Monday, January 28, 2008

FICTION - Cigarettes, Alcohol, Flesh & Bone

By Brian Tucker

Janine must have left around six this morning. I woke up for some reason not long after she left and could still smell her in the room. It was a pleasant scent, like something freshly baked or clothes right out of the dryer. She's the type of girl that doesn't wear make up and brushes her hair without much effort. I love her simplicity, her plain elegance.
I'm in awe of her, really. We were out until the early hours of the morning stumbling bar to bar and still she gets up at the crack of dawn to clean up another useless homicide. Her pager sounds off with the sun rising and she's calling in to her boss. Me, I would have thrown the pager into the hallway and covered my head in bed sheets and pillows.
For the last few years, Janine has worked this job where, after the cops and the detectives and the medics are finished at a crime scene, she and two other workers clean blood out of the carpet and furniture and finally, off the walls.
They remove the flesh and brain matter from walls and ceilings. Janine usually gets to clean the ceilings because she's taller than the other two.
She says I wouldn't believe how much killing goes on in kitchens alone, but then again, it's easier to clean. Flesh and blood goes everywhere with a single blast and then the blood seeps through carpet, through carpet bedding, and finally through the cheap under-flooring in most homes. There's not much you can do about that, she says.
Janine has to have an iron stomach or one that is perpetually empty. She says you get desensitized to the work but surely it must be surreal wearing a bright yellow biological suit to work everyday. I suppose that's why we, she, likes to go out a lot. I get dragged along most times but I don't mind.
Janine sees all the terror people commit against one another. Last week she had to clean up after a domestic dispute where the boyfriend stabbed the girlfriend perfectly in the forehead with a bread knife, clean down the center of her brain. She didn't die right away but bled a lot. She talked as if the thing wasn't in her head at all. She was able to get to her gun and shoot the guy until he was dead.
Janine is reminded daily by her work that life is way too short. She embodies the motto; I'll sleep when I'm dead.
Last night, Janine wore these awful earrings to go out. She is definitely her own person. When I woke up I had this one on my right ear. With a black Sharpie, she wrote on my arm that she'd see me tonight. I guess I'll have to wear that for a while.
I have to admit her work is far more exciting than mine, far more exciting than the evening news is. I tend bar and all I see are the assholes before they commit these acts. She sifts through their lives, their residue. She cleans up the aftermath of rash decisions and passion gone awry.
It seems as though we swim through all this darkness without getting too hurt. Our souls get scratched along the way but we dilute the pain with alcohol and the pride to stay free.
Nighttime is our playground and when the sun comes up we appear like vampires on a day pass, smiling all the way.


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