Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Drop Ceiling Cemetary
"Steve, call me back. It's the President. I really need your help."
The voice was a droll Midwestern growl. It was my boss, not the guy on perpetual vacation in Texas.
I had planned a leisurely day of rosemary triscuits, smoked gouda, and cheap beer, but these idle pursuits were violently cancelled when I heeded his beseeching cry for assistance.
"Randy is slower than turtle shit in wintertime, and he just bugged out. I think he has a diarrhea problem. You'll go finish his job. Stay put for now. I'll bring you a bevy of implements, only those you'll require."
"Yes sir." I waited, pissed off.
He arrived at my home in the cab of an F250, a masculine pickup truck with the engine of a vanity aircraft ensconed within its armageddon proof titanium shell. From its weathered bed he withdrew the entire contents of his garage: ladders, drills, wheel saws, hand tools, and maybe even a jackhammer. I conveyed these items into my midsize four door, cramping it with all manner of sharp edges and blunt knobs. I felt like a Halliburton contractor without the paycheck.
It didn't take me long to reach the restaurant at Harlem & Cermak. A ramshackle strip mall was scattered around the edgs of a parking lot. Walgreens customers scavenged about, fighting for the few remaining shopping carts that hobos had deemed too shoddy for a lifetime of possesions.
A monument was erected in the center of the parking lot: a lone spike with eight automobiles impaled upon it. It appeared to suggest something negative and humorous about cars with its piercing violation of their undercarriages. Certainly passengers riding by on busses smile upon this tower, smug in their economic wisdom. A futile dream flickered across my consciousness, that this monument was only the first statement, that every night cars would be immolated then pounded to scrap right here in this lot. I never liked cars, even mine.
I waltzed into the restaurant with the accumulated collection from my boss's garage weighing me down, straps digging grooves into my shoulders and fingers, blades and screwdrivers gouging my ribcage. With a wheeze I let it all fall to the floor. I stood straight, planted my hands upon my hips, and bellowed to the Mexican fast food laborers:
"Hark! I have arrived upon thy shores. Forthwith I shall endeavor to resurrect thy failing magic devices, so that ye may ring up McCorpsePatties with nary an ill electronic chirp, so that ye may squirt thy mustard guns with fervent loinbursting joy, so that thy corporate masters will trouble thee with whips no longer. Forevermore ye shall pollute the arteries of bovine pickle perverts. I proceed presently. Amen."
They glanced among themselves, bewildered and unsure, slightly afraid, frequently blinking. In their eyes I read their collective response. "Who the fuck is this guy?" and "Are we safe from harm?" and "Minimum wage for this?" I took this in stride, and with pomp and gusto I began my toil. I arranged computers, registers, credit card machines, printers, and monitors. All went swimmingly until it came time to run a cable from the front counter to the back drive-thru booth.
This task entailed a foray above the chalky drop ceiling. After scaling a ladder and popping open a tile, I continued my ascent until I stood upon the apex of my six foot ladder. My flashlight revealed nothing but fiberglass insulation that wove around heating ducts and wooden beams. I tied my cable to a broomstick and heaved it javelin style through the dark space towards the cash booth.
I noticed the smell right away when I climbed up above the booth. It was animal feces, sweetened by age, dehydrated by the absorbent insultation until it had dried into dust. Forced to beat the insulation away with my arms to clear the cable's path, the shit dust breathed forth from the fiberglass, settling into my hair and upon my face. It crept through my mouth, down my throat, and into my lungs. The filth moistened where sweat ran down my wrists and face. The dampened poo became a dark grey goo.
I won't dignify those particular moments with further descriptives, for I wish to keep this afternoon's barbeque lunch within my confines. Instead I will skip ahead to the bathroom, where afterwards I performed a convulsing dance. I washed my skin to the best of my ability, flapped the scum from my shirt, and sneezed several rapid fire staccato bursts to clear my nose. I held back vomit. Barely.
I found the store owner. "I think mice have been fucking and shitting in your ceiling. There's an awful mess above the back booth." This was a very unprofessional way to express myself, but I was compelled to share the roiling filth with its proprietor.
She laughed. She fucking laughed. "We haven't got any mice, but some pigeons got trapped and died up there a few years ago. We found twelve skeletons, but we had them removed. That was while back. We just found three more corpses last week during this current remodelling project." She smiled like a kid with a new bike. "Wow! Neato! Super-Duper!" her grin said. I would say her shit-eating grin, but it was me eating shit that day.
Well, not shit, not exactly. Certainly some of the floating powder was pigeon crap, but some was fiberglass puffs and shards. Most of it, probably the sweet-tasting part, was a mixture of dry crumbled bird flesh and dusty feather strands. When the pigeons died, their bacteria ridden corpses had liquified onto the tiles and into the insulation, where it dried and began to swirl when the air changed temperature. Seasons passed and the foulness multiplied as it waited for my arrival.
I'm getting overtime pay for that. 4:32 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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