Summary: Carl the janitor: more than meets the eye? A run in with our favorite nerd changes everything. Takes place the Thursday before detention.
Rating: T/PG-13 for mild language and adult themes.
Pairing: Carl/OC, gen.
Characters: Carl, Brian, and Vernon, along with cameos from the other four members of the BC.
Carl wiped a bead of sweat from his brow as he pushed his industrial-sized broom across the cafeteria floor. It was futile, he knew. Moments after he finished his circuit, there was already a fresh layer of crushed potato chips, carrot sticks, tater tots and Coke cans strewn across the tile floor. He sighed and used the smaller broom to sweep up the pile from his first trip and dump it into the trash bin.
“I still think we should ask Mr. Taylor for a Coke machine in the cafeteria.”
Carl glanced over at the table next to him, where members of the Student council were organizing their thoughts for the day’s meeting after school. A pretty girl with red hair and an expensive looking blouse sighed. “We’ve already tried that. He said no.”
“Well, maybe we should try again.” The girl across from her shrugged. “It isn’t fair that the teachers get one and we don’t.”
The boy next to her nodded. “Emily’s right, Claire. It’s worth a shot. I mean, what’s the worst can they do? Say no?”
The redhead rolled her eyes. “It’s a waste of time.”
Carl pushed the garbage can up to their table. “Got any trash?”
A few people offered some wrappers and juice boxes. “Thanks, Carl,” said Emily.
“No problem. You hittin’ up Taylor for a Coke machine?”
The boy sighed. “Maybe.”
“You should try. He may seem like a tight-ass, but he’ll give in. All you gotta do is just keep buggin’ him about it.”
The boy grinned. “How would you know?”
Carl smiled, remembering his own years on Shermer High School’s Student Council back when Jack Taylor was only the Vice Principal. “I’ve just been workin’ for him too long.”
The boy turned to the redhead and tilted his head in Carl’s direction. “See?”
The girl sighed. “Fine.”
Carl smirked and pushed his garbage bin past the Student Council table over to the jock table, where one of the wrestlers, a short, muscular blonde, elbowed his friend in the ribs. “Are you sure this is right, man?”
His friend glanced at the sheet of notebook paper and shrugged. “How the hell should I know? I didn’t write it.”
The first boy rolled his eyes and continued copying the answers from one homework paper to another. Carl stepped forward and swept up a few pieces of lettuce that had fallen off of the table from one of the boy’s many sandwiches. “You two havin’ a little study session?”
The blonde boy glanced up. “Um…”
“I mean, personally, math was never my thing,” he lied, dumping the lettuce into the garbage bin. “You’re lucky to have such a generous friend helping you out.”
The blonde boy’s eyes widened. “Um, yeah. I guess so.” He handed the paper back to his friend and glanced nervously over at Carl. “Maybe we should, you know, save the studying for after school.”
Carl nodded. “That’s probably a wise idea. As it is, you’ve got three sandwiches and a bag of cookies to eat and…” Carl glanced at his watch. “Only thirty-four minutes to do it.”
The boy nodded at the clock on the cafeteria wall. “That one says we have forty.”
“Oh, yeah. That’s six minutes fast.”
The wrestler cursed under his breath and picked up one of the sandwiches. Carl chuckled and pushed the trash barrel over to the table where most of the Physics Club ate. Carl took his broom and started sweeping up a huge pile of Cheetos had been dumped under one of the benches.
“So, I figured out that I can make an 84 on the mid-term and maintain my A for this grading period.”
Carl looked at the boy who had spoken, a short redhead wearing a button-down shirt and slacks. He was surrounded by a few other boys, who were listening to his calculations with varying degrees of interest.
“But if I get anything less than an 84, I’ll end up with a B plus.” He sighed. “And you know what that means.”
The other boys nodded solemnly and continued eating. One of their members, a tall, lanky boy with blonde hair, was staring at the clock on the wall above Carl’s head. Suddenly, he snapped out of his reverie and looked over at his friends. “I’m, uh… I’m going to the bathroom.”
His friends nodded distractedly and started talking about the Physics Club meeting that afternoon. Carl finished sweeping up the mess of Cheetos and pushed the trash bin past the orchestra table, where a couple of boys greeted him with a smile. He said hello and moved on to the far corner of the cafeteria, where a couple of boys were arguing in hushed tones about something he probably didn’t want to know anything about.
Carl started whistling and rolled the garbage can away from their table. He pushed open the cafeteria doors and walked into the hall, where he removed the overflowing trash bag from the plastic bin and replaced it with a fresh one. He grabbed the used bag by the flaps at the top and carried it down the hall. As he passed one of the stairwells, he noticed a girl sitting alone on the steps drawing. He stopped and walked over to her. “Where’m I goin’ today?”
The girl, who was dressed in blacks and greys from head to toe, gave him a crooked smile and held up the drawing. It wasn’t finished, but he could see the beginnings of a steep cliff rising out of the ocean.
“Hmmm, looks like… Dover Beach?”
The girl grinned, letting him know that he was right, or at least close. He smiled. “That’s nice, but keep in mind that I’m afraid of heights. You’ll have to do something a little tamer next time.”
The girl let out a little squeak of excitement and went back to her drawing. Carl continued his stroll through the winding corridors until he pushed open the door leading out to the west parking lot. Just as he was about to lift the bag into the dumpster, Carl looked out over rows of cars and laughed. There, in Miss Marchetta’s 1979 baby blue Oldsmobile, was Tim Gray, one of the Chemistry teachers. Judging from the way they were wrapped around each other, he guessed that they probably weren’t going over formulas.
Carl tore his eyes away from the pair of lip-locked science teachers and leaned back against the side of the dumpster. He and Julia used to do things like that. Back in college when he still had a future his parents could be proud of and she still had her beat-up 1967 Ford Falcon, they’d sit in the dorm parking lot and make out with Mick Jagger and the Bay City Rollers battling it out in the background.
Carl glanced around to make sure that no one was nearby, then pulled out a box of matches and package of cigarettes from inside of his uniform. He didn’t usually smoke on school grounds, but he felt like he needed it today. In fact, what he could really use was a beer, but he would never dream of drinking on school grounds. The cigarette would have to do.
“Good afternoon, Carl.”
Carl didn’t look up. “Hello, John.”
John Bender stepped in front of him and lifted his eyebrow. “Smoking, Carl?” He clucked his tongue. “What would Jack say if he caught you out here like this?”
Carl smirked at the memory of Principal Jack Taylor leaning against the dumpster next to him, telling him all about his mother-in-law while he chain-smoked the last of Carl’s pack. “He’d probably ask if I had a light.”
John furrowed his brow in confusion, then smirked. “Do you have a light?”
Carl glared at him. “No. Now get outta here before I tell Jack what you were doin’ in the teachers’ lounge last week.”
John grinned lazily. “Actually, I’d kind of like to see the look on his face when he finds out what was really brewing in the coffee maker that day.”
Carl pointed to the door behind him. “Go. Now.”
John saluted and disappeared into the building. Carl sighed and took one last drag on his cigarette before stubbing it out against the side of the dumpster and throwing it in along with the trash bag. One last glance at the baby blue Oldsmobile and he was back inside, where he had the honor of pushing a broom around after shit heads like John Bender.