The Misfortunes of Earl- From an Unusual Account
by Karen Fish
That morning started out as every morning should; Earl had greeted me like an old friend, he smiled at me like he had won the lottery, not like a janitor about to clean his first panel of glass for the day. As he lavished me in Windex, he told me about his upcoming job interview. It is for a management position at the corner bar and grill—the windows there are not as clean. His excitement was infectious; however, I couldn’t shake the thought of the loneliness that lied ahead of me.
I haven’t seen Earl like this since last summer when his estranged son, Jeremy, came to visit him. He had told me every detail of their evening together, down to the last drop. I remember that day well, he spent twice as long polishing and shining me than usual. The potent, sweet smell of Windex lasted all day that day. Sometimes I wonder if Earl wasn’t the same as me in the eyes of the world; we were so similar in so many ways—both invisible to everyone until we were in the way or inconvenient.
The cold chill of a fresh spritz of Windex pulled me back to his excited ramblings—he was very concerned about what he was to wear, what he should say, and the ever longing question of how early should one show up to a job interview without seeming totally and completely desperate. As the sun started to rise, the rays of light breaking through the New York City skyline filled my double paned glass with loving warmth. Soon career women in four inch heels would be aggressively approaching, and violently spinning me out of their way as they entered the building. Men in their expensive suits would be knocking the heavy dead weight of their briefcases against me as they try not to spill their Mochachino on my freshly brightened view. Like Earl—nobody would think twice about our presence.
After years of being unwillingly drenched in various beverages, I find that one of the worst smells is coffee mixed with Windex—the two have no business intermingling. I remember pondering how long it would be that day before some horribly scalding hot drink would be trying to burn a hole through me. At least Earl came by twice a day, once first thing in the morning and once more in the late afternoon. Earl was the only one to show kindness to me on any given day.
That day, as Earl was finishing up on the last of my panes, a man carrying a rumpled up black gym bag had frantically made his way to the sidewalk just in front of us from across the street. He stopped the first man he saw and was violently grabbing at the man’s coat, demanding that he hand over the keys to his car immediately. In an unexpected turn—the man had refused. Appalled and in a state of disbelief, the man snapped at the thief, “I will not have my Mercedes used as a delinquent’s getaway vehicle for his petty crimes!”
The man was in the wrong place at the wrong time, Earl and I were at the wrong place at the wrong time—nobody could have foreseen what was to come next. The thief, now extremely enraged and irritated by the man’s outburst, reached into his overcoat and retrieved a 9mm Smith & Wesson Special. Just as he was about to make a martyr out of the man and his newly found vigilantism, the loud cry of sirens came echoing from around the corner and flashes of red and blue bounced off the dirty windows of the corner bar and grill. In a fit of panic the thief took off, sprinting towards the ally of the normally bustling downtown avenue. In his attempt to slow his pursuers down, he fired six shots in our direction before disappearing into the darkness.
Hot-crimson red gore splattered hard against me and my vision was reduced to a red blur. In between the screaming and shouting I kept hearing the words, “janitor”, and “dead.” The building manager, Fred, pushed through me and in that moment my world spun; as a fresh pane of glass surfaced the street, I saw him. My only friend—Earl, sprawled out on the sidewalk, lying still and lifeless. His fingers clutched hard around the spray handle of the Windex bottle that had been hit with a stray bullet. Its contents were gurgling out and mixing with the last of Earl’s life in the nooks of the concrete sidewalk. The sirens and horrified shouts from the street faded away and all that was left was the deaf darkness—Earl was gone.
The sun rose today like any other normal day, but today is not any normal day. There is no Earl today, and no one comforting me for the loss of my only companion—my only friend. His replacement splashes hot, too hot, soapy water on me—not Windex. His face cannot be mistaken for any likeness of Earl’s—his demeanor is bitter and resentful for having to clean glass doors for work. He doesn’t even shine my windows before he takes his leave of me.
The day continues with people going about their business as if the world has not stopped spinning in its tracks; as though there has been no significant loss, or emotional trauma over the loss of Earl—the janitor. A mother walks with her child towards me, and I feel something sticky being pressed against one of my panes as they spin me around and around.
“Henry! Do not put your gum on the glass!” The horribly embarrassed, exasperated woman exclaimed.
“Mother,” the kid yelled, “It can't feel—it's only a door!”