The Custodian, Part I

By JM2814

The sun was just rising as Michael finished her shower.

“Beep Beep Beep Beep Beep…” Damn, the alarm.

She could never sleep before the first day of school. She loved teaching English, but her new role as faculty advisor for the school newspaper had her up even earlier than usual.

“No need to impress” she thought, knowing the day would be spent cleaning the newspaper office and getting it ready for the students’ return next week. She slipped into a comfy set of overalls and Birks, put her hair up in a scarf, and decided to skip make-up for the day.

As she pulled into the almost empty Faber High School faculty parking lot, she heard a yell from some students heading toward soccer tryouts.

“Cool car Ms. Knight!”

She waved back and smiled. Living in Faber was expensive. She, like many teachers, had a second job to make ends meet. Michael’s was a bit different than most as she was also a trained mechanic. Her side business, Michael Knight’s Kit Cars, was a perfect fit for a town filled with middle aged men with disposable income.

The halls were deserted so early in the morning, but as she turned the corner toward the newspaper office she noticed the door was open and lights on. She heard papers rustling and movement inside as she approached the door silently in her comfortable shoes.

“Hello?”

She cautiously peeked in the office and saw a heavy-set man standing behind the desk holding last year’s final edition of The Daily Faberian. A smile spread quickly across the man’s face as he noticed her presence. He dropped the paper on the desk and she could now see that he was wearing a custodian’s uniform. He was about 5’6” tall, overweight, and wore dark-framed glasses on his round face. The patch on his shirt said “To__” but the rest was obscured under a greasy stain.

“Oh, hi” he said, “I didn’t expect to see anyone so early. I’m Todd, and I just started as a custodian here this summer.”

Michael stepped into the office. For a moment she thought she saw Todd’s eyes take on a menacing look as he noticed her appearance, but perhaps she was imagining it?

“Hi Todd, I’m Michael Knight, English Teacher and advisor for the Faberian”

“Michael?” Todd stuttered.

“Haha yep, a boy’s name. I know. My parents were leaders of the LGBTQ+++++ movement and adamantly against traditional gender roles. They wanted me to be both a girl’s girl and a man’s man.”

There it was again, the anger in Todd’s eyes. She was sure of it this time. His voice remained pleasant though.

“Parents” Todd said, shaking his head. “They sure aren’t what they used to be. It’s nice to meet you Michael. I was just about to clean in here and couldn’t resist looking at some of the old papers. You might be surprised to know I used to dabble in Journalism myself. I’d love to find some way to help with the paper. I’ve also talked with the Football Coach about volunteering with the team this year. I just love teenagers.”

“Odd wording” Michael thought to herself, but brushed past it.

“Well, this is my first year overseeing the student journalists, but I imagine we can find a way for you to help. Maybe we can talk about it in a few weeks once I’ve got some more experience under my belt?”

“Sure, whatever you think is best Michelle, I mean Michael”

With that Todd gathered his broom and rolling trash bin and headed for the door.

“Oh, before I leave do you mind if I take a few of the old issues with me? I’d like to get a feel for what kind of ‘Journalism’ goes on at this school”.

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