Episode Sixteen

August 29, 2010

The Worst Toilet in Scurvytown

On the final day of the asparagus festival, Francis “Smoke” Hornbuckle was busying himself as part of the cleanup crew for the incident that had left the town’s Squatter Fountain in ruins.

The first idea that the foreman of the cleanup crew had was that they could simply use a leaf-blower to blow all of the tiny pieces of styrofoam debris into the ocean, which would carry off the unwanted particles far across the sea. Unfortunately, he didn’t factor in the fickle nature of the ocean and the wash-back factor.

Smoke and the rest of the lesser cleanup crew-members found themselves literally combing the beach for styrofoam chunks. It was by order of the town council that the cleanup must be complete before the height of tourist season, which was to begin within a fortnight. Much debate waged on as they searched for every scrap of the formerly majestic and partially nibbled on squid that they could find, as to exactly how long a fortnight was, and if they’d get paid overtime for working nights. After all, these chunks of debris were tough enough to find in broad daylight.

Smoke couldn’t really complain about the work, though, as he’d had much worse jobs throughout his career as a jack-of-all-trades. He’d been at his current gig at the Squatter Foundation longer than he’d been at any job in his life. He was half proud of that fact, but mostly bored with it, and not good at all at fractions.

The worst job he’d ever had was right after he moved to town. He’d checked out the odd jobs board at the Welcome Center, and taken twelve separate slips of phone numbers, figuring if he put them in a sock and picked one out, fate would be his guide on this exciting new adventure as a new citizen of Scurvytown.

(Insert wavy lines/flashback noises here)

Fate, however, had decided to take the opportunity to mess with him on an epic scale. After all, he’d ditched his path in life for Scurvytown, and Fate was a grudge-holder who didn’t much care to cater to folks who snubbed her, even if it was only the one time.

Smoke sat on the rim of the Squatter Fountain in the town square, and peeled off his greenish-gray (once bright white) lucky sock off his left foot and dumped the slips of paper inside. He shook it around a bit, and a few birds in the tree overhead passed out and fell to the ground with a thud when the stench hit them. Smoke didn’t even notice, he was so focused on his future.

He dipped his hand into the grimy, crunchy sock and picked out a slip of paper. Without hesitating, he dialed the number into his cell phone, his heart thumping loudly as it rang.

“Good morning, Event Catering,” answered an overly-eager woman’s voice.

“Hi, my name is Frank and I’m inquiring about the job posting.”

“Oh great! Do you own your own jumpsuit?”

Smoke wasn’t really sure what kind of question that was, or what he was getting into. It would have really helped out a lot of the slip of paper he tore off said where he was calling and why, but what did that matter, when Fate was on his side?

“As a matter of fact, I do,” he answered proudly, and he was true to his word.

As a matter of fact, at the time, Smoke’s jumpsuit was in a state not all that dissimilar to his lucky sock. And as it turns out, that wasn’t even a fraction as disgusting as what he was about to get himself into.

The perky woman on the other side of the phone perked up even more, if that was possible.

“Well, that’s super! If you can find our office on Broad Street, you’re pretty much as good as hired. You can’t miss us at ‘Event Catering.’”

As luck had it, Smoke was already wearing the jumpsuit, so he made his way downtown. As he neared the intersection of Broad Street and Ho Avenue, he paused. He wasn’t sure which way to turn onto Broad Street. But then another thought hit him: he didn’t know anything about the catering business. What if they saw right through him and decided not to hire him? Well, he guessed that wouldn’t matter, there were still those eleven other slips of paper which he had incidentally forgotten to take out of his sock when he put it back on his foot.

He turned to the right and whistled as he walked down the street. All the way down at the end of Broad Street was a half-boarded up building that looked like it had recently seen the more vicious side of a hurricane. Parked outside was a beat up powder blue pick-up truck with “Events Catering” crudely spray-painted on the side. Behind it was a trailer that had 7 battered Port-o-Lets sitting on it.

“Huh,” Smoke said as he crossed the street to the building.

He guessed they were just that full service a caterer, from dinner to, um, what happens when some folks have to disappear for a bit right after dinner. He certainly had heard of stranger things.

As he walked in, he was greeted immediately by the perky phone lady, who was not at all like he had pictured her. Smoke had imagined a young co-ed, working the phones for extra drinking money, like the kind of girls he had chased so hard back on the mainland, but who never seemed to fall for any of his lines.

Miss-Perks-a-Lot looked like she was eighty years old, and as she reached out to shake his hand, she sipped at her coffee mug with the other. That is to say, she didn’t use her other hand to drink the coffee, she used the hand to raise the cup to her mouth to drink it the normal way, but with more slurping than necessary. (Making sense is so hard!)

In fact, the suggestiveness of the slurping was rather off-putting to Smoke, who wiped his hand on his disgusting jumpsuit after she released it.

“Well, you’ve found us!” Grandma Perky said, beaming.

“Yup, sure did,” he said, nodding.

“Take a seat, and we’ll get the paperwork completed and get you to work!”

It took about thirty minutes, but Smoke completed all the appropriate forms and as he finished signing his name on the final document, Grandma Perky, whose real name was Beatrice, though she liked to go by Trixi for short, had twelve grandchildren, all of whom lived on the mainland and she never got to see, and had a wicked case of heartburn that seemed to mystify the local doctor, as well as an arrhythmia, an ingrown toenail, shortness of breath, and a toothache that she’d had for eighteen years (never been to the dentist!), finally stopped talking about all her medical ailments and handed Smoke his official name-badge.

“Smoke Hornbuckle,” he read aloud, smiling.

“So, here are the keys to the truck outside. You’re responsible for getting the Port-o-Thingies to the fairgrounds before each festival, and for making sure they are sparkly clean each morning.”

It didn’t sound like that tough of a job, but then Smoke didn’t really put that much thought into the function of the Port-o-Lets, that is, until the first night of the festival. As soon as the fairgrounds were closed, it was time for him to get to work. The first festival he worked was the Moonshine Festival, and there was a lot of bright pink vomit coating the walls of the Port-o-Lets at the end of the first night.

Luckily, there was a power washer in the truck. It was small and weak, but better than scrubbing by hand. By dawn, he had all the filthy Port-o-Lets sparkling clean and was fairly proud of his work. He was also incredibly exhausted and missed the entire second day of the Moonshine Festival while sleeping off all his hard work.

When he woke up, it was already dark outside. Cursing wildly, he quickly put his now filthier jumpsuit on and ran to the fairgrounds just in time for them to announce last call. That night’s work was even more disgusting than the previous night’s, and in the early morning hours, he came up with a scheme to cut his workload in half for the final day of the festival.

All he had to do was to put “out of order” signs on half of the Port-O-Lets and rig them so they were locked from the outside. It was a brilliant plan, as long as no one from the office caught wind of it. He started off by spacing the toilet pods fairly far from each other, but still within the bounds of the fairgrounds. Then, he tested out his plan by putting signs on the furthest two.

It worked like a charm. The next weekend was the start of the Asparagus Festival, and he figured that given the noxious nature of asparagus pee, he’d better step up his game. By the third night of that festival, he had had his fill of cleaning, and decided to put out of order signs on three of the pods, and make it seem like the other three were perpetually occupied, so as not to arouse suspicion. That left one pod in working order.

Everything seemed to be going perfectly until someone at the office discovered his lazy plan. The perky office lady called him up and chewed him out, using swear words so vulgar, he’d never even imagined their existence. He was so impressed with the level of cussing, that before he said the magic words, “I quit,” he couldn’t help but commend the old bird for her swearing.

There was only one catch: he wasn’t allowed to quit. Rather, because of the contract he had signed on that first day in the office, he was obligated to clean out what would forever be known as “The Worst Toilet in Scurvytown.” To go into further details about it would be unconscionable.

Suffice it to say that Smoke would have nightmares about his last day on that job for the rest of his life, and was completely put off of asparagus for life as well. Folks might wonder what exactly lead Smoke to not just tell his employer to go suck on it, and quit anyway, and that answer is fairly simple. Basically, if he didn’t complete his contract or get fired, which they refused to do until he cleaned the disgraced Port-o-Let, and if he simply quit, he would be deported back to the mainland.

Now, here was the rub: he had already been deported to Scurvytown for a period of no less than three years, so getting deported from there and back to the mainland would stick him in what folks referred to as “The Loop.” Rumors had it that some folks had been stuck in The Loop for as long as ten years, being shipped back and forth from Mainland port to Scurvytown, or to other ports, and being denied access every time, were simply shipped onto the next port.

It would have been Fate’s greatest wish to see him get stuck in The Loop, but Smoke was made of stronger stuff than Fate had anticipated, and he cleaned up the mess, scarred himself for life, and got to remain in Scurvytown to do even more menial work, like comb the beach for stray bits of styrofoam. And if Fate really thought about it, working dead end job after dead end job was probably an even crueler loop to be stuck in.

This episode went live on Sunday, August 29, 2010.

Stay tuned for next week’s thrilling crapfest, assuming there is one. After all, I think we’ve heard enough about crap in Scurvytown to last at least four more episodes. After consulting a calendar, it appears that Blorgbat season is nigh!

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