words :: Feet Banks
Illustration :: Dave Barnes
You Say Tomato…
At age 63, I’d been a janitor at the mental ward for 18 years before I figured it out. Eighteen years of pushing a mop through blood and vomit in rooms that still sizzled of electroshock and stank with the thick smoke of metal cutting skull. Eighteen years of screams clawing down freshly polished hallways. Eighteen years of pine-scented human torture.
It all came together one night in my apartment while I cooked another pasta dinner for one and cut into a too-ripe tomato, the juice squirting out and staining my shirt. Enlightenment hit.
The lobotomy room and electroshock machine in the psycho ward are actually quite humorous, if you’re into puns – you go in a fruit, you come out a vegetable.
That was enough to get me through those last few years of listening to them try to cure damage with more damage.
Now I spend my days in a cabin with a view of the lake and an old wood cook stove. I have to sweep up bark from the firewood every day, but I never mop.
It’s amazing how we adapt.
Faaackkk. This story is old—2003 maybe. I never truly loved writing fiction, so I always tried to make the stories as short as possible, and then i just stopped altogether. Maybe i just got sucked into the “you need to make a living at this writing stuff” mindset and getting paid $60 for a story (if you were extremely lucky) didn’t seem like a viable path forward. Or maybe i just got scared. In any case, this whole story hangs on a juvenile pun and a sick water colour piece that Barnes did. Sometimes, i think that’s enough. If the Janitor in this story had a favourite pie, it would be Turkey Pot Pie, the kind his mom made before she went insane and hung herself from the elm tree with an electrical cord.