese sandwiches.
‘Juni, is that you?’ She screamed into the receiver. Juni held the phone away from his ear and answered.
‘Yes, Grandee, you said already… never mind anyway do you have another son calling you every Sunday at 8:00pm?’ Juni asked. She laughed deep in her belly. She sounded well, for which he thanked his stars every time he called-her being in her late eighties and all. This birthday in June she would be 89.
‘You are bad, you know I don’t answer the phone for strangers. I know it’s you I put your picture next to the phone with your number so I can look and see your face and number and know it’s you. It’s just that I get lost in my head.’
‘You know you could have a phone that does that, remembering names and numbers,’ Juni said, he was in his tiny cubicle, belly full from cake, the janitor’s station, unboxing the new delivery of scrub brushes, trash bags, paper towels. The city hall yawned like a hallow cavity. He was handy man slash security although they didn’t give him anything more deadly than a badge. What was he supposed to do if he was threatened; use the shiny object to blind the guy?
‘Grandee, we can get you a tablet. You can use it to get on Facebook. Once you got Facebook, we can talk like we’re in the same room and I can see you.’
‘I see you now. I’m staring at your picture while I’m talking to you.’
‘Grandee, this will be like we’re in the same room,’
‘We are not in the same room. I see you now and I’m talking to you and imagining what you are doing. I don’t need you trapped in no box, that’s not good for your eyes or your brain.
‘You coming home is all I need. I’m making you a cake for your birthday, too. Remember too much staring into those microwaves will hurt you. You a big shot in Chicago?'
‘Grandee, we celebrated my birthday today and they also gave me a city pin. I’ll show you when I come this weekend,’ Juni said taking one of the city’s pins out of the supply closet and putting it in his pocket.
‘You smart Juni, you going to make them all take notice. You are going to take the world by storm. They won’t know what hit them, Juni, you are going to be in the paper, I’m sure of it.
‘Yep, Grandee, see you this weekend. I love you Grandee. ‘ Juni said, shining his flashlight through the empty corridor and with his right hand he put his phone into his breast pocked beneath the shield he wore.
Nothing stirred in the hall. He buffed the floor and dumped all of the trashcans. He stuck his hand in his pocket and the pen pricked his finger. He put the buffer back and walked the hall to the mayor's office.
He imagined an intruder breaking into the city hall and what he would have to do. He would have to think fast, perhaps fight him off with a bucket and then he would call the police. He would tell them what happened and he would be given the keys to the city.
Juni went into the mayor’s office and tested his desk drawer to see if it would open. He wondered what the mayor kept in his drawer. Perhaps some secret about his involvement in business in the city. Juni could follow the clues and bring down a crime ring.
There was no alarm on the window and so Juni stuck his head out to shock his face. It was already midnight and he was six hours into a twelve hour shift. He placed his flashlight on the window ledge then steeled his eyes to pierce the darkness. Someone might get in. Juni was alone. Perhaps, some drug addict might think there was something in the Mayor’s office to steal.
What would Juni tell his grandmother about working for the Mayor’s office this week. He’d share that the mayor had attended his birthday party. He loved his Grandee and he wanted her to be proud of him. He played with the pin in his pocket. That should have been enough, that really should have been enough.
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