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Graveyard Shift. By Rob Plath.

I remember the summer I was eighteen and finally had graduated high school, the class of ‘88. I got a job with my friend cleaning a movie theater complex from 2 A.M. 'till 10 A.M. for $4.50 an hour.

A man who called himself Mr. Jay hired us without any questions, no applications, no asking for ID. He was a large man with a high voice and he told us to come back the next night. We figured it would be easy so we drank beers and smoked some pot at a party until 1 A.M. then we drove to a 7-Eleven, bought a box of No-Doze caffeine pills and each took the equivalent of 10 cups of coffee.

When we got there Mr. Jay was there with his two sons and a man about fifty called Melvin. Mr. Jay said in his high voice that he was glad we could make it. Another kid about our age came in he was hired after us he was a large Spanish guy called Hector. The two sons took my friend and Hector to show them what to do and Melvin took me with him. Mr. Jay disappeared out the doors into his truck. Melvin gave me a large black garbage bag and he told me to just start filling it, back then a lot of people left stuff on the floor, on the seats and spilled things all over.

It was strange being in the empty dim theater at that hour, no projector turning, no people, it felt like I was in a Twilight Zone episode. My feet kept sticking to the floor from the dried soda I didn’t have gloves and picked up everything bare handed; popcorn, juju bees, malt balls, napkins, soda containers, straws. The bag was getting heavy with half filled sodas. I told Melvin I was done and he said that we had to get EVERYTHING, Mr. Jay would be in trouble if we even missed one M&M, that was when he took out this tool for getting candy out of the crevices of the seats. He reached in the side of the seat with this strange gadget and pulled out a yellow M&M. I had to now go over the entire theater with a goddamn fine tooth comb I wondered how my friend and the Spanish guy were doing.

The caffeine pills weren’t working, it was only 3:00 there were 12 theaters to clean. Melvin finally said that we were done and to move on to the next viewing room. I lugged the heavy bag out into the hall and started on the next room. Again the process was the same, Melvin bragged that he had gotten 22 M&M’s out of the crevices of the seats after the third theater he told me that we had to bring the bags out to the dumpsters outside. There was a white glow on the horizon - about 6:30 A.M. I couldn’t picture being there until 10..

I saw my friend dumping two black bags into the dumpster, I quickly walked over to him. He immediately asked me if I wanted to get the fuck out of there, which surprised me because he usually stuck things out more than I did, he told me we had to drive Hector home because he wanted to get the fuck out too. We heaved the bags into the dumpster and slowly walked towards the car. Soon Hector came jogging out and got into the backseat. As we started to drive off we saw the two sons lugging heavy black bags out the door, then Melvin walked out behind them. He saw us driving away and looked at us puzzled.

We lit a joint as we got onto the LIE. Hector looked happy and took a long drag I stared out the window I liked the way the morning light slowly sharpened the edges of everything

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