The technician arrived twenty three minutes late that January morning. The roads were still icy in the wake of a cold front; a fact that intimidated him more than he dared admit. The biggest challenge of the morning proved to be getting out his driveway in `89 Honda hatchback. Twice he had to shovel a mixture of dirt and snow out from under the tires. Cookies & Cream, he thought vaguely, numb hands hardly gripping the handle as he scooped.
At last the little car pulled free of the driveway, lurched over a drift and emerged frosty windowed and sputtering onto Merril Street. From there, the freshly plowed streets were snow free, all the way to the service center where he would switch to the work truck. He wasn’t so lucky on the way to his first job. Even though the company vehicle was in good shape, it had rear wheel drive and both rear wheels were nearly bald. To make matters worse, the snowplows hadn’t made it to the highway yet. Only the steady traffic of the morning commute was keeping the road drivable. Screw the time, he thought to himself, he would take it slow. He did his best to keep his momentum consistent, woe to him, should he have to adjust it in any way. If he accelerated, he fishtailed. If he braked, he fishtailed.
Time in favor of caution, it turned out, had been a worthy sacrifice, judging from the wrecks he passed. If some of the locals were spinning off the road into saplings, what chance did he have? The exterminator spent most of his life in a place that never saw snow or ice on the road, so his only practice driving in such conditions began with his current job. His reluctance and obvious fear of the task was a great source of amusement for his boss and co-workers, who chalked up all his shortcomings to some devious Californian root. As if he didn’t have enough self esteem issues, the technician seemed to always be the butt of another joke. His nickname, “Yabbatz” was coined at his job interview after his boss, Arnie Sanders read his name.
“Brian E. Abbot . . . E. Abbot? Sounds like Yabbatz! I thought Yabbatz only came out round Easter!” he had bellowed to a chorus of laughter from the other employees. He had vowed then to find a different job within the month. Four and a half years later, he was still stuck with the same job and the same jokes.
Mrs. Gottleib, the professional’s first job of the day, attempted a polite understanding of the complications leading to his tardy arrival, but despite her efforts she failed to disguise the degree of her anxiety. Brian wondered if Mrs. G. was doing her pee dance or if she was always that frantic.
“Good morning Mrs. Gottleib. So, you got something under your house, huh?” Mrs. G. was in her late fifties, shaped like an avocado, with a haircut more befitting a lhasa apso, than a human. Her expression and jittery movements spoke more of her irritation than her words could. This was nothing new to the trained killer, squeamish clients in this business was more common than ants after a rain.
“Under . . . my . . . tub!” She managed, between exaggerated gasps, as she unlatched the crawlspace door to her luxury cabin. The three story, six bedroom lodge, was brand-spankin’ new, built in record speed by the finest tax free labor available. The first thing Brian noticed, while walking hunched under the front deck, was the vents around the foundation. More than one of the aluminum slats was bent inward. The useless plastic mesh behind them was torn free, allowing an easy entry point for any number of chew happy infiltrators. Packrats, raccoons or perhaps skunks, apparently decided the best place to build a nest was right under her Jacuzzi.
“Well,” The technician explained through a grin of tobacco stained teeth, “I’ll see what I can see and let you know how bad it is.” With that, he switched on his hat light and spelunked into the cold, damp space. Following the pipes, covered in grey foam insulators and tape, the master bath was easy to spot. Sure enough, huge holes in the pressboard and surrounding insulation highlighted critter activity. From right above him, a steady growl, revved to a serious pitch. It was very raccoon. Additional skittering sounds indicated several more. The technician nodded to himself. Momma coon and a litter, multiple traps. The materials necessary to remedy this situation were easy to note. Removing some 3x5 cards from his breast pocket and rolling onto his back, he began to write, by the light of his hat. He was immediately thankful for the frozen dirt, six more degrees and he’d be squirming in mud and tanbark.
Emerging from the crawlspace he delivered the quote to his impatient customer, who agreed to the service before Brian was even finished adding up the cost. Fortunately, everything he needed was on the truck, so he could get the hard part over with. In less than an hour, the area was sealed off. Traps were set and a clamp light was strategically placed in the crawlspace. It wouldn’t be long before the brightness repelled momma away from the tub area, into the shadows, where she would seek out one of the Friskies cans that baited the traps. The bandit eyed brats would be short to follow. The professional assured Mrs. G. that they’d catch something by tomorrow. He also advised against using the tub that evening, particularly if she intended to turn on the jets.
The rest of his day was full of the typical hit jobs, preventative spraying to keep the creepy crawlies away. Although the pests with more than four legs were rare to non-existent this time of year, he wasn’t about to admit it to his customers.
“In a warm house like this,” he’d often tell clients, “spiders are always on the move.”
He liked treating the inside of people’s homes, seeing how the rich people lived. The kitchens had vast pantries, filled with enough food to wait out a zombie apocalypse. High definition televisions hung on the wall in nearly every room, not far away from the stenciled motivational phrases. Painted plywood roosters, cowboy silhouettes and hunting trophies adorned most common areas. Happy family portraits lined the hallways and filled up free space on top of pianos and mantles. Brian never passed an opportunity to search these areas for the occasional family photo of “the hot daughter”. Oh yes, there was one in nearly every old money, Republican, snowbird cabin, sometimes several. The technician would pause from time to time to admire a privileged, nubile nymph, briefly captured in a moment of ignorant bliss, before the gears of male dominance would grind her back into her properly predetermined niche. His perverted mind would go places that left him drooling in a hallway. The pain of parting the portrayed pretties was easily remedied by a cigarette.
Although his work truck had a satellite radio system, the upkeep of the service was up to the employees to pay. As much as he liked Howard Stern, Raw Dawg and that “Aussie skater guy”, whose name always escaped him, he wasn’t about to fork over his booze and smokes money for a couple on-the-clock giggles. Never being one for silence while driving, the exterminator would settle for the local stations. The choice was an easy one, countless country and Mexican music, repetitive pop or one of three identical classic rock stations, which played the same fourteen songs, over and over. When given the choice between the stations, he always went to the AM whiners. The bitterly complaining conservative talk shows were far more entertaining and educational. He got a kick out of the way Hannity or Limbaugh would rebuke liberals and their ways. Those demonized were the tree-hugging, granola munching, zitty vegans he grew up with and it was the first time he’d heard anyone bash those politically correct bleeding hearts.
It wasn’t that Brian found himself agreeing with a lot of their opinions, but when he heard the same viewpoints echoed among his customers and around in public, he decided to listen more closely. Soon he figured out what jokes were taboos and which subjects were deemed safe. His personal interaction with clients went smoother and he enjoyed fooling them into thinking they were dealing with one of their own. Little did they know that each night when he got home, their friendly neighborhood spider-killer and critter catcher, would chain smoke and drink vodka cokes in his boxers while surfing the internet for erotic cosplay. Often he’d wake up the next morning, still in the chair, hangover pounding as he stumbled to the toilet to blast refuse from both ends.
It was his phone that woke him up out of the chair at 5:30 am that next morning. The familiar ringtone from the band Rush brayed, “the salesman!” in Geddy Lee’s insanely high pitched voice. Ignoring his cell, he painfully made his way to the bathroom as the ringing gave way to voicemail.
“If ever there was a day to call in sick”, he said to his ugly reflection, but he said that every morning, right before his knees buckled and he dropped with a solid smack onto the toilet seat. As powerful splatters of high velocity soft serve stool echoed into the porcelain bowl, he held his breath, hoping the shit smell wouldn’t bring on the vomiting. Who run farter-town? Assblaster Master runs farter-town. Glancing over at the empty plastic roll on the wall, he realized that, once again, he failed to buy more toilet paper. That left him with two choices; go straight to the shower or wipe his ass on a sock from the dirty clothes. He decided on sacrificing a sock, as showers were amongst his least favorite activities, right up there with waking up in the morning. Fortunately for him, the dirty clothes hamper was just within reach, that was, if he used the plunger to hook its corner successfully. The hamper easily tumbled forward, spilling weeks neglected undergarments onto the moldy linoleum floor. If the foul underneath of the plunger had, in any way, further tainted the contents of the hamper, Brian neither noticed nor cared.
Anytime in the AM, was a bad time to get up, but rising before the sun was just plain ridiculous. He had nothing but contempt for pathetic goodie-goodies who made it routine. After some instant coffee and a nuked egg sausage sandwich, Brian was feeling a little better, so he checked his phone message. It was Mrs. G. from the day before. She said her husband had looked into the crawlspace and sure enough, we had a winner, folks! Three, in fact. His head was pounding and nausea was threatening an up-chuck with every labored step. Fighting back a yack, he dialed the number of his last missed call to assure Mrs. Pee-Pants that he was on his way. Resigning to Murphy’s Law, he decided that dangerously slippery roads were best driven in the dark, especially when one had a hangover. That way fate had a better chance of putting someone like him out of his misery.