Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 6

WELCOME! A true pleasure to have y’all back with us today, madly writing up mad stories of madness. Coincidentally, today’s a mad day here at the lair, with the launch of a brand new, exciting format. But I’ll get to that in a second.

First up: enormous thanks are in order to my dear friend and frequent co-conspirator, the fabulously talented artist and writer Susan Warren Utley (she also happens to be the head of Haunted Waters Press, home of the gorgeous lit mag From the Depthscheck them out!). Susan took time out of her busy schedule to design logos and badges, both for Flashversary and for the new prompts. Thank you, Susan. You are so appreciated! Also, I owe you some serious coffee. And chocolate. And possibly the renaming of one or two of my dragonlings in your honor.

New format: …which brings us to the Phase One update for Year Three: a tweaked format! This coming year we’ll focus on the primary elements of story: character, setting, plot, and theme. We’ll rotate through these four in a well-behaved, orderly fashion. (I HEARD THAT! No snort laughs in the lair, please. We take ourselves Very Seriously here.)

(1) Each week we’ll provide a specific prompt representing one of those four elements, and a photo. In other words, it will operate just like the Year Two Dragon’s Bidding, with two required pieces to be included in your entry: photo and story element.

(2) And in other BIG NEWS: for Year Three you will be given (quite generously, I must add) fifty more words. The new word limit is 200 (give or take 10).

(3) Yes, you may still enter up to two stories.

(4) The other guidelines will stay the same in terms of content (eg no erotica or fanfic). Read more here.

Tweet any questions to the Flash! Friday team at @flashfridayfic. And HAVE FUN!!!!


Judging today are our noble Team Two dragon captains Mark King and Tamara Shoemaker. Tamara swears her undying love for the un-obvious (“There is no box,” she says. “Write freely; show me your heart.”) Similarly, Mark says he’s looking for the unusual, such as characters with mundane lives who experience strange events. (“I love writers that are brave enough to try something new,” he says.)       


Awards Ceremony: Results will post Monday. Noteworthy #SixtySeconds interviews with the previous week’s winner post Wednesdays.  I (Rebekah) post my own unbalanced writings sometimes on Tuesdays or Thursdays.

Now, raise your brooms and write amazing stories in hallways of bubbles!

* Word count: Write a 200-word story (10-word leeway on either side) based on the photo prompt.

HowPost your story here in the comments. Include your word count (min 190 – max 210 words, excluding title) and Twitter handle if you’ve got one. If you’re new, don’t forget to check the contest guidelines.

Deadline: 11:59pm ET tonight (check the world clock if you need to; Flash! Friday is on Washington, DC time)

Winners: will post Monday

Prize: The Flash! Friday e-dragon e-badge for your blog/wall, your own winner’s page here at FF, a 60-second interview next Wednesday, and your name flame-written on the Dragon Wall of Fame for posterity.


Required story element (this week: character. You must include the below character in your story):


Required photo prompt to incorporate:

Coliseum in Rome. CC2.0 photo by Vlad.

Coliseum in Rome. CC2.0 photo by Vlad.




382 thoughts on “Flash! Friday: Vol 3 – 6

  1. Clean Up in Time Zone Three
    by JM6, 210 words, @JMnumber6

    “You ain’t gettin’ *me* to clean that up.”

    “Look, Mulcahy. When you took the job, you knew there was going to be an occasional mess to clean up.”

    “‘Occasional mess,’ she says. We ain’t talkin’ about someone spillin’ their Galactic Gulp™ Smoothie on the causeway. You want me to go back to the flippin’ Roman Empire to clean up the bloodstains of some rich tourist who went and got himself splattered in the Coliseum.”

    “It has to be done,” Chen said sharply, unaccustomed to underlings refusing to obey orders. “If we don’t remove the blood, some twenty-first century archaeologist might start wondering how Lakota DNA wound up in second-century Rome. Our entire timeline could unravel.”

    “Not my problem. I sonic-wash the floors, sanitize the toilets, and take the trash to the recycler. I ain’t no time traveler.”

    Chen frowned. “When you get back, we’ll discuss the fine print in your contract. In the meantime, the implant we gave you when you were hired is already linked to the Temporal Cannon.” She pushed a button on her desk. “Do a good job.”

    Suddenly finding himself on the floor of the Coliseum, Mulcahy was fairly certain the gladiator in Hoplite armor wouldn’t know where he could find some bleach and a mop.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Family Business
    198 words

    Traffic on the Via Celio Vibenna moved in a jerky flow. Toro Bidello tapped his steering-wheel in time to the radio and looked at the warm glow of light in the arches of the colosseum.
    He always visited the colosseum when in Rome. Family legend said an ancestor had been Emperor Vespasian’s architect, had designed the ancient edifice, before upsetting Domition and being exiled to Calabria in the south. There the family business changed.
    Something banged in the boot of the car. A sporadic thump, thump, thump. Toro swore and pulled the handbrake. As he got out and strode to the boot cars ahead moved forward. The driver behind leaned on his horn. Toro gestured rudely.
    He opened the boot and a bound figure stared up with wide fearful eyes. Toro bunched a hand and jabbed down. The eyes rolled, and closed as the prisoner lost consciousness.
    Ignoring the blaring horns Toro got back in and caught up to the car in front. He flexed his hand, releasing the tension from the punch. As Bidello, he dealt with trash. Like cousins who thought Rome was far enough from Calabria to run too when they stole family money.


    *nb – Bidello is Italian for janitor.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Labour of Love
    195 words

    History paraded itself everywhere. Flaunting its grandeur, its decayed opulence, its dark memories. For thousands of years people had been looking after these buildings, nurturing them, babysitting them through dangerous times of war and hardship. Now it was his turn. Named after the actor who starred in all those Spaghetti Westerns his mother loved, Clint clocked in on his first morning of his new job. Carlo waved a hand at him, indicating the tools he needed for the job. He didn’t need telling; a master craftsman, Clint knew exactly what to do. But it wasn’t just about the right chisels to work the stone.

    Learning his craft on the lesser historical sites Clint had begun his love affair early. An apprentice at 16, he’d caressed so many ancient stones, stroked countless statues and effigies, feeling the power of their form, the compelling mature of their touch. Now, standing in the lower reaches of the Coliseum, Clint breathed in its air, its history, its life. He walked to a nearby pedestal. Cool despite the rising heat of the day, the stone spoke to him: come look after me, care for me, but above all, love me.


  4. American Gladiator
    (195 words)

    Contender: Ready! Gladiator: Ready!

    ‘Come on, Son. You’ll be late.’

    Steel is looking in peak physical condition today, but The Ice Queen is still willing to throw down the gauntlet.

    ‘No gauntlet. Just breakfast.’

    The Ice Queen has made a retreat very early on in this round.

    ‘No retreat. Breakfast is still down stairs.’

    The Ice Queen is leaving the arena, her opponent will dress for combat.

    ‘You can’t wear that to the school. Your uniform is hanging up.’

    Steel does not look impressed. He’s motioning The Ice Queen to another challenge. It’s all going to kick off!

    ‘Eat! You’ll be late. You need this job.’

    Steel can’t comprehend what his opponent is saying.

    ‘You know what I am saying, Honey. We have been through this before.’

    Watch out, Steel. Looks like The Ice Queen is luring you into a trap.

    ‘You know what I’m going to say. You didn’t make it through auditions. You can’t keep doing this.You need this janitor’s job at the school.’

    And that folks is the eliminator. Steel looks like he could be seriously winded. He’s not going to make it up from that seated position.

    ‘Yes you are, because you need to.’


  5. The Cleaner
    Ian Martyn (@IBMartyn)
    197 words

    You glimpse me in the shadows, sweeping, cleaning. But you don’t see me, no-one does. For nearly two thousand years I’ve taken it on myself to erase the stains of my people. We were so capable, so magnificent. If we could imagine it we could build it. We imagined an empire that would last for eternity. But, perhaps such an active imagination was to prove our downfall. In our conceit we imagined ourselves to be gods. As gods we indulged in cruelty and depravity, and this pinnacle of the builder’s art was its focal point, its ultimate incarnation. How ironic. Here we turned in on ourselves, desecrating the meaning of honour and nobility.

    You come to marvel and to wonder. You don’t see the faces that I see, the lives that once loved, had hope and ambition. The lives sold into slavery. Lives debased and ended for our own amusement. And so I clean. I try to scrub away the sins. But the blood that is soaked into the sand clings with a tenacity that defeats me. The cries of pain and death are etched into the stone and refuse to let go. The guilt lives on.


  6. Life of the Body

    WC: 191

    Nothing prepares you for sight of blood.

    Oh you may read about it, hear about it, talk about it, even see a little from a tiny cut. It’s coursing through your body. It keeps you alive when nothing else can.

    People have tried for many generations to capture the amazement of the liquid. And for many generations, have failed.

    But none of that prepares you for the sight of blood.

    The sight of life draining out of a person and staining the ground around them.

    How is it that our body’s life can so easily be drained out?

    The way it’s hard to clean up, like it doesn’t want to be forgotten.

    The odd circles…patterns…showing exactly how the person died.

    I stood there…staring…shovel in hand.

    “Portia!!” I heard someone yell above me, probably in the seats cleaning trash.

    I started turning over the sand, hiding the blood for the crowds that would come tomorrow.

    To watch Betutious and Gradnimal try and kill each other.

    I would have more blood to clean up.

    And I will stare again…memorized…shocked.

    Nothing prepares you for the sight of blood.


  7. @bex_spence
    209 words

    Dust and specks

    A speck outside the Coliseum that’s all Ray was, watching the tourists he looked down at his weathered hands, engrained with the dirt of nations. They came to see the great, not bathe in the filth of the average.

    It was Ray’s job to ensure no one saw the dust, the waste, the minute speckles of grime. For years he had been sweeping the streets, polishing the cobbles, making the city shine.

    The never ending task was wearing, Ray was exhausted from the constant cleaning, the unforgiving, thankless cleaning. While his body ached his mind still ran, cogs spinning.

    Stepping close to the ancient walls, he crouched down, his eyes darting ensuring no one was paying him attention, why would they? He was just the Janitor after all. He took the small hand drill from his tabard and worked at the brick. Each turn wheeled into the structure, boring a hole as he had so many times before.

    Another glance, they were too busy chatting, spitting, spreading germs for him to clean.

    From his bag he took a funnel, slowly shifted the dirt into the stone. Job done he walked away from the great stones, waited for the Coliseum to shift, to slowly fall, weighted with dust and specks.


  8. My Home

    Self-appointed janitor, surveys his domain. His armour is his belief that he is not insane. His payment is his satisfaction that this place still stands he keeps it clean with his own bare hands.

    The bodies of trespassers are dispersed throughout, creatures of all shapes and sizes given some clout. Nothing is wasted, if can’t be used as decoration it’s tonight’s meal, devoured with zeal. His clothes are the covering from many of these the shells from a tortoise protect his knees.

    He’s heard rumbles and whispers from his hiding place, that his home is an eyesore, a disgrace. Talk of a shopping mall bandied around, he planted traps in the grounds. Chiselling bones with gusto great weapons can be made, you know. His only companion he calls rover, he tries training him to attack over and over. Rover thinks it’s a great game and with licks responds to his name.

    Besides his home, Rover is his love, no roof so he constantly converses with the man above.

    Replaying in his mind his all consuming mantra “this is my coliseum, my castle beware of causing me any hassle.”

    Word count 195 without title



  9. Heritage

    Is showing respect too much to ask? I idly jab the spear at this garbage. Every day is the same thing. The tourists come to pretend that being here makes them cultured. Then they prove their sophistication by disrespecting my homeland.
    A Swiss chocolate wrapper discarded into a gladiator’s pen. Would it have killed honor our heritage.
    Ours — lies.
    This is my heritage. They are the decedents of the barbarians that destroyed the great empire. Now, they come to what — to gloat?
    I sound bitter. They aren’t all bad. Some offer me warm smiles, and what are probably kind wishes in their guttural languages.
    I resume my rounds. The tourists ignore me like I am invisible. A young Asian woman steps in front of me. She’s surprised, like she didn’t think expect any Italians to be here. She whispers something in a tone that only a dog could hear, and then takes my photo. She could have at least asked if it was okay.
    I continue into some of the lesser-visited areas. That’s where I see more garbage. A drunk, passed-out in the tunnel where the dead bodies were removed, is discarded garbage. How appropriate.

    197 Words


  10. Josh Bertetta
    “When in Rome”
    160 Words

    “Cole, I see ‘um!”

    “See who?”

    “All of ‘um. Probably every single one of ‘um.”

    Elliot always referred to his father by name, thanks, not to the distance between the two, but because Elliot, a mere six years old, felt as if he were just watching the life he wanted to live.

    “There’s lot of people. Tourists, like us.”

    “I know Cole. I’m talking about the ones down there.” He pointed to where the Romans played their games.

    Cole patted Elliot’s head. He always patted his head when he said he saw something that just wasn’t there. The doctors said it wasn’t schizophrenia, so that was good. Unfortunately, they didn’t know what “name” to give.

    A man with a broom, a dustpan, and a garbage can sauntered out. Elliot thought he heard him whistling.

    Elliot’s hand tightened around his father’s. His short breathes quickened, eyes widened when the janitor began collecting and trashing the gladiators’ severed heads and shorn limbs.


  11. Vinegar


    Ruddy palaver, gettin’ this blood off the walls.

    Bloody gladiators an’ lions and whatnot. Bludgeoning each other to death, ripping each other open. Oh it’s great fun, until muggins here has to clean it all up.

    Anybody would fink they’d know better. I mean, it don’t even matter if you clean it off, ‘cos it’s just goin’ to get all filthy an’ blood-mucked again innit?

    Oh, but the Emperor’s comin’ tomorrow they say. Oh, but there’s this senator, now it’s a foreign ambassador.

    Well, that’s all right then; just hang about whilst I shovel up these guts and brains an’ that, an’ then I’ll go scrub the blood off the walls.


    That’s what I told Septimus; vinegar. That’s what we should use to wash blood off the walls, or lift it off a bit anyway. Would he listen? Would he b*ll*cks.

    Vinegar smells he says.

    Vinegar? Smells?

    Bleedin’ lackwit.

    I’ve half a mind to let on he’s a Christian!


    160 words



  12. Constant Caretaker
    By: Jen DeSantis, @serotoninjunkie
    Words: 208

    He leaned upon the wall, scaling from lime deposits and years of moss growth. In his day, the walls would have gleamed; he would have made sure of it. Still, after so long, the structure filled him with awe.

    Time was, hoards of people would throng through the gates to see the valiant fighters and the mythic beasts do battle. Sweat-soaked and bloody, the heroes would emerge from the belly of the amphitheater to the deafening sounds of the frenzied mob. The roar could be heard for miles.

    And the gentle servant would wait in the wings, so in tune with his building that he could feel it hum with the life contained within. He’d close his eyes, listening, sensing the vibration moving through the floors and up through his entire body.

    He might have been a lowly janitor, but the great building belonged as much to him as he belonged to it.

    And so he stayed. Hundreds of years passed, and still he lingered.

    He’d run his weathered, transparent hands over the ancient stones and feel the history flow through him.

    It filled him with joy to see the visitors, in their foreign, strange garb, still throng through the gates. He was, as always, the constant caretaker.

    *** I apologize for mistypes; my internet crapped out and I had to type this on my phone. 😦 ***


  13. Flash Friday!
    A.J. Walker

    Geoff loved being a caretaker at the Hole Black Institute – he got paid for cleaning up after people; he’d do it for free. Geoff had unearthly cleaning powers for any sort of dirt. If he saw something that shouldn’t be there he wouldn’t rest until it had gone. The twenty year old building looked pristine, like it had just been built.

    Geoff was busy with his Flash* – as he was every Friday – when he mopped up to the research block. Steve in a rush to get out had forgotten to lock the entrance to the corridor. Geoff was ecstatic when he saw the state of the floor. He didn’t care where the soil had come from – he was just thankful for all the mess.

    He was hardly perturbed when he found the blood and rather large shits by the laboratory door. He didn’t wonder who’s the sandal prints were. He noted it was the first time he’d found a severed hand in all his years at HBI.

    When he saw the mess continued beneath the lab door he had no hesitation to open it. That was how Geoff, the mild mannered janitor from Hemel, found himself in the middle of Rome’s Coliseum. The black hole experiment worked; the lion roared.

    (210 words)


    * Note: other floor cleaning detergents are available


  14. Origin of the Mighty Broom
    202 words

    If a plumber like Mario can save the world, why not a janitor?

    The janitorial work was to pay for school, but when I graduated there were no jobs. I shouldn’t have majored in history but who wants to take crap like calculus when you can study gladiators?

    “Coliseum specialist” doesn’t look so hot on a resume. You know what would be amazing on a resume? Superhero.

    I met my first supervillain one night at work. He wore a long black cape and a mask and he was trying to torture the location of the “formula” out of the scientist.

    It was awesome.

    I knew what to do.

    “Leave him alone,” I said. It was poetic. I hoisted my mighty broom, prepared to do battle.

    That’s when the superhero showed up. He was no Mario, but he was a plumber. Go figure.

    The school lit up with lightning bolts and purple smoke. I don’t remember how I got out, but sometime later the plumber found me on the front lawn. He asked if I was okay.

    That plumber made a fool out of me and I plan on returning the favor.

    Supervillain should be good enough to get me a desk job.


  15. The Love of Knowledge

    Dr. Wilhelm Brueggerschmitt had taken over the college of archeology as Indiana Jones graced contemporary movies. His carefully milked the publicity to benefit his department.

    He enjoyed success. He drove a range rover, and wore tailored suits. But now the emphasis in the university shifted from growing one’s department to the employability of graduates.

    The board of regents demanded he hold a freshman symposium to address the issue. He explained one didn’t study archeology for the sake of employment, but they would not relent.

    He invited the janitor from the coliseum as the keynote speaker.

    The former student explained how he was forced to menial work, below minimum wage, barely surviving. His presentation was done too early, so he took a question.

    “Why don’t you quit? Take another job?” asked the student.

    “I could never leave the coliseum.” He answered, and for the next two hours he regaled the students with enthusiastic stories about history, discovery, and the glory of the place. He concluded by saying, “I clean old rocks, but I count it a privilege.”

    He received a standing ovation, and Dr. Brueggerschmitt smiled. By the end of the day he had over a hundred new applications to his program. Education is perfunctory, but enthusiasm is contagious.

    208 Words
    @CharlesWShort (www.christianflashweekly.wordpress.com)


  16. Janua

    “I still call them janua. Latin lingers doesn’t it? I suppose it’s often for the elite, the specialized, like doctors and horticulturists,” I smile and continue, “I suppose it’s fitting then that I use it, despite my preference coming from my origins rather than from studies.”
    I reach my pale gold hands out, “Here, let me take that. It’s why you’ve come. Not to hear me wax poetic about the words of my world. My life.”
    I feel a infinitesimal weight shift into my hands, a faint shadow inked across my palms.
    “Animus lucidus, be free, find your path, enjoy the universe,” I say and the shadow fades.
    I have absorbed it.
    I have taken your broken dream and cleaned your spirit. You will find a new way to help, to bring light into mankind.
    You are but one person but each person who I clean, each person who walks through one of my doors, has a great power within to help shift the balance. To be another small weight on the scale to tip us toward the light.
    I watch you walk across the colosseum, no longer burdened by hopes gone sour.
    I close my janua and reopen it, green fields now, another face waiting.
    I smile.

    208 words


  17. A Life in Miniature
    Margaret Locke (@Margaret_Locke or margaretlocke.com)
    208 words

    It was an accident, I swear. I didn’t mean to break it, the Colosseum, but, well, you know–I’m clumsy. The boss is always saying so.

    Was it my fault they hadn’t secured that skeleton well enough? Or that I tripped over an extension cord and knocked down the entire Powhatan wigwam?

    They’d docked my wages for months after that one.

    It’s OK, though. I love this job. Where else could I see places I’ll never really see, experience things I’ll never have a chance to, even if only in 1:32 scale?

    The people are amazing here. The languages I hear, the excitement on faces, the running, the shouting. The engagement. Families, couples, children–they all engage with each other, engage with the exhibits. They are so alive. Even the wailing babies don’t bother me.

    Better than the silence I face each night at home.

    I wonder what their lives are like, these people who don’t notice me. I pick up their trash, chase after their leavings. I ensure their visit is clean. Sparkly. Fresh.

    There is no dirt here. There is no seamy underbelly in a museum, just the pictures we want to see, the ideas we want to hold true.

    There’s just me. Living an invisible life.


  18. Roman Therapy
    Jay Dee Archer (@jaydeejapan)
    209 words

    “Please come in and sit down,” said the therapist.

    The elderly man sat on the couch and gazed into the therapist’s eyes. “Thank you, doctor,” he wheezed.

    “May I have your name?”

    “Yes. I’m Marcus Janitorus.”

    “And what do you do, Mr. Janitorus?” he asked, positioning his stylus above the wax tablet.

    “I clean at the Flavian Amphitheatre. You know, garbage, blood, things like that.” Marcus cast his eyes down, uncomfortable with eye contact.

    The therapist scribbled down some notes and nodded. “I see, I see. What brings you here today?”

    “I can’t do it anymore. I just can’t do it! Day in and day out, I see the fights, I see the lions tear apart the slaves. When the spectacle is finished, it’s my job to clean up the severed body parts. The gore is tremendous!” Marcus put his face into his hands, his body jerking with each sob.

    “Do you have nightmares and flashbacks?”

    Marcus nodded, unable to speak.

    “I see. You may have posttraumatic stress disorder,” said the therapist, writing on the tablet.

    “I can’t work for Domitian anymore!” Marcus shouted.

    “Please go home and rest, Mr. Janitorus.” Marcus shuffled out of the room. The therapist looked at his notes. Treatment: Animal therapy with the lions.


  19. Too Much Work on The Western Edge
    David Shakes
    198 words

    There’s so much that needs fixing, I’m in constant danger of procrastination.
    Work on the tangible is a great way to consume my time. It’s mindless work but provides the reassuring illusion of effectiveness.
    When I’m cementing cracks in the Coliseum, I’ve no time to see the chasms between nations. Funny I should work on their structures whilst all around, they lay waste to mine.
    I look in on the garden from time to time. The fruit still ripens on the tree but they’ve no need to eat of it, once was all it took. The rest is overgrown, unkempt, neglected for aeons.
    Sometimes, I hear weeping and then realise that it’s me.
    My destiny as a father has been to watch these little scraps of rebellion use the spark of creation I’d given but distort it through their many flaws, their perfect imperfections on show for time immemorial.
    Look at this place – an architectural wonder; a place of death and anguish.
    There’s too much erosion to the western edge. I’ll busy myself with that.
    I’m the CEO turned janitor.
    Too late, I realised that the caretaker always knows more than the boss.
    Can you hear someone crying?


  20. Cheap
    203 Words

    “One hundred tigers from Anatolia,” whispered Flav, peering through the hypogeum slats as the crowd’s shrieks intensified. “Barbary lions.”

    Marcel squeezed his eyes closed, imagining the blood. Great pools of it, congealing in the sun, soaking into the sand. Smearing his legs, soiling his hands. Already the coppery odor left him dizzy, permeating the tunnel where the slave-janitors waited.

    The tunnel shook with screams from the Colosseum crowd. Their gate cranked open; one of the gladiators had gone down.

    Flav and Marcel, beefy youths, were always sent out first; they could heave a body quickly, and speed was important in animal contests. There were no guarantees that the taunted creatures had been subdued.

    Flav grasped the dead gladiator’s wrists. Marcel took the ankles.

    Nearby a beast howled in pain. Flav’s eyes widened at a horror of fangs and claws. Janitors carried no weapons. Theirs were cheap, invisible lives. They cleaned the messes that everyone else could ignore.

    Flav stumbled and dropped the body, marooning Marcel beneath its burden.

    The arrow-ridden beast, in its dying rage, hit Marcel like a Fury, all slicing claws and gnashing teeth. Bloodsmell poisoned the air.

    Their deaths were fast, though no one screamed or even noticed them fall.


  21. Checkout (210 words)

    Lennie started his day the same way he had for the last six decades: A bowl of cereal and the morning newspaper. He liked the comics and the obituaries. Maybe the latter was a getting older quirk.

    He then ironed his grey blazer his deceased wife, Maggie, got him around when JFK’s head got blown off. Black slacks, too. Next, he shined his touch-of-brown loafers.

    Over the suit, he wore his blue jumper. They never minded the shoes.

    Today, the coliseum, as he called it, was being demolished. Built during the Depression under the New Deal, the library was a relic in the modern era with its small frame, small bookshelves and small books.

    But it was Lennie’s to clean. Today, he’d clean it like any other day. His old reliable baby blue microfilter cloth would get the job done.

    It was his duty to keep pristine the books untouched for decades. Maybe that factored into the demolition, too.

    He arrived at the coliseum and allowed himself a deep intake of that old book smell; the familiar aroma that snuggled his nostrils and had comforted him for years.

    Alas, Lennie wasn’t spinning at the same speeds the world now did.

    The demolition team was setting up outside. Lennie started dusting.


  22. Those Damn Emperors
    (206 words)

    Once a symbol of the wealth and power of ancient Rome, the coliseum now lay in ruins. Its fine draperies gone, grand colors faded and most of its structure lost to the ravages of time. But not everything had slipped into oblivion. Some nights the coliseum relived the glory of its youth as the wind carried the sounds of laughter throughout the ruins.

    Sergio the janitor sighed as he scanned the vast coliseum sprawling before him. When he heard the laughter on the wind, Sergio knew it was going to be a long night.

    Sergio picked up his broom and headed to the emperor’s box. He scowled when he arrived, finding food and wine cups littering the floor.

    Shaking his head and looking at the dark figure gazing over the arena, Sergio started complaining.
    “Eh, Verspasian, why do you make such a mess? I don’t appreciate you spilling your wine everywhere. Mama mia, you’re almost as bad as Nero.” Sergio continued to grumble as he cleaned the emperor’s box.

    “Next time, you clean it!” Sergio shouted as he made his way down to the arena. Verspasian continued to stand and stare at the past.

    “Why,” Sergio thought, “are the ghosts of Roman emperors so damn messy.”


  23. After Hours
    204 words

    I took off my work boots, leaned back in the green leather chair, and put my feet on the mahogany desk.

    The Headmaster did himself well, even for a private school. No wonder his office was strictly out of bounds after hours. But the caretaker always has the keys to the kingdom, even if he isn’t supposed to use them.

    I poured a large brandy and helped myself to a cigar from the humidor. I could get used to this. The smoke veiled the oil painting opposite, the Coliseum at twilight, in an extra layer of glamour and intrigue.

    ‘Need to dust…’ I thought, as a speck moved past my eye.

    Wait – not dust. Something moved in the picture. I swung my legs down and padded over for a closer look.

    A tiny figure in white grew, and sharpened, and it was pointing at me. The laurel wreath hid the Headmaster’s baldness well, but the toga was unflattering.

    Was he growing larger, or was I growing smaller?

    ‘Every time they succumb to temptation,’ he muttered, smiling. He snapped his fingers, and was gone.

    And as a mass of teeth and claws and fur bounded towards me, I really wished I’d kept my boots on.


  24. Clean Up (210 words)

    “Sir, do you really want to do that? Can’t we just let the hog roll around with him?” Avery, a small-lipped man said, he had a receding hairline and was not-so-affectionately known around the office as the “Man of Cubicles.”

    “Davis, look at my name-tag.” the tall man said, his alligator shoes reflected his bald head.


    “Look at it, what does it say?”

    “Kenneth,” Avery said.

    “Below that.”

    “Manager. Manager, sir.”

    “Then do it. Let the janitor at him,” Kenneth said.

    The “him” was Jeremy. A new hire, but he wasn’t catching on. Numbers confused him like finding pudding in your sock would. Kenneth had no time for such incompetence inside his coliseum.

    That’s how the office was treated: under war-like terms. His people were his “little warriors.” If you became deadweight, usually you rolled around with the hog and were kicked out. Shamed and embarrassed, but still alive.

    Not today. Kenneth desired the janitor. His warriors were getting soft-skinned, even lazy; it was time to shake things up. He hadn’t used the janitor since ‘93 on a poor intern named Louie.

    The “janitor” was a 420-pound brute of a lion with a roar that caused the “Man of Cubicles” to literally shit himself.

    Jeremy was deadweight today indeed.


  25. Clean Sweep
    195 words

    Let me tell you, it’s quite a job, cleaning up after the end of the world. Oh yes, it’s ended many times, but you don’t know it.

    You don’t notice me, between your moments, the traces of my cloth, the carpet sweeper, picking up your dust. I dust the Buddhas and Byzantine icons, the Chinese jades, the Pyramids.

    There’s so much that needs cleaning, like the sand in the Coliseum–the screams, the cheers, the blood. They gave me the keys to all the doors. Which ones hide the tigers?

    But it’s my job. Working overtime, you might say. Working while you sleep.

    I have been assigned to clean so many things. It’s the wars that are the worst. Gettysburg was bad, but Auschwitz nearly broke me. I piled up the shoes and the glasses, the teeth and shattered dolls. Later, I left the shadows at Hiroshima, the dirty water at Chernobyl. I left traces at the Twin Towers, too.

    I may not be that good at my job. I should not be leaving these things for you. It may be vanity, after all, this desire to communicate. See, I have this need to miss a spot.


  26. 206 words w/o title


    When I retire I’m goin’ to Rome. Nuthin’ you can do about it.

    In Rome I bet they don’t spit their damn gum out on the ground. Who lets their kid take gum to school? Parents, that’s who. Parents not payin’ attention. There’s your problem.

    There were folks in that Coliseum in Rome, back in the day – last thing they saw was a dang lion comin’ at ’em. Last friggin’ thing. Lion, roar of the crowd, hit the dirt, that’s it. There’s your big prize. Congratu-friggin-lations.

    A buncha lions’d whip kids into shape around here, I tell ya. Wake up those parents, too. Maybe just throw the parents in there.

    I’m just kidding. I love these slobby kids. They should come scrape this gum off, though.

    Now they got this stinky chemical concoction, supposed to take the gum right off. Guy who invented that, he’s a rich bugger now. I bet he Jets off to Rome whenever he wants. In his own damn plane. Probably got his own lion, too.

    Can’t use chemical stuff, might be poison. Not good for the kids, if you ask me. I’ll just scrape it. Or make one of these varmints do it.

    I’m goin’ to Rome.



  27. Tooth and Bruise
    (210 words)

    The crowd is text book; pent-up, released from the constraints of desk and chair. They erupt from compulsory civility to jeer as the Gladiators enter the arena that at noon masqueraded as playground.
    They pick their side, split lip decision, goading cherub faced opponents to fight tooth and bruise.
    Sleeves rolled up, shirts untucked, they have until The Janitor patrols to unravel the rules.

    Archie takes up the boxer’s stance an uncle taught him once. He wills his fists to work faster than Stick’s mouth. He’ll take a jab for every dirty, piggin’ jibe that Stick’s thrown about his mum.
    His fists will. Bang. Bang. Bang. Punctuating the end of stinging slurs.

    Now, Archie’s cotton wool ears dull howl and whoop to whisper. The mob transported by adrenaline, he stands alone to face his enemy. He flings the first punch. Knuckle on enamel, and Stick stumbles backwards – a toppling giant – but he finds his footing. And even before he packs the punch that extracts all air from Archie’s lungs; he’s seen the wet patch on grey trousers, that he makes sure the others see when Archie lies spread-eagled.

    The Janitor’s on his rounds. Sweeping up defeat, he shoos the crowd, before gently collecting Archie from the ground.



    Brian S Creek
    196 words

    I stand at the centre of The Colosseum.

    Of course that is not the structures true name, only one you humans gave it. This structure you barbarians once used as an arena of violence is merely the tip of the iceberg.

    Buried deep beneath Rome is a titanic machine of great power. Constructed just before the dawn of mankind it was put in place as a safe guard for the planet, a restart button if you will.

    Do not feel persecuted for Earth is not alone in housing such a device. Each planet that we nurture and populate has this failsafe in place.

    I will be sad to see you go. You were my own creation and had the potential to be so much more. But it seems that I miscalculated and you grew dangerously out of control. Now I must clean up the mess you have left behind.

    I hold my hand out flat and the gem in the centre of my palm glows. The ground beneath shifts mechanically aside to reveal a large, rising cone of rainbow colours. When it stops rising I will activate the machine and this world will be wiped clean.


  29. The Janitor.
    @CliveNewnham – 199 words

    ‘The train arriving…’
    Hidden by people he sat in the boarding lounge for Gate E, his eyes feigning rest, hiding from the glances, the stares, the ones that sensed fear. He replayed the garden party: sunshine, fathers and sons, discussions, mothers and daughters, whispers in an ear, laughter on rouge lips, canapes, sparkling wines, crystal flutes dropped as Angioletta Dinapoli fell, a hole between her eyes, screams… the raging yell that the boyfriend cast out.
    She should not have been there, should not have fallen, not with them; but she had, to the wrath of The Father and the misplaced love of youth. Foolish sweet girl…
    How many years had he been Dinapoli’s? A procession of faces – scared or outraged, begging, surprised, all dead – marched through his review, he their cold porter or doorkeeper.
    Janitor do this, Janitor do that. None of them knew him by any other name; not even Angioletta.
    ‘The train arriving…’
    There would be war, and Chicago would not be arena enough. He stood, stuffing his trembling fingers into his trouser pockets.
    For the first time he would not collect the blood money. It was time for a career change, time for retirement.



    Brian S Creek
    205 words

    Just one body left and that was me done for the evening. At least it should have been but nothing ever goes smooth. I guess the Gods find it amusing.

    Anyway, one body left, right in the centre of the Arena. As I hauled my corpse cart over to it something looked off. I’ve seen enough Gladiators get torn to scraps in this place and this one didn’t look right.

    I stood over the body and wondered where all the blood was. There was a little, sure but not like when most guys go down. These butchers don’t do anything by half.

    And that’s when his eyes opened.

    “Are you going to throw me on the wagon or what?”

    Well, once I’d stopped pissing myself and remembered how to breathe I asked the corpse what the Hell was going on.

    “I need your help to flee the city. Just chuck me in with the rest and I can make my own way from the pits. Please.”

    I lent closer to him. “No can do.”

    His eyes widened as my knife went in between his ribs.

    Cheeky bastard. When I’m asked to clean up fifteen bodies from the Colosseum fifteen bodies is what I clean up.


  31. Bruno pulled the rake through the clodded sand. It stank of iron and ammonia but at least now the flies had stopped their gorging; now they no longer funnelled fatly up around Bruno’s face when he disturbed them. He sweated and choked in the smoky still air. He swallowed, hawked and spat, then swallowed again when he saw what his rake had dragged up. The lion’s tooth caught the light from the guttering torches around the arena.

    He picked up the tooth and turned it over in his hand. It was jagged at the base so it was broken, it had not just dropped from the jaw of one of the older lions, the ones who were too tired to attack until starved and tormented with long stabbing spears. One of the traitors must have fluked a lucky blow before he met his divine punishment or perhaps the lions had butted heads in the ripping and rending of flesh, the cracking of bone.

    Bruno slipped the tooth into his pouch. He would hand it in to his gangmaster when the sand in the arena was ready for the next day’s bloodletting. It might be worth an extra piece of bread. He spat and began to rake again.

    207 words


  32. A Pocket Full of Teeth

    He’s got arms like bowling balls and legs like pencils. Da always said never neglect your legs; it’s them that stops you from biting the cobbles. Da was King of the Gypsies for five years. Unlike some, he called enough before his brain turned soft. Now he’s bringing on this young lad, Jem.

    I saw my first fight when I was seven and cried for a day. I was waist high to the mob, following the progress of the fight through their cheers and cries, until Da lifted me like a sack of straw onto his shoulders. Then I could see. Sirloin faces and greasy chests. Da took me outside – “stop snivelling pup” – and sent me home to my mother to help with women’s work. Now I clean the pit between bouts, scattering fresh sawdust on red puddles, and picking up teeth.

    Jem falls early despite his adversary’s underdeveloped legs. Da helps him to his feet and ushers him from the arena beneath a snowstorm of betting slips. I rake the sawdust and scatter some fresh. I collect Jem’s tooth and put it in my pocket. When I get home I’ll put it in the jar beneath my bed: the jar labelled there’s no shame in women’s work.

    208 words


  33. Foy
    word count: 209

    “The Dead Belong to the Vulture”

    I know a hunger that compels self-preservation to bend before it. You think it a lie, seeing me this way, Lord of the Spoils.

    That gnawing will push you to chase the warm winds, letting them sustain you as shadows stretch, until below, spirit separates from carrion. Then the descent begins, slow, patient, allowing the sun to soften flesh, and the insects to perform their first rite of oviposition.

    Other beasts, ambling along the road, will take interest, and try to steal away your prize by brute persuasion but that emptiness shackles you to the corpse, bestowing unnatural boldness.

    So was my life before this place.

    How could I not stay? When first I caught the incense of a 100 rotting bodies, some white and blue with lividity, others gray and bleeding fresh, I knew hunger was not a word spoken in the shade of this Coliseum.

    Men, hiding pink flesh inside blinding armor, poked at me, wishing to drive me away from their slain.
    For a time, I would retreat only to circle and come again. They wouldn’t eat it. What god gave them power to deny me my purpose? Persistence and convenience won them over.

    Now they house me here, fat and full, Lord of the Spoils.


  34. The Last to Leave

    Marian is at the entrance with her cardboard suitcase when I get to work. “It’s not Thursday,” I say, but she just stares towards the high fence riddled with windblown plastic. “Why don’t you go inside? They’ll be here tomorrow,” I lie. A faint smile leads her away from me. For her, every day’s Thursday. Marion starts singing and I listen as I sweep.

    Vandals came again last night, taking photos and covering the walls with snippets about ashes, horror, and mortality. A mockery of the brittle photos of classical ruins on the walls.

    Some patients greet me as I pass them. Empty wheelchairs and beds stand a silent vigil in dust laden rooms.

    Orange and scarlet autumn leaves have blown in through empty windows, mingling with flakes of pale paint peeling from the unkempt walls. This place will not remain like the ruins in the photos. Soon we’ll be reclaimed; the empty concrete shell, Marian, the patients, and me.

    We’ll rest then; our lives no longer bound here, written in peeling paint upon decaying walls. We will become lost memories, an unknown white flare in a photograph.  

    I’m simply waiting for everyone to leave before I lock up one last time.  

    A janitor is always the last to leave.

    Words: 210 http://www.hersenskim.blogspot.com @CarinMarais


  35. Mother Always Said

    210 words

    “My mother was right, always said you’d never amount to much,” snarled Brandon’s mum, attacking his dad yet again. Then she turned on Brandon. “And you,” she jabbed her knife at him, “are going the same way. Do you want to end up like him?”

    Dead end job, doormat husband, crap dad. Brandon left the room.

    When he returned it was to find the ruin of his mother’s body lying arched and empty-eyed on the floor.

    “She was wrong you know,” said his dad as he mopped up. “There is one thing I’m good at and that’s stain removal. Something you’d do well to learn.”

    Brandon shrugged his shoulders, feeling nothing as he followed his father’s instructions for body waste disposal; being a janitor in a morgue obviously taught a man many things.

    When all was done, they toasted their freedom with a silent beer.

    And night after night, Brandon sat down to dinner, trying to ignore his father’s increasingly dissatisfied stare.

    “Your mother was right,” growled his dad eventually. “She always said you’d never amount to much. I bet there’s even a bucket with your name on it.”

    And it was then, as Brandon plunged the knife into his father’s chest, that he realised he was exactly like him.


  36. Sally’s Roman Holiday

    200 words

    Sally rocked her job with style. Headphones looped round her neck, and the shoulder of her overalls draped down her arm. Rocking her head side-to-side she swept the mop across the hallway.
    ‘Hey, Janny, y’missed a bit!’

    Turning to look, Sally smiled and waved. The tune in her ear drowned out the detail of the call.
    At lunchtime she dodged the canteen and sat in her car eating sandwiches from a recycled bag. The two day old bread was dry, but like the out-of-date cheese, was okay.

    She closed her eyes and conjured up Rome. Google maps had taken her to the Trevi Fountain, round The Colosseum, shopping along Via Veneto. She had maps, photographs, and plans.

    Something bounced on her windscreen. She opened her eyes and saw the remains of an apple. Some third year pupils stood by the tennis courts laughing. Sally leaned back, listening to Caruso. So what. Three months until the end of term. Her boot was full of another pilfered stationary supply. After six years of mopping dirty footprints and puke – as well as stealing all she could – she could handle a little more disrespect.

    In Rome she would be reborn.



  37. @twinkieconfit
    210 words

    The Call

    Joe stood in the closet he’d dubbed his office, staring at the picture hanging above the sink and listening to its whispers. Rome’s colosseum had called to him since he was seven years old, when he’d first seen a picture of it in a magazine. Curiosity became fascination before blossoming into obsession. Now, two weeks before his retirement and the trip to Italy he’d been saving for all his life, the colosseum spoke to him constantly.

    Motionless before the sink, he stood in thrall to the image of the ancient structure. His chapped hands, sweaty inside latex gloves, hung clenched at his sides. His vision narrowed until he was no longer aware of the supply closet.

    The oppressive heat of the hypogeum washed over him. Lamp smoke stung his eyes and mingled with the stench of sweat, animal dung, and blood. His ears rang with the roar of the crowd above. Stone walls whispered to him of home, and of unfinished business, until his heart ached with longing and regret.

    The secretary’s voice came over the walkie-talkie, ripping him from his reverie. “Joe, room 20 needs a clean up. Another student got sick.”

    He sighed. “I’m on it.”

    As he left, he looked back at the picture. “Two weeks.”


  38. Spectators of Imagery


    “Upper Paleolithic era…”


    “Mesolithic era…”


    I enrolled in Art History because I’d enjoyed museums as a child. Mom loved art. Thinking it’d be an easy filler course for my baccalaureate core. Checking the boxes, doing the right thing, getting my degree when all I wanted to do, was read.

    I sat in the colossal lecture hall with droves of other less-than-eager, caffeine addicted life-sucked-souls that hoped to make something of themselves and escape the same prison sentences their parents before them had all come to endure. Life’s drudgery.

    Bettering ourselves, they call it. Honestly, we’re all custodians. Mopping up our parents’ mistakes, sweeping up sediment of their angst and fears, hoping for a clean slate; Janitors of omission.

    So we sit, in the dark. Slides clicking. Listless professor droning on, we view the rudimentary crap carved from stone or painted, in earth tones no less, either way ancient crap only of interest to anthropologists. We sit in the dark—after lunch, warding off sleep—examining rubbish.

    Longing for bathetic prose or literary litany while submerged in depths of prehistoric art hell, I remind myself; endure until the Greek and Roman era. Then the amphitheater will come alive, until then, a bloodbath of boredom.

    210 words


  39. The ‘Roman’ Observer
    202 words

    I shamble through the stacked tiers of the enormous travertine bowl of the Colosseum, moving quickly as the weighted shackles permit. I lift a discarded rind from its marble seat, feel it slither to the bottom of my bag. A shard of broken clay settles beside it, rapidly joined by the scrap of leather torn from a nobleman’s sandal.

    How have I fallen this far? Me! How is it that I am reduced to residence in chains? To cleaning this house of carnage between bouts of depravity, gathering the debris of revelry absently abandoned by those watching the inferior bleed out for their pleasure?

    How long will they prey on themselves, in the absence of any worthwhile enemy? When will they discard this myopic delusion of grandeur, to finally acknowledge the sentience embedded in the bones of the world?

    What would these macabre voyeurs do with a REAL monster within their stone ring? A fabled, towering beast of wing and hide from their blackest night-terrors, one effortlessly suspending the Earth’s Elements between my strong claws?

    Teeth far too long and sharp flash briefly between my lips, emboldened by the fantasy of casting off my illusionary form.

    Tempted, I am, to find out.


  40. “Lions”
    by Michael Seese
    209 words

    A janitor is a lot like air. You don’t give a second thought to the presence of either. But you sure as hell notice their absence.

    Joseph was grateful for his job at the Federated Church. It afforded him shelter, security. Alone, in his small apartment in the basement, he would drink in the peace. Growing up, silence had been a commodity as rare to him as the luxuries Westerners took for granted. He cursed those who allowed hate to poison the once-pristine well of religion. Too many friends had died at the hands of those who saw their way as the only way.

    He had prayed for guidance, for strength. Finally, he was granted both. He celebrated by smoking a cigarette, inhaling the freedom which comes with conviction.

    Watching the Sunday parishioners file in this snowy morning, Rev. Holt felt his janitor’s absence, as a slushy, slippery mess began accumulating just inside the door.

    Where in the world is Joe? he wondered. Rev. Holt never would have imagined his janitor was huddled in the apartment, preparing to make his presence felt.

    Yussef looked at his comrades, and dramatically slapped the clip into his AK-47. “My brothers, the time has come. Today, we throw these Christians to the lions.”


  41. The Forgotten
    (210 words)

    Fadia softly wept as she picked up the bronze coin from the floor of the hypogeum. Holding the coin close to her chest she spoke quietly.

    “Gaius, I salute you.”

    It the last time his name would be spoken in the coliseum.

    Fadia took a few more steps before stopping and picking up a small figurine. Carved out of wood, it had been splintered by a hard blow. Once more Fadia quietly spoke.

    “Lucius, I salute you.”

    Another name never to be spoken again.

    But there were far more names that would fall silent for eternity.

    There were names of men who fought valiantly but fell to the blades of greats like Spartacus and Flamma. Other names that dropped their gladius and ran, only to be jeered by a disappointed crowd before being slaughtered like sheep.

    Names like Asil and Emmerich from Roman provinces such as Syria and Gaul. Ripped from their homelands for the amusement of Rome, then dragged through the hypogeum and fed to the beasts after they died. Precious tokens of their lives littering the floor.

    Time and the roar of the bloodthirsty crowd would vanquish their names to obscurity. However, they would live on through the tears of Fadia, the janitor who cleaned the lion cages.


  42. When In Rome
    207 words

    The Roman Gods’ Annual Dinner Dance was in full swing.

    Saturn was showing off her rings. Vulcan was mingling, wishing each guest a cheery “live forever and prosper”. Mars was suggesting some sort of contest involving lions, though no-one could think of anything to pit them against.

    Then Bacchus knocked back his wine, burped loudly, and said to Neptune “do you know that you smell of fish?”

    There was a horrified silence. This was indeed true, but the others tended to pretend otherwise, especially since Pan had once made a joke about it and now walked with his legs on backwards.

    Neptune swung his trident at Bacchus, but accidentally hit Jupiter, who promptly punched Apollo in the face. Apollo then broke a chair over Mercury’s head, because no bar-brawl is complete without someone doing that.

    Oaths flew. Lightning bolts flew. The ceiling fell in. The windows fell out. Bacchus fell over.

    Then Fabreze, Goddess of Janitors, put her fingers to her mouth and emitted a whistle that opened black holes in the very fabric of the galaxy. The startled Gods turned to her, and she uttered the phrase that has become the mantra of all those over whom she watches.

    “You needn’t think I’m cleaning this up”.


  43. Title: Janitor Salary
    Words: 204

    When my promise of happily ever after ended, I picked up my suitcase, locked the door, and hid the key under the potted plant. I stepped off the front porch and could hear Mary’s voice in my head. You’ll never take me to Rome. Your janitor salary can barely pay the mortgage. And she had been right. My salary was barely paying the mortgage.

    Later that summer I was going to surprise her with tickets to Rome. I had picked up extra shifts at work to wax and polish the floors. But then the car broke down. Now the car is more important than me? she had said sadly when I mentioned it. I told her of course not but I couldn’t get to work without the car, let alone the airport to go to Rome. The car had to be fixed.

    Then Mary met a doctor. She said he would take her to Rome someday. And for her sake I hope she is right.

    I could never afford two tickets to Rome. But I could afford one. My suitcase was light in my hands, the lightest baggage I had ever carried. With a ticket in hand, I left, seeking my new ever after.


  44. Title: Just
    words: 207

    Just a janitor? Excuse me, JUST a janitor?

    You think slimy kids like you walk around leaving roses without thorns wherever you go? No sir, it is all thorns.

    You think heartthrob teenagers such as yourself are all minty fresh? No ma’am, that is just the wad of gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe.

    And you with your nose upturned toward me like I reek of rotten eggs and salmon? That is the smell of the bathroom mess all you kiddies create.

    You go around snapping photos of this historic place appreciating how little it has changed over time? Well the Coliseum was once covered in blood and if it weren’t for people like me you’d be stepping on the dust of thousands of fallen corpses and walking in the spit of a drunken audience watching the blood bath below.

    You kids are the seven dwarves of gross – dirty, sloppy, sneezy, leaky, grungy, trashy, and filthy.

    So you see me as just a janitor. But janitors clean trash and that is all you are. So move along and think about your impact on the world. I clean it. You dirty it. I clean it. I may be just a janitor, but I’m better than you.


  45. @stellakateT
    199 words

    A Clean Sweep

    She’d been found in the alley clutching a postcard of the coliseum tight to her chest. PC Arrowsmith wasn’t sure if she’d died of old age or been bludgeoned to death. Her face was a total mess. You couldn’t see her features but then it was years since he’d seen anyone older than forty. By law you had to register for an old age permit and pray to God the quota hadn’t been reached otherwise you were shipped off to an old people’s ghetto before you could say Frank Sinatra. They were called retirement homes but everyone knew better. It was rumoured the old were sent to work to maintain the equilibrium.

    Standing in the shadows he surveyed the crime scene. He was more certain than the young policeman it was murder. He’d followed the young man and watched him meet this old woman. She had one of those small suitcases on wheels containing subversive material he was sure. She was trying to convince the youth there was a world waiting for him to explore.

    He was the Janitor; he kept this green and pleasant country clean and tidy. The old would not taint the young in his lifetime.


  46. The sweep of history

    @geofflepard 209 words

    Cardinal Spencer brushed cigarette ash off his sleeve; another stain removed. He watched the police hold back the crowds, while the paramedics worked futilely to punch life into the Pope’s chest. The white choir dress began to stain red, this taint beyond his powers. Forty years serving five Popes and it had come this.
    The shadows from the Coliseum gave him both shade and brief anonymity. Working in the background was his real skill. Cleaning up the Papal messes: the high profile –the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano and Calvi’s suicide; the abuse of children and the subsequent cover ups – and the mundane. God’s Janitor. But now the dirt was too ingrained.
    He tapped the nearest policeman on the sleeve. The officer stepped back to let the Cardinal through. He moved confidently to the man clearly in charge. “I think you will want this.” He held out the handgun.
    He looked at the dead Pontiff’s unseeing eyes and prayed. He had willingly dirtied his hands. He had done all that they asked; every crisis, every problem he had been there to cauterise, sanitise, pacify. But not this, this treachery, this undermining of everything Holy. He knew he had to act when they had come and said, ‘We want to modernise’.


  47. Shed Counsellor

    @geofflepard word count 209

    It was her wrist I noticed first. She had on this long sleeved shirt but it rode up when she stretched to put the model on the table.
    ‘What’s that?’
    ‘The Coliseum. We… Hannah made it. She’s doing Ancient Rome.’
    ‘Pretty good for an eight year old.’
    That’s when she started sobbing. I propped up my broom and made her sit. I shouldn’t have let her in but she looked so worried. I’d seen her about, always late for pick up, never really joining with the other mums. ‘Take your time and tell Arthur.’
    It’s the job, see. I clean the classrooms and the playground. Often times I clean the kids too, scrape off the mud, or pop on a plaster, wipe away a tear. My shed is warm, see, and the playground’s a rough place. Sometimes I help with the parents’ mess-ups. Lost car keys and bags, sneaking in late homework, hints if their kid’s getting a hard time out there.
    This one though. The red scar, neat and straight that her bangles couldn’t hide. Crying over some stupid papier-mâché thing. I made us tea while she stopped the noise. ‘He left me. He made it. What will I do?’
    There are some messes I can’t clear up.


  48. The Lion Whisperer
    210 words

    The worst part was mucking out the lions. They may be the kings of the jungle, but their turds are enormous and their breath stinks. 

    Another day another denarius, I muttered. Ha, denarii would be a fine thing. I was unpaid. Bed and board and be grateful for it, Tibullus the slavedriver said, lolling against an arch and assaulting his teeth with an ivory pick. I followed his gaze to where the retiarii were messing around with nets and tridents. No fish to catch here, guys.

    A growl reminded me that I wasn’t a spectator. Brutus tried a swipe with his colossal paw. Used to his ways, I dodged and gave him a smack with my broom which made him slink to the corner. ‘Down, boy!’

    I returned to sweeping, but there was a sharp clap. And another. I sneaked a glance at the gladiators applauding me. The trainer beckoned me over. ‘Can you do that with other lions?’

    Behind me, Livy roared. He wanted dindins. I fetched the meat bucket and held a chunk high for him. Hours of practice paid off as slowly Livy’s front feet lifted from the ground and I dropped the meat into his maw.

    And that was just the beginning of my brilliant career.


  49. Elisa @AverageAdvocate
    Word Count: 210
    “My Boss, Handsome Johnny”

    Whisking me off my sensible feet, Mr. Roselli took me out to play–
    So giddy–I didn’t know he even felt that way!
    This morning he called at eight, arrived at three,
    Thrusting brusquely past our janitor to get to me.
    My top button suddenly felt too tight,
    My shy smile grew wide; inside I soared like a kite.
    Just yesterday I was well-coiffed, pinned-down,
    But in his penthouse my hair was ruffled under Sinatra’s soothing sound.
    “It’s Secretary Day!” Roselli cried with glee,
    He moved the years of imaginary employee’s flowers to pass me a key.
    My trembling hands, forever smelling of our office soap,
    Inched to open his envelope.
    My blood rushed as I squelched my dreams,
    Although my heart-wrenching wanderlust burst at the seams!
    Hopefully glancing at my board, pinned with snapshots from afar,
    I was distracted by the window framing his car.
    Crestfallen, instantly my nerves were grating,
    While he cooed, “My dove, why are you waiting?”
    A relic from his travels, a scratched postcard from ancient Rome,
    Scribbled on the back it said “Just call before visiting my home!”
    Nuzzling my neck, he pressed the key into my palm.
    I glared at the Marilyn Monroe in his Maserati, centering my raging calm.


    • Another secretary used and (probably) discarded. I like the way you describe it as ‘Secretary Day’ in a way that marks him out as a bit of a sleazeball, highlighted even further by the other woman in his car/


  50. Terpsichore
    210 words

    “You land the lead for Swan Drudge, or what?” Mr. Lagorio sniped over the shaving mirror propped on his desk.

    Bruna shrugged into her beige coveralls, taking time with her nametag so she wouldn’t have to respond. His barb sank into her as if through tulle.

    Though she hadn’t expected to pass the audition, anticipation for it had lofted her through weeks of piss-slick tiles and gum-grouted columns. The day of, the judges scrutinized the leotard sagging around thick hips and howled her off stage–and off dancing.

    “We’re hitting the hyp tonight,” Mr. Lagorio announced.

    Bruna’s heart stumbled. An open-air labyrinth, the hypogeum was a huge job. And judging by the deadly dose of aftershave, Mr. Lagorio had a hot indiscretion awaiting him.

    She mopped her leaden way into the center of arena. The weary spotlight of a gibbous moon shone down at her from above the arcades.

    Bruna released the mop. Shadows frowned against the walls as her fingers fumbled with her zipper.

    To the distant purr of traffic, she began to move. She spun, twisted, leapt in and out of ancient cells. The moonlight skimmed her body in beauty.

    When at last she sagged into a sweat-stroked curtsy, the vault of Olympus resounded with divine thunder: Brava!



  51. The Servant’s Salute
    160 words

    The laughing of the masses was loud enough to shake the remaining orange hairs on Gratae’s head. The noise intensified when Emperor Partho threw a broom into the arena.

    The Empresses commanded her gladiator into the field. A year ago, Gratae had been the one answering her orders. One night while cleaning her chambers, she even drunkenly ordered the old man to bed her down. He had been the families’ chief custodian for two generations and would be humiliated to turn down any of their requests.

    He picked up the broom and sized up the approaching champion. With two steps to go, Gratae broke the broom over his knee and drove the sharp end up into the gladiator’s exposed armpit.

    The crowd was mute as the next three gladiators advanced. In the moment before they ended him, Gratae stood defiant and pointed the bloody broom at the orange-haired baby in the Empresses’ lap. A final salute from his true father.


  52. Triumphus

    When the crowds left, when the sun sank, there was peace, and a silence which almost rang. In that blissful quiet, he began his work. He started at the upper levels, where the rude citizens sat, and worked his way down, row by row, girded with his armor and weapons.

    The screams of the animals, the roar of the populace, the grunts of the gladiators, their shouts of victory, echoed in his head. He’d seen the best and worst—citizens, gladiators, emperors—and the years had taught him: everything changes.

    No. He’d come here as a boy with his father, the mark of the slave upon them both, and some five decades later, he remained. His father, taken by a sickness, had died before he could buy his son out of slavery. Gladiators died, moved on. Emperors, the same. Citizens—he watched them grow old, saw the blood lust wane, then saw them no more.

    Among the detritus he found coins, lost jewelry, his to keep, but he handed all over to his master, who counted their value against the price of freedom.

    Freedom bought, he stood a final time in the arena, facing the emperor’s box, broom and dustbin held high.

    We, who are about to clean, salute you.

    @unspywriter (Maggie Duncan)
    210 words


  53. This time, he was ready for them, unlike the Normandy Incident.

    Carl’s parents had been so proud when he’d gotten the job at ChronoTech. Sure, he mopped the floors and emptied the garbage, but as Dad’d said, “Don’t matter how smart y’are, if place’s messy, ye’ll never amount to squet.” He’d worked hard and made the most of his opportunity and now – well, he wasn’t part of the team, not really, but he wasn’t an outsider anymore either, and that was something.

    But there was one thing that the scientists did that he just couldn’t bear. They’d come back from the past covered in dirt and sweat and blood and, well, there were some things he didn’t want to know about. And they got it all over his clean floor. His clean tables. His clean ceilings, somehow.

    The worst had been when they’d gone back to D-Day. Six weeks he spent cleaning up after that, and Carl suspected he’d be finding – something – for years still to come.

    Today they’d gone way back. The lions and the Christians. Gladiators. Entrails and brains and who knows what. But today, the lab would stay clean. He’d locked the door to the ChronoUnit, and they would have to ask very nicely for the key.

    210 words


  54. No Gold Watch
    205 words, @pmcolt

    “You one of the good ones, Princ’pal.” He rolled the mop bucket into the corner one last time, then scratched his white neckbeard thoughtfully. “Janitors is underappreciated, but they’s the heart of society.”

    Principal Julian clutched the plastic Lifetime Appreciation plaque, awaiting his chance to present it.

    “Rome…” He tapped the tattered publicity photo of the Colosseum, one of a dozen faded tourism posters on the wall. “Not conquered. Just fell apart. Warn’t nobody cleanin’ it up. They lost their janitors, and everything collapsed.”

    None of the faculty remembered a time before Janitor Dave, his threadbare overalls and patent leather shoes. Legend told that he dropped out in the 60s but never left.

    “I done lots of good here,” he reminisced while removing posters of places never visited. “Sawdusting after the cafeteria food poisoning of ’83… Dryin’ Elise Welker’s tears, icepacking her knuckles after she caught her boyfriend cheatin’…” So that explained Thom Davis’s broken nose at prom! “But them days is all past now.”

    Janitor Dave shook the Principal’s hand and accepted his plastic trinket with humility. “You one of the good ones, Princ’pal.” Then Principal Julian watched the heart of Palatine County High School walk out its doors for the last time.


  55. OOPS

    Dudley finished polishing the brass on the front door, then began his detailed walk-through to make sure everything that was supposed to be broken was still broken. Strange…that people would walk into a museum and feel the urge to fix things. Didn’t they know better? Didn’t they know that, with historical artifacts like the coliseum, some parts were supposed to be broken? Maybe they’d never been to Earth. Maybe they’d never seen anything more than a century old.

    Dudley zapped a few pieces of trash into oblivion, then a bright purple light caught his eye. The stabilizers were warming up.

    Dudley closed his eyes and accessed the museum schedule. Sure enough, the coliseum was scheduled to stay for three more weeks. He walked out to the entrance to the exhibit hall. The sign said the same thing.

    Dudley examined the stabilizer up close. Purple was bad. That meant it had passed blue and would be ready to trigger any minute.

    “Sarge?” he said, speaking his message outloud. “Why are the stabilizers on the coliseum active?”

    There was no response.

    The stabilizer was fading through blue and already into green.


    SEEKING LOCATION blinked behind his eyes.


    Dudley smacked his palm to his forehead.

    “Next time…” he grumbled. “I check the stabilizers first.”



  56. Bella Italia

    First day in Rome ‘n’ it’s hotter’n a billy goat with a blowtorch! Coulda took me a cab but why waste money?
    (Hetty woulda rolled her eyes at that. She called me a tightwad cuz I wouldn’t bankroll a European trip. She bitched so much… we ain’t together no more. Took me that trip alone – to spite her.)
    A janitor – grizzly ol’ buzzard – leans up agin a wall, elbow on a broom, almighty cleanin’ rag in his belt.
    “Hey, fella! COL-O-SEE-EM?”
    Sonofabitch babbles Eye-talian, then holds out his hand!
    “Work, ‘steada lazin’, you wouldn’t need to panhandle!”
    Shoot! Italy really is the itchy asshole of the universe! Only reason I’m here is gladiators. Love ‘em, ‘specially the trident, net ‘n’ dagger dudes.
    I hang a right. I’m in a dead-end street, water from a broken hydrant runnin’ down the gutter. Shoot! I turn to go.
    Grizzly’s facin’ me. He prods his broom into my chest. I stagger back. He throws his cleanin’ rag over me ‘n’ whacks my head. Dazed, I try to take out my wallet but he stabs me in the chest.
    I fall. My head hits the sidewalk. Last I hear’s the run-off, tricklin’ into the storm drain.
    Sounds like Hetty.

    Word Count: 208


  57. Clean up on Lion three

    It’s not clear if Goliath is entirely human. There may be a bear hidden somewhere in his family tree. It’s no easy task for a man that size to sneak up on someone, but unfortunately I’m distracted. His booming voice interrupts me, “You, slave, clean this shield.”

    I’m too preoccupied to look up, “I’m not a slave, I’m the janitor. I’m currently busy getting the blood stains out of this gravel floor.”
    “There will be more stains if my shield is not cleaned.”

    Finally I look up, and up, and up. He’s a big guy and in a room full of gladiators it takes a lot to stand out. He thrusts his mammoth shield at me, “Make it glisten, or else.”
    “Of course, I’ve got just the solution to make it sparkle. Give me a moment.”
    I find the rag I keep for just such occasions. It stinks to high heaven, but it gets the dirt off. Goliath examines my handiwork before grunting and strutting off to his big match.

    Will these brutes never learn. All it takes is a quick polish with female lion piss and someone’s going to find themselves surprisingly popular in the arena. Of course, I’ll have to clean up the mess.

    207 words


  58. Teen tour.
    (199 words)

    He stood tall before us, flaunting his musical accent. Our cameras, securely tucked in backpacks and pockets, were rendered dormant on his instruction.
    ‘You cannot take pictures!’ he had said. We didn’t like the news, but we were tourists.
    ‘In de old times,’ he said, pointing to the coliseum at a distance, ‘tese grounds were for worship only.’
    I stifled a yawn as he went on about how our world was now perverted, like he was so old. It was too late to back out, we had paid through our noses.
    I caught sight of a good-looking man, about thirty, walking towards us from the entrance. His gait was confident; I developed a crush. As he closed in on us, I saw the tour guide’s eyes widen in horror.
    ‘Erm… I ave to go…’ he stammered.
    The hunk was only steps away now.
    ‘Alfonso, what are you doing wit de tourists?’
    ‘I was erm…’ his voice trailed off.
    Ignoring him, Hunk turned to us.
    ‘Sorry for the delay. Am Fausto, your tour guide. I see you’ve met Alfonso, no? He’s the chief janitor. Welcome to your free coliseum tour for teens. Welcome!’
    In shock, I turned. Alfonso had fled.


  59. Captain Sanitation: Custodian of Cleanliness
    201 words, @pmcolt

    As dawn broke over Cascade City, the midtown skyscrapers were aglow in blue lights and flooded with activity. Police barricades surrounded the Cascadia Coliseum, separating the clamoring reporters and gathering onlookers from the hero of the hour.

    Mayor Rainey was already on the scene at the Coliseum as the Chief of Police led away the battered, bruised terrorists in handcuffs. A line of officers followed him, carrying away weapons and explosives as evidence.

    The mysterious new superhero stood proudly in his bright blue cleanroom costume and filter mask, conspicuous against the stone walls of the landmark building. He recounted his tale for the major news outlets.

    “Let the vile scum and dirtbags know…” The masked mop-slinger held aloft a cleaning implement for emphasis. “No grime and no crime can escape Captain Sanitation and his Mop of Justice!”

    Mayor Rainey posed with the superhero for a front page photo op. Cameras flashed and excited citizens shouted the superhero’s name.

    “Our city owes you a debt of gratitude.” The mayor shook the superhero’s rubber-gloved hand. “Thank you for foiling this terrorist plot and capturing the culprits!”

    “Terrorist plot?” Captain Sanitation asked, befuddled. “I captured them for tracking mud onto that nice clean floor!”


  60. Clean Up
    Word Count: 159

    Denizen had dowsed the ley lines for decades following the clues to the depths of this ancient ruin. Behind the wall slept the army of his brethren. He reached towards the barrier.


    “Ow!” he hissed, spinning. A lowly custodian. It had struck his hand with its filthy mop handle.

    “Who are you? We’re closed.”

    “Fool,” Denizen summoned his power, “I will awaken my army and they will feast on”

    THWACK! The handle cracked across his head; his focus shattered.

    “Stop it. I just cleaned up this place. And knock it off with the glowy eyes. I’m calling the police.” the janitor grumbled.

    “TOO FAR MORTAL.” he bellowed, transforming into the visage of master Cthulhu, “I WILL CONSUME YOU! Wait! No!” Denizen saw the janitor’s sword too late. His head plopped wettly by his feet, tentacles still twitching.

    “I said I’d just cleaned up in here, I ain’t havin no more of you squid faces muckin’ it up, again!”


  61. No Place Like Home
    208 Words

    As silently as she could, Clara opened up her bedroom window and dropped softly to the earth below. Despite what her mum said, she was old enough to wander the streets of Italy after bedtime. She just turned six, after all. And she desperately wanted play with whoever was at the Coliseum. She saw flashlights bopping about there almost every night and wanted to join in the fun.

    Keeping her eyes on the shifting lights, Clara arrived at the Coliseum in moments. Peering around an archway, she saw a group of older boys holding flashlights and stomping around a pile of garbage chanting “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure! One man’s folly is another man’s endeavor!”

    At least, until one of them noticed her.

    “Hey! Girl! What are you doing?”

    Lips trembling with fear, Clara said, “I-I-I wanted to join in your game of f-f-flashlight tag.”

    “Flashlight tag? We’re not playing tag, you dolt. We’re the janitor’s brigade!”

    “The janitor’s brigade?”

    “Yeah. We clean out people’s dumpsters to find food, then bring it back here to feast.”

    “Why do you need food? Don’t you eat with your mommies?

    “You better run on home now, girl. The brigade is only for those who call the Coliseum their caretaker.”


  62. @MattLashley_
    209 words

    A Sister Like Cain

    I wasted an hour with the homeless janitor. He was a suspect for the usual reasons: he found the body and had a personal connection with the deceased. He also had a vacuum sealed alibi and a crumpled letter that put the finger on another culprit. The office of the dead woman’s sister, a pediatrician with heavy gambling debts, was my next stop.

    Her door was open. I walked in. She sprung from the shadows like a hungry lion in the Coliseum. I jumped like a startled Christian. She was pretty, but anorexic with a dye job two months overdue for a touch up. She moved and talked as fast as any handwringing Adderall addict I’d met.

    “Did you arrest him?”
    “She hated him.”
    “She shared his tent under the bridge.”
    “Means nothing.”
    “Why live with someone you hate?”
    “People do all the time.”
    “People with mortgages and kids–not people living under bridges.”
    “He killed her.”
    “And if he didn’t?”
    “He did.”

    She pushed her thin lips together to form a tight horizontal line meant to convince me of her certainty. I pulled the courtesy copy of the crumpled insurance letter which detailed the policy she’d taken out on her sister to convince her of mine.


  63. Arron Ravenel Clay @ http://www.LesNomsDePlume.com
    Word Count, 210
    The Bastard’s New Job

    Lezzone appeared, his bruised body an ‘X’ in the frame. He didn’t know it, but I’d already teleported directly behind him.

    “Beat you again!” I barked, rubbing my swollen eye.

    Startled, Lezzone almost toppled out of the elemental zone pod, which would have been ironic, even somewhat unfortunate. Down below was the space-continuum, a dizzying, never-ending cycle through the worlds–hell itself–and where his mam resided.

    Lezzone moved from the wall he’d clutched, swiping at me, but I just ducked, laughed, and called behind me, “We have to clock in at 532 hours.” Scowling, Lezzone shouldered past me, and was the first to reach the cleaning room. He threw me a SpaceSuck; then grabbed one for himself.

    It was his fault we were assigned to come this agonizingly close, even if Lezzone blamed me. If I told our Grams we’d finally been to the Eternal City, she’d call it a bluff–like the old days when an fighter would land, but never leave the airport before flying onward.

    If Lezzone hadn’t opened his fat mouth about my mam like that! Now we had to come daily to sweep this god-forsaken place without leaving its stone walls.

    Even so, I’d teleport to 134340 if I knew it could make me feel legit.


  64. The Arena.
    @CliveNewnham – 209 words

    As they disembark from their journeys I rise from my seat, lifting my staff of office. I move to the center of the landing, my flowing beard and robe shining white, a beacon for the arrivals.

    “Welcome. I am Ytor, your doorman today.” I push lightly and the huge stone doors glide silkily wide. “Please to follow me kind guests.”

    They are the usual cross-section of humanity – men, women, children… babes, why babes? All brought here to be processed. The only commonality is that every one of them has been reaped.

    I shuffle through the door and the herd follows. Some ask questions. I do not answer. With a sweep of my arm I usher them into the vast arena. I close the doors behind us.

    From them the Lord takes. Almost all the babes rise into the white sky, most of the children, some of the women and lastly a few pious men. What happens to them I don’t know,

    But those that remain, he torments with their sins. The Gates of Delirium open and they plunge to their fate. There is only one Entrance and I guard it. Those that try to escape I sweep back with my staff.

    There can only be one Jan Ytor.


  65. Even though he is now a janitor you have still made him someone to admire and respect.

    To know that this does happen and real talents and skills become overlooked because a person is an immigrant is quite sad.


  66. A Roman Collesium Janitor’s Lament

    205 words

    People stare blindly, for the most part. In shock, some but that’s just because they cannot imagine making as much effort.

    “Who would build something so grandiose and impressive?” they ask, “for the prime voyeuristic purpose of watching from the comfort of plush chairs or the safety of a roaring crowd, the destruction of the vulnerable?”

    They cannot understand our fascination with human demise. They say, “How cruel!” They race home on flaming tyres made from rubber raped from Malaysian jungles and society and watch documentaries on prostitution in Nigeria and Aids epidemics in the Sudan, and ask what others are doing to stop this.

    Putting microwaved meatballs, made from screaming sows and bulls who mutely begged stony-faced butchers to spare them, in their mouths. They turn the channel to something more ‘light hearted’, they say.

    “Here he is…” welcoming politicians to applause on Saturday night TV. To pour over their childhoods and successes. Somehow ignore how strange it is, their fascination with these, whose stock it is oppressed their own.

    The cream always rises to the top. It is the saying of winners, and of anyone callous enough to still believe we have no responsibility to care for our brothers


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