Man on Floors or The Supermarket Arsonist
by Michael Kilianski
"Why did your boss, Alfonse Castaroni walk with a limp?"
"You want to know why Mr. Castaroni limped?"
"Oh well, I can definitely see him limping around in
…There goes Mr. Castaroni limping around the store and touching
the meat-like always.
Twice a day, like clockwork, Mr. Castaroni would walk
past the meat counter. Actually, he deliberately paced back and
forth; back and forth in front of the meat counter. And
occasionally, he'd stop and stare intently at the cuts of meat as
if he was trying to cook the pork chops and the skirt steaks with
the sheer intensity of his supermarket manager's gaze.
Each day he began his back and forth pacing starting
at the butcher's counter where all of the prime cuts of meat were
kept securely stashed away in a display case behind a barrier of
He would begin by stepping forward, slowly at first,
but when he moved past the spiral hams his pace quickened. By the
time that he reached the end of his first walk-through, at the
section containing the prepackaged chicken thighs and drumsticks,
Mr. Castaroni would have broken into a full throttle gallop.
I call it a gallop because a gallop is exactly what
it was. I can't describe it as a run because Mr. Castaroni walked
with a limp and he was physically unable to run anywhere. He
lurched his way forward, and with his wire-rimmed glasses, he
looked not unlike a bespectacled Quasimodo up in the belfry of
Notre Dame Cathedral struggling to ring that large old bell. You
could hear him as he lurched along. His shoes made a grainy sound
sort of like sandpaper moving over rough wood as he paced back
and forth near the meat case.
He'd been my boss at the supermarket for ten long
years and I didn't even know, for sure, why he limped like he
did. All I know about the reason why Mr. Castaroni limped comes
from what other people have told me.
Peggy Myers, one of the slightly overweight middle
aged women with brightly dyed hair and permanent purple bags
under her eyes that worked at the courtesy counter said to me one
day as I was looking through all the scratch off lotto tickets,
"Hey Frank, ya see that?"
I had my broom (I was called the Man on Floors at the
supermarket meaning that I did all the work at the store, like
changing light bulbs and cleaning up vomit, that no one had ever
bothered to assign a definite title to) but I had my broom
leaning against the courtesy counter and my hands occupied
flipping through a stack of scratch-offs and without looking up
at her I said, "Hmmm?" as a lotto game that was in the shape of a
baseball diamond caught my eye.
"Ya know how Mr. Castaroni limps around and he's only
like what? Fifty-seven years old maybe?" She asked me this like I
didn't know and hadn't been working there for nearly ten years.
"Yeah, what a shame," I mumbled. And I'm still not
completely sure if I mumbled this because Mr. Castaroni was only
fifty something years old and walking around like The Hunchback
of Notre Dame, or because I'd been working there for
nearly ten years and I was just a Man on Floors while he was the
Store Manager. It's a case of either/or.
"Nah, seriously Frank," she said as she snapped her
gum between her teeth and caused me to look up at her because I
know that whenever Peggy makes loud noises with her gum she's
serious, "ya know how?"
I sighed and stopped dreaming of one day winning
millions of dollars. I stopped touching the lotto tickets and I
leaned across the courtesy counter and whispered, "No Peg. I
don't know. You tell me."
"Well I heard," she said, "that when Mr. Castaroni
was a kid and stuff he got hit by a bus."
"Get the hell outta here!" I said. I said it loud
enough so that Mr. Castaroni actually turned around where he was
standing all the way at the other side of the store next to the
meat case and looked over in our direction at the courtesy
"Shhh," Peg said as she pressed an admonishing index
finger to her lips. Her fingernails were painted a bright shade
of pink with little rainbows on them.
"A bus? How did that happen?" I asked her. This time
I reverted back to a whisper and leaned closer to her lips across
the courtesy counter.
"SPLAT!" Peg said as she slammed her palm down on the
countertop. "That's how it happened."
"A bus? No way," I said. I was dumbfounded.
Disbelieving. Incredulous. "Are you sure? I mean who doesn't see
a bus coming?"
"Yeah, well, that's what I heard," she said.
"I don't believe it," I said. "Only that son of a
bitch could get hit by a bus and still live."
And then I walked away from her at the courtesy
counter while I shook my head in disbelief. I still don't know
whether or not to believe that Mr. Castaroni really got hit by a
bus. But like I said, I was only going to tell you about what
Peggy told me about why Mr. Castaroni limped around, and now I've
…you know, for the entire time that I've been telling
this to you about Mr. Castaroni getting hit by the bus and all,
I've been referring to myself as THE Man on floors, as if their
were only one, but really I've been lying to you about that.
Of course, as a man of my intelligence is often apt
to do, I tend to become far too self-absorbed and think of myself
as a solitary entity in the world, but there is one another Man
When I'm not at work I try not to think of Sergio. In
fact, even when I am at work, I do my best to try not to think
of, and to avoid, Sergio. Whether avoiding Sergio means not
taking a lunch break so as not to have to ever talk to him in the
employee break room or holding it in until I nearly wet my pants
when I know that's he's time-stealing in the bathroom reading a
copy of The Star or The Sun-I do it just to make
sure that I stay out of Sergio's way. Trust me Sergio is a total
douche bag who is without compare. He is a douche bag non
pareil as the French would say. And since technically, Sergio
is my equal in the hierarchy of supermarket associates, there's
no reason for me to have to put up with him at all. I don't get
paid enough for that!
What I'm telling you about Sergio is true. Believe
me. I dare you to walk up to anybody that you meet anywhere,
maybe even some random stranger standing by the green plastic
shopping carts that are lined up outside the store, and ask them,
real casual like in a nonchalant way, "So whaddya think of that
guy Sergio Ruiz? You know, that other Man on Floors?"
Make sure that you say to them though, "that other
Man on Floors" because a lot of customers are pretty dumb and
they don't know the difference. A customer might see some guy
pushing a mop around the store or taking trash bags out to the
dumpster in back and they'd just assume that there's only one Man
on Floors. That's why you have to specify and make sure they know
you're asking about Sergio Ruiz and not about me.
I dare you. Ask them. "So whaddya think about that
other Man on Floors, Sergio Ruiz?"
God's honest truth I bet they'll look quizzically at
you and say, "Sergio?"
"Yeah, yeah," say to keep them going, "Sergio Ruiz."
"Oh him," I bet they'll respond contemptuously with a
dismissive wave of their hand, "he's a total douche bag."
"Really? He's a total douche bag?" ask them.
"Yep, he's a total douche bag."
Then you've got to ask the hypothetical customer in
the parking lot why they would say that.
"Oh c'mon," they'll say to you, "just look at the
guy. He's a total douche bag."
This is all true. When Sergio was born, instead of
holding him up in the air and saying, "Congratulations Mr. and
Mrs. Ruiz, you've just given birth to a beautiful baby boy," the
doctor held Sergio up in the air by one leg and said,
"Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Ruiz, you've just given birth to a
beautiful baby douche bag."
Ha…ha…ha…ha…okay, okay you got me. That last part
isn't true. At least I don't think it's true because I wasn't in
the room when Sergio was born, but the whole rest of that is
true. Like I said, I don't know what happened when Sergio was
born because I wasn't there, but my guess would be that it was
something like what I just told you, or that the doctor simply
turned his head away in disgust when Sergio popped out of his
mother, and then proceeded to have a year's worth of sleepless
nights or turned to alcoholism simply to overcome the horrors of
what he'd seen. That'd be my guess.
The only reason that I'm telling you all of this
about Sergio is because I can't tell you about the tragic
incident that occurred to Mr. Castaroni, our store manager,
unless I first tell you a little bit about the man who is
responsible for that tragedy-Sergio.
It was almost noon and I was still sleeping. You know
I like to stay up late on the night before my day off from work
and that's why I was still sleeping at noon. My cell phone, that
I use as an alarm clock and always keep next to my pillow,
started buzzing even though I hadn't set any alarm to wake up to
on my day off.
I grunted something into the phone that approximated,
"Hello," while my eyes were still closed and I was half-asleep
and feeling groggy as hell.
"Frankie! Frankie Sasso!" I heard some guy screaming
at me over the phone in these frantic clipped tones.
"Yeah, who is th-" I tried asking him, but the guy
cut me off and wouldn't let me finish.
"This is your boss, Mr. Castaroni!" The guy yelled.
Mr. Castaroni was always yelling. He really wasn't
the kind of guy who was ever one for small talk like saying hello
to people and stuff like that. I had just been waking up and for
a little while I didn't say anything at all.
"Frankie! Frankie Sasso! You still there?" He
demanded to know.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm still here," I muttered.
"Sergio's sick and he's going home and you're coming
in. Be here in half an hour Frankie," he said and then he hung
I couldn't say no to him because he hung up the phone
so fast. And even if he hadn't hung up the phone so fast I
probably wouldn't have had the guts to tell Mr. Castaroni that I
wasn't coming into work on my day off because I've never been one
to speak to the boss like that.
A half an hour later I walked into the store to start
working and I passed by the courtesy counter on my way in. What
do I see when I get there? I see Sergio waiting on line to buy a
pack of cigarettes and talking to a bunch of women! Sergio! He
was buying a pack of Newport Lights even though the guy claims
that he doesn't smoke, but I know that he does, because I've seen
him do it.
So I walked right up to him while he was standing in
line and I said, "Hey, what's the matter with you?"
Right away Sergio got all defensive and said, "Easy
Frankie. I'm sick."
"You're sick?" I asked.
"Yeah, I'm sick," he kept on saying. Then he told me,
"I was feeling sluggish this morning so I had a Red Bull."
Then I got a little pissed. "So what?" I said. "So
now feeling a little sluggish makes you have to go home sick and
me come into work on my day off?"
"No, it's not that," he said while he gave me a slick
smile through his rough goatee, "I had a Red Bull, but I guess it
didn't work cause I still felt a little sluggish after, ya know?
So I had one of those energy shot things and then another Red
Bull with that and I guess then it worked cause now I feel all
jittery and weird and shit."
"Oh c'mon Sergio. Gimmie a break," I pleaded with
him. At that particular point I didn't know if I wanted to smack
him one across the jaw or begin crying out of sheer frustration.
"Nah Frankie," he said as he looked at me all
serious, "it's true. I'm crawling outta my skin. I feel real sick
man; I gotta go home." Then Sergio got up to the counter, bought
his pack of cigarettes, and went home sick.
Me? I simply stood there for a long minute and
sighed. The guy went home sick because he had two Red Bulls and
some kind of energy shot and then felt all jittery and weird and
shit. I guess regular old coffee isn't good enough for a guy like
…see what I'm talking about? Only a total douche bag
like Sergio would do something like that to himself, never mind
what he would do to Mr. Castaroni or anyone else if he felt like
it. I only brought this incident up to prove that everything I
tell you about Sergio Ruiz is true. The incident I just told you
about happened about a month ago I think.
Now let me tell you about what happened last week,
about how the store burned down because that's the thing that
everyone wants to know about.
The police, the guy at the unemployment office, the
newspaper reporters, my 70 year old mother-in a word-everyone
wants to know how the supermarket burned down and why I was the
only one already standing outside the building in the parking lot
when it happened and the place had to be evacuated.
Before I tell you that though, let me first say that
although I admit to you that the circumstances of the case seem
highly suspicious, I am not the one to blame. I am not, nor ever
have been, a disgruntled employee, and I am most certainly
undeserving of the name of Frank Sasso: The Supermarket Arsonist,
as has been widely reported by the local media.
Let me also take this opportunity to say that I think
it is definitely a shame that Mr. Castaroni didn't make it out on
time, but that it's not my fault that he was hit by a bus when he
was a kid and couldn't run. All of these situations are tragic
circumstances that should best be ascribed to the guiding hand of
malign fate, and the blame for any unfortunate accidents or
incidents should be placed squarely on the shoulders of that
other Man on Floors-Sergio Ruiz…
…with that being said, and as a way of exonerating
myself, let me now go on to explain how the unfortunate fire of
last week really happened.
On Thursday afternoon (the day last week when the
fire happened) Sergio and myself usually work together. On
Thursday's there are two Men on Floors in the store.
Since on that day there are two of us, in theory
we're supposed to equally spit up the responsibilities, but I say
in theory because as everyone knows, Sergio never pulls his
weight and does his half of the work. In fact, I hate the day of
the week when Sergio and I have to work together the most of all
because on that day, instead of my doing half the work as should
be the case, I almost always end up having to do double the
amount of work that I would do on a regular day when I was
working by myself.
On the Thursday of the fire I thought that I had more
than fairly split up our responsibilities-with me doing the bulk
of the work and giving Sergio in my boundless generosity (ask
anyone and they'll tell you that I'm a nice guy) the easiest of
It's true. On that particular day our grocery
department had gotten a huge delivery of liquid laundry
detergent. A gallon of the stuff was on sale for half price each,
and naturally, the customers were falling all over themselves to
get it. It was ten pallets worth, maybe more, of liquid laundry
detergent that we'd received that day.
In their haste to get it out onto the sales floor,
the guys who worked in our grocery department had made a complete
mess of the stock room. There was cardboard everywhere. I knew
that somebody had to attend to all of that cardboard that was
cluttering up the stock room, and naturally as always, Sergio was
completely oblivious to any of the work that we had to get done,
so that it was up to me to split up our responsibilities.
There was me and Sergio standing in the dusty back
stock room next to the cardboard bailer.
I said to him, "Look Sergio, somebody's gotta take
care of all of this cardboard."
He looked at me and said, "Yeah, I know," and then he
blew a bubble and snapped the piece of gum that he was chewing
on, really loudly between his teeth.
Can you believe that? He blew a bubble and snapped
his gum! It seems to me that whenever I'm trying to talk to
somebody and tell them something important, they're always
chewing gum and making loud obnoxious sounds with it. That's so
rude, but I guess, I mean, what else can you expect from a guy
like Sergio, right?
Anyway, he said to me, "Yeah, I know."
And then I said, "Okay Sergio, so let me tell you
what we're gonna do."
"What?" he asked.
I said, "We're gonna split up the responsibility
today. All you gotta do is take care of this cardboard. Cut it up
into squares and feed it into the bailer so that we can get rid
That's what I told him and then he spit out his gum,
took out one of his cigarettes, put it in-between his lips and
asked me, "So what are you gonna do?"
"Me?" I said to him kind of defensively because I
couldn't believe the balls on the guy. I said, "I'm gonna go
outside and do the rounds on all the garbage cans that are around
the store and the parking lot."
"Okay," Sergio agreed to my proposal in an instant
and then he lit his cigarette.
You see, Sergio readily agreed to my proposal about
how we should split up our Man on Floors responsibilities because
he must have thought that I was some kind of sucker by making the
deal that I was making.
Honestly, though, I'm not some kind of sucker. It's
only that I like to get things done and I knew that nothing would
get done if I had decided to take it easy by giving Sergio the
more difficult of our twin responsibilities, because as anyone
will tell you, Sergio is incompetent.
And believe me, I'm a nice guy, and I was giving him
the much easier of the two tasks. All he had to do was cut
cardboard up into little squares and feed it into the cardboard
bailer so that we could tie it off and get rid of it, and to
think, that moron couldn't even do that without burning down the
building and incinerating our Store Manager in the process!
Me? In my benevolence towards him I'd given myself
the hardest of all jobs for a Man on Floors. Believe me, there's
nothing worse than making the rounds on all the garbage cans
outside the store in the freezing cold. Your hands quickly go
completely numb and you have to tie up all those black plastic
trash bags while you walk all around the parking lot, and then
you have to lug those things a long way to heave them up and
throw them in the dumpster that's by the loading dock outside in
the back of the building.
Don't ask me why I did it, but this is the deal that
me and Sergio made. Me, scrambling around in the freezing cold
outside and hauling damned heavy bags of garbage, while he got to
stay nice and warm in the back stock room and play around with
little pieces of cardboard all day.
That's the deal that we made, and that's what we were
doing, and that's why I was already outside in front of the store
when the fire happened and the building had to be evacuated.
I want you to remember that Sergio was smoking a
cigarette when I left him while he was cutting up the cardboard
in the back stock room.
About fifteen minutes after I'd split up our
responsibilities, just as I'm replacing the black plastic trash
bag in the garbage can that's to the left of the supermarket's
front entrance, I see Sergio come out and start sprinting across
the parking lot.
"Hey, Sergio!" I scream. "Sergio! What the hell are
I had to scream at him two, maybe three, times (I
can't remember the exact number) before that coward even bothered
to turn around.
When he did finally bother to turn around, he looked
in my direction over his shoulder, and without even slowing down
in his sprint across the parking lot, he yelled, "Run! Run! I
started a fire in the stock room in back! The whole building's
gonna go up in flames!"
When he said that, I took my eyes off of him as he
kept on running away and I turned around to look through the
front windows. At that instant, the alarms inside started to go
off. I could hear some customers scream and I saw the back of the
store, the place where Mr. Castaroni used to pace around by the
meat counter, shrouded in a cloud of thick gray smoke.
I said, "Oh shit," and as customers and employees
started running out of the store, I dropped the trash bags down
on the pavement and I started running too! I mean, I'm not a
coward like Sergio Ruiz, but I'm not a hero either. What would
you have done in that situation?
True, at the time I was smoking a cigarette, and
though I strongly doubt it, I suppose that it's possible that I
may have thrown my lit cigarette into the full trash bag that I
had been handling at the time, but I can say for certain-that's
not what caused the fire as some people are claiming. I am in no
way deserving of the title-Frank Sasso: The Supermarket Arsonist
as some people have taken to calling me.
I want you to remember that Sergio was smoking around
cardboard (cardboard!) at the time of the fire. Not only did I
personally see him do it, but he actually admitted to me that he
had started the fire as he was running out of the store and
across the parking lot like a coward!
Believe me, this is all true. I'm sorry about Mr.
Castaroni's untimely passing, but it isn't my fault that a bus
hit him when he was a kid and that he couldn't run like everybody
"So that's all?"
"Yeah, that's it."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I'm sure."