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Me and Danny DeLay--a story

This is fiction. Any similarities with real people or events is purely coincidental.
I used to be a janitor. Dan DeLay was my co-worker, and what we would do is, we would drive around in a van and go to different kinds of businesses and clean the carpets and floors, starting at about 5 pm every night. Sounds simple, right? Well, actually it required a lot of organizing and time-management, what with all the pieces of equipment we had to drag around, and all the bottles of solvents and cleaners we had to make sure we had. While the work we did may have required organization, that doesn't mean things were always organized. When you make around $8/hr. some requirements just can't be met, even when you put together two of the sharpest minds you're ever likely to encounter, like me and Dan DeLay.

We were called "floor guys" or even "floor technicians" but when you spend half the night mopping or vacuuming, you're pretty much a janitor. Which was fine with me, because I had already spent two years doing straight janitorial work, cleaning toilets and urinals every day. It is a time I look back on with fond memories. Dan DeLay, on the other hand, did not consider himself a janitor at all. But it was a moot point. Me and Dan DeLay never got into any fights calling each other a janitor. Mostly we would just cruise the streets of Vancouver at night, bullshitting each other about our past and looking for some carpet to clean.

Dan DeLay had seen some shit in the first Gulf War. What exactly he had seen I'm not too sure of. He mentioned a bout of heat exhaustion--must have been in the Kuwaiti desert somewhere. Or the Saudi desert? We didn't delve too deeply into his combat record. He told a tale or two about being stationed in Germany. If I remember, he said that hard drinking took up a lot of his time there.

So we would cruise the streets in the company van, looking for some shit-ass dirty carpet that needed extraction. With Dan DeLay at the wheel, we would often get lost and spend an hour just looking for a place. Some nights we would each take a company van, and meet up at a place, like a bank or some factory downtown. Those nights I'd run into Dan DeLay and he'd give me this wild-eyed look, like "Who the fuck are you?" Unperturbed, I would simply point to the corporate emblem on my t-shirt, which was a caricature of a man holding a mop. Then, like co-conspirators, we would set about surveying the premises of whatever place we were at, and draw conclusions about what needed to be done. Late at night, after midnight, one begins to feel like a criminal, no matter what one is up to.

Many nights we found ourselves at UL--Underwriters Laboratories--in the hills above Camas. It's a big building, and big buildings have a lot of floors, so me and Dan DeLay found ourselves out there a lot. Some nights there'd be three or four of us floor guys out there, which meant that Milosevic was either in the building or he would be heading out there to check on us.

Milosevic was another guy who'd spent some vacation time in Germany. Nobody knew if Milosevic was his real name, and nobody cared too much either. He didn't look or sound foreign, but the name fit him well enough. He used to work in a butcher shop, so he said, until the advance of technology drove him out of the business. "But I keep all of my knives real sharp," he would always say, no matter what you were talking to him about.

Some nights out at UL Milosevic would sit in a company van and put his antique German dagger on the stone. Back and forth and back and forth, so methodical, so rhythmic. I guess he wasn't breaking any kind of company policy, because he was always doing it. It was a nice dagger too--a very nice hardwood handle, with a patina.

Milosevic had an aura about him. Kind of like a dust storm, but one you can't really see, like maybe a dust storm in the middle of the night. He was middle-aged, balding a little, and sometimes even seemed a bit scholarly, when he wasn't talking about how sharp his knives were.

At UL, me and Dan DeLay, (mostly me) would drag out the extraction hoses from the van, every last inch, (about 200') and get the carpet sprayers ready with all the solvents and cleaners that were needed. The sprayers were just little Home Depot bug sprayers, or weed sprayers, and in this case were used as carpet sprayers. People would assume, if they gave it a thought at all, that we were spraying the carpet for bugs, or maybe even weeds. Not that there was ever anyone around, but occasionally at UL we would see some after-hours workers.

If Milosevic was around we would sometimes hear him on his walkie-talkie or cell phone (he had both) talking with "the boss." Nobody knew who "the boss" was, but it was understood that Milosevic was in charge of everything.

One dark night me and Dan DeLay were sitting in an upstairs breakroom, which was allowed for the most part. I was sipping some Irish cream flavoured coffee from the machine, looking out at the barely visible tree line, a good 500' off. Dan DeLay put down a scrap of newspaper he was reading and told me that he and Milosevic were going to "change things."

"Change things?" I said.