SHORT STORY
The Island of Misfit Janitorial Items
by Shawn Berman

Image "Mopping Up" © Flickr user Steven Usher. 

Image "Mopping Up" © Flickr user Steven Usher

My name is Mop. I have been resident at Community College for two years now. Every day I get up, crack of dawn and go to work.

I don’t mind, I guess. I very good at cleaning urine and know everything about it. Like, you can tell everything about humans based on urine. For ‘xample, the specific density of water is 1.000. If that number higher, you are more dehydrated. Dehydration may also be sign of foreign urine substances, like glucose, protein, bilirubin, red blood cells, white blood cells, crystals, and bacteria. Ew, right? I digress. Sorry.

Friends always say to me: Oh, Mop, you are very hard worker! It must suck to be mistreated and clean human urine on daily basis.

And I tell my friends: it do suck. It suck so much. And I wonder: why can’t humans reach toilet? Why must humans miss all time? Don’t they know I have to clean their mess? But Mop knows it could be worse. Way worse. Plunger is ready to quit and put two weeks notice in. Plunger say: Taco Tuesday not cool. Plunger not religious but Taco Tuesday is hell. Tuesday force Plunger to work overtime and Plunger tired of working overtime. Plunger miss quality alone time. Plunger gets no thank yous. Plunger sad.

Febreeze has it easy. Febreeze just works few minutes a day and is pretty boy. He stand back from messes. Then gets to sleep. It’s not fair. Febreeze thinks their shit don’t stink. Febreeze right. They smell good.

Bucket keep pressuring me to ask for raise so we can get married. I think I want to marry Bucket. We talk about that lot. I tell Bucket: we will make beautiful babies. Have great wedding. Maybe in closet. But Bucket want outside wedding. Bucket want breeze to flow through her crevices and to go on honeymoon in place called Niagara Falls and collect some water to show off to Soap so they can make suds. Bucket insists we must take relationship to next level, and not just to the rooftop.

Bucket think there must be something better out there. A place where we feel appreciated for hard work. A place where we can win employee of the month. Bucket once watched TV and TV told Bucket about new show called Undercover Janitor based out in strange city called Studio 6b. Bucket say it possible to go there but we must come up with plan in order to get relocated. Bucket insists Studio 6b is mecca of holy lands for us janitorial items. Keys say bucket is delusional but I tell Keys shut up. One time Keys got locked in golf cart and everyone laughed. Keys was so mad cuz it was hot. Keys stupid. Bucket smart. Bucket know what they are talking about.

So, for last few weeks, Bucket and I have been coming up with ways to sabotage employer so we get fired.

We call meeting. All our friends there:  Febreeze, Keys, Plunger, Trashcan, Plastic Bag, Dustpan, Windex, Broom, WD40, and Vacuum. Sometimes it hard for Vacuum to make it to places on time since they’re so old and one of wheels is rusty. WD40 insists wheel is unfixable and will always squeak. It gives us headaches. Vacuum says employer yelled at them today a lot because their cord would not reach outlet but it’s not Vacuum’s fault that school has very few of them. Vacuum wishes school would install more and make life easier. Me too.

Bucket and I thank everyone for coming. That we have big and exciting news regarding Studio 6b that will change lives forever. All our friends say oohhhhh and ahhhhh except for Windex.

Windex has attitude and is very cynical. Windex likes working at Community College because he feels safe. Windex says we don’t know what’s on outside world and it could be scary. Windex afraid to take chance. Windex take great pride in being best window washer at Community College. Windex knows how to get all the spots just right and even knows how to wash windows during winter solstice months when sun set real low, making it hard to read information on Computer because of glare. Windex start to panic but Bucket calm Windex down. Bucket tell Windex to breathe. Windex listens to Bucket and says sorry. Bucket says okay.

Once Windex settles down, I make important announcement: In less than week, incoming and potential students and parents will be flooding to school for open house. That means employer will want place spotless in order to make great impression. Employer will have us working really hard since parents want children to go to nice school. If school not spotless, it will leave terrible impression on parents and parents will not send children here.

I remember last year when Light-bulb was feeling under weather and was coughing lots. I say to Light-bulb: Light-bulb, you feeling okay? And Light-Bulb say: yes, I am fine—so I believed them. But Light-bulb not fine. Light-bulb start to flicker during open house so parents start to complain that Light-bulb creepy, but we all know that Light-bulb not creepy. So, employer grabs Ladder and climbs to top to replace Light-bulb with his cousin, Fluorescent, but accidentally drops Light-bulb. I gasp and thought: oh no, Light-bulb is dead, Employer killed him, oh no! Light-bulb start to smoke then Alarm make horrible sound. BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP. Alarm loud. I scream: shut up, Alarm—but it doesn’t work. Next thing I know, Sprinklers go off and get parents wet. Employer freaks out and fire department comes to turn Alarm off because Alarm won’t stop beeping. This is why no one talks to Alarm anymore. Alarm is drama queen.

Anyway, I guess one parent child have water phobia and parent make big deal out of nothing and threaten to call local newspaper, but employer beg parent not to, and offer half-off tuition and parent say they wouldn’t, but parent went ahead and call paper anyway, and word got out about Alarm and their stupid beeping. Now attendance down. Alarm still drama queen, in case you are wondering. 

Bucket suggests we implement buddy system. Says buddy system is more effective and more fun and it good bonding experience to remind all of ultimate goal: Studio 6B. 

So, Febreeze go with Plunger.

Febreeze and Plunger make great team. Together, Febreeze and Plunger make school stinky. So stinky that Bucket start to gag and nearly beg Febreeze to spray nozzle for Cinnamon Cologne but Febreeze stick to ground. Febreeze make me proud. Plunger happiest I ever seen especially since lots of students got food poisoning on Meatloaf Monday and bathroom disaster.  Plunger say they feel much younger; rejuvenated from not sticking head in poo and wonder why they didn’t go on strike sooner.

Employer furious with Febreeze and Plunger. Employer say why you no work, you stupid idiots, don’t you see I have school to run. Employer get so upset, he throw them against wall. Febreeze say it didn’t hurt. He big, tough guy, though. When parents come for open house, mostly all them cover noses with shirt. One man have asthma attack. Nothing serious. 

Keys and WD40 work very smart.

You would think they make bad team but they do not. In fact, they might be MVP of Friends. Keys was so funny. Keys refuse to open any doors and when parents show up for parent-teacher conferences, all them unable to get in classrooms so employer call for backup to respond to situation but WD40 greased golf cart wheels so backup just get in huge crash; I heard it all the way from home!

Trashcan and Plastic Bag have buddy system down to science and don’t pick up anything. School look like galactic wasteland and parents complain about amount of cans that pile up to ceiling. Leftover lunches spill onto floor and one parent even say they saw rat running around hallway but I don’t know if that true. Either way, parents call health services on employer and demand terminator to come in and shut school down. Parent even offer groupon for terminator!

Bucket say to Dustpan and Broom: You two important as well. Be strong. Don’t back down. Dustpan and Broom say Yes, ma’am. Dustpan and Broom should win Oscar for performance. They did not do single thing to help employer and Community College covered in dust bunnies— unidentified particles everywhere! Dustpan tell me someone sneeze so hard from allergy outbreak that their back break. Crazy, isn’t it? Has back ever break before from human sneezing?

I try to get Vacuum and Windex to pair up but they don’t get along. No big deal. Some Friends work better alone. It’s probably because Vacuum so cranky all time. Vacuum is natural at being on strike. He just sleep all day. Like all day. I never seen someone sleep as much. Nothing wake Vacuum up. Occasionally I tap Vacuum just to make sure they still breathing but he just roll back over and snore. Might have acute sleep apnea.

And of course, last but not least, Bucket and I pair up. We are best couple in school, so chemistry perfect. You shoulda seen how slimy floors were. I can’t wait to tell future kids about this one day.

I will say: kids, your Mom, Bucket, organized greatest strike ever. Now we live in great big walk-in closet with air-conditioner and coat hangers. It even has peephole! Can you imagine closet with no peephole! I love your Mom.

After open house over with, morale super high amongst friends. Everyone say: we gonna be outta here, we gonna be outta here, hallelujah—no more sleepless night in cramped spaces, no more hearing Vacuum snore, no more leaky ceiling on rainy day—this once in lifetime joy. Trashcan begin to pack but Plastic Bag convince them to leave everything so they don’t have carryon fee at airport. Trashcan nervous about flying but Bucket and I kinda excited—might even buy first class ticket so we have extra room on long flight. Keys says flying isn’t scary at all and that there’s tons of movie, drinks, and neck pillows. I like neck pillows.

I wonder how we get to airport.

Employer depress. Employer say: you ruin me, how am I gonna pay bills, I don’t want to move back in with parents, I just convince landlord to keep kitty. Friends don’t care. Friends say: he deserve this. I agree.

One day while doing rounds and looking for suitcase to bring, Surveillance Camera call me over. Surveillance Camera say: Hey, Mop, c’mere. So I c’mere. Surveillance Camera asks how everything going. I say good. Surveillance Camera say: Hey, how Bucket doing? I say good. Surveillance Camera say: You two still together? I say yeah, why?

Surveillance Camera say: Oh— well—I don’t know how tell this, but I saw Bucket earlier and Bucket was with that fancy new bucket from second floor, the one with metallic finish and separate storage unit for utensils—you might remember him for making Ice Bucket Challenge cool and trendy throughout Community College. After him everyone do it. They make videos. They go viral. I even heard Bucket From Second Floor was on Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Fallon use him on live show for challenge. I don’t like Bucket From Second Floor. I get bad vibe. Bucket From Second Floor think he Mr. Hotshot cuz of fame. Hey, Mop, do you mind if I show you something? It be hard to watch but what kinda friend would Surveillance Camera be if he kept secret like this?

I tell Surveillance Camera to show me something. Surveillance Camera asks if I am sure. I am sure. Surveillance Camera says okay and projects footage of Bucket. In footage, Bucket is hanging out with Bucket From Second Floor, when all of sudden, Bucket and Bucket From Second Floor start rubbing handles together!

Surveillance Camera asks if I want keep watching. I say: shhh, keep playing. Surveillance Camera resume footage.

After Bucket and Bucket From Second Floor stop rubbing handles, Bucket From Second Floor gives Bucket big ole kiss, and not on side, but on front! In middle of stairwell. I feel embarrass. Like everyone laughing at me. Let me digress. It get worse. Bucket and Bucket From Second Floor go into Second Floor Closet and don’t come out for while. When they do come out, Bucket is all blushy and smiling. Bucket From Second Floor gives Bucket kiss and Slaps Bucket on behind. Bucket wink.

Surveillance Camera say: sorry you have to see that, Mop. I know it tough. One time I catch Lady Surveillance Camera checking out Security Guard. Lots of footage on him. Naturally, I end it. Let me know if need anything, buddy. It will get better.

Surveillance Camera give me footage to borrow. I promise Surveillance Camera I won’t do anything stupid.

I head back home. Bucket is there. And Bucket is all like, Hi, baby. And I’m all like, don’t hi, baby me! Bucket say: huh, what wrong. I say: You know what wrong. Bucket say: I don’t. I say: OH, really?

I plug footage into DVD player and press play.

Bucket face turn bright red. She say she can explain but I know she really can’t. I let her anyway.

Bucket go: It just. Mop, you know I love you and all, but, let’s be honest. This not going anywhere. How compatible are we really? Not very. You’re a mop. I’m a bucket. Interests much different. And, I guess, you become complacent in relationship lately. You never send flirty good morning texts anymore or even offer buy me Starbucks. Sometime I want to feel wanted. But, Bucket From Second Floor: he swoop in, pamper me, make me feel like I still have two-year warranty. AHHH. The way he touch me. Way he look at me. Don’t be mad. You know my father never let me marry a mop, anyway. He so racist. Why you think you never meet him.

Since I already break up with Bucket in my mind on walk back home, I was not having story of me being bad boyfriend. Instead, I say: Bucket, I understand. You should be with Bucket From Second Floor. Be with someone who make you happy.

I know I should have make bigger deal about whole cheating thing, but I’m not that kind of mop. Bucket leaves and moves in with Bucket From Second Floor for good.

After Bucket move in with Bucket From Second Floor, I no longer care bout Undercover Janitor. I decide primetime television not for me because 1. I don’t want to turn into evil mop who steals other people girlfriends and 2. I like it at community college. If I continue to work hard, maybe one day I be promoted to university. Much more modest job. I also hear mop to human ration is 3:1 at UNiversity. Hubba, hubba.

So, I continue to work hard. Convince Friends to say with me and work hard too. Employer soon forgive us and even begin to treat us much better.

Months later I get email from Bucket. Find out everyone on Second Floor been outsourced to small start up company. Bucket say Bucket From Second Floor left her and is now with some Hollywood sponge from cartoon show. She beg me to take back. Lol, Mop not stupid! 

I login to Amazon and search Bucket’s serial number and begin review: 

★★☆☆☆ Buyer Beware, Bucket Unloyal

By: Mop on June 6, 2015

Hello, I see interested in purchasing this bucket. Now, this bucket may seem like good deal. May seem like hard-worker, sturdy, reliable. Like it will do anything for you. Make no mistake. This bucket is not any those things. This bucket will use all Starbucks reward points. Hog 75% of cot. And then plan overpriced outdoor wedding and honeymoon and just as you ready to take relationship to next level, BAM! They will run off with another bucket from different floor. But if that’s what you’re into then go ahead. Don’t ever say I never warn you once heart is broken. This bucket not rated two stars for no reason.

Would I suggest this product to friends? No, friends all hate this bucket.

If you are looking for quality cleaning product may I suggest 0-Mega Cleaner Stiff Handle Mop? Very loyal. I would insert URL but Computer is tired so I must go. Goodbye. 


Shawn Berman sleeps with his socks on. Some of his work has been featured in theNewerYork, Potluck, and Voicemail Poems. He can be followed on Twitter @ramonbermanez.