(with apologies to John Le Carré)
In a balmy plate of July darkness in the Carolinas, Jonathan PineSol, the English night janitor of Chateau Magnolia in Greensboro’s Fisher Park, forsook his closet behind the Air B&B check-in foyer and, in the grip of feelings he had not known before, took up his position to tidy up any grim findings left by a distinguished guest.
The Republican National Convention had just begun. Throughout the night, news of Bob Dole cadaver sightings, D-list celebrity endorsements and horrifying ginger combovers engulfed the land.
AirBnB bookings — which in record-breaking heat indexes in the South and many Southerners in Cleveland for the convention — had sunk to crisis levels. Once more in her long history, Chateau Magnolia was under siege.
But Jonathan PineSol was equal to the challenge. All over Greensboro, “Magnolia,” as the house-cum-hotel was affectionately known to uber drivers and habitues, presided physically and traditionally on the dodgy end of the park, peering upon downtown and the folly of ex-urban life.
The more things changed in Fisher Park, the more Magnolia stayed herself, unbending in her standards, a bastion of civilized style in a world intent on going to the devil.
Jonathan’s point of vantage was a small recess between double doors leading to hall of bedrooms.
He was a compact man but tentative, with a Mr. Clean bald head, Brawny paper towel arms, hands like Scrubbing Bubbles and an evenly doled-out slipperiness like Pam cooking spray. His personality — though pleasant — was devoid of Joy dishwashing liquid and flowed inward, like Tide detergent. His Old English polish was a well-kept secret and effectively camouflaged by an Orange-Glo hardwood-floor spray of tan — but nothing that a Soft Scrub couldn’t remove.
What Soft Scrub couldn’t remove, however, was the sense of impending doom associated with the distinguished guest.
Molly Crapper was a Scot, 94, with a bad liver but crucial aim when it came to acts of filthy violence.
It’s a different Crapper, Jonathan announced inside his head, awaiting her arrival. Complete misunderstanding, whole thing. Nothing whatever to do with her. There must be two, both Crappers, both Scots. But Jonathan had been going back and forth through that hoop since the late night check-in had been confirmed.
The hour was nigh and despite his inward pleas for doppleganger-dom, his fears were confirmed as the West Highlander strode across the verdant lawn, took the steps at a nonagenarian’s bias angle and ambled into the room.
The clock struck midnight as the vile Scottish lass truncated her sausage-like body over the building’s most valuable carpet and crapped like only a Crapper could do.
It’s my job, he thought. It’s my destiny. I am Jonathan PineSol and I am the Night Janitor.