Man on Floors or The Supermarket Arsonist

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is about a rivalry between two janitors that I once worked with and what might possibly have been the end result of that rivalry had they taken their personal dislike for one another to the extreme...

Submitted: December 17, 2009

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Submitted: December 17, 2009



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 my mind….”
…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 shatterproof glass.
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 counter.
“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 told you…
…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 on Floors—Sergio.
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 up.
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 Sergio…
…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 jobs.
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 of it.”
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 you doing?!”
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 else…
“So that’s all?”
“Yeah, that’s it.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I’m sure.”

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