He could always tell the type of show by the type of trash he picked up. Oh, there was always the scrunched up candy wrappers, but even they changed – Werther’s for the younger set, cough candies for the older set. Then there were the programs – always more dropped and forgotten at the symphony than at the big-name super star concerts. He guessed that no one wanted the autograph of the first chair violin player.
He didn’t mind his job. A quiet theatre was a great place to think. Sometimes as he pushed his dust mop between the rows he’d create little screen plays in his head. He was sure on more than one occasion that the old theatre talked to him, filling his mind with words once spoken by long dead actors. He understood why the real theatre-folk had their superstitions. This place lived and breathed and he knew it was filled with the energy of the great creative moments of the past. Every show added its colour to the scenery and every applause soaked into the red velvet curtains and cushions.
He wasn’t afraid of the theatre…well, not the front of house and seating areas, anyway. Even the catwalk high above the audience held no terror for him. It didn’t need to be cleaned much really, but he did climbed up there every once in awhile and invariably find a coffee cup or two left behind by the sound and lighting guys. The view was peculiar but not terribly frightening.
No, it was the stage itself that gave him the creeps. He always saved it for last. Maybe it was the darkness of the wings that added to the hushed and electric atmosphere. He’d once asked if he should clean up in there, too, hoping that then they’d show him where the light switches were, but he was chased out of the stage manager’s office with such a resounding volley of “no’s” and “don’t you dare touch my switches” that he never broached the subject again. So he continued to mop the stage by the single bare bulb that was always left on. And he hated it. He’d heard some of the actors say the single light was left burning all night to appease a grand old diva that had been killed on stage and he didn’t doubt it. What was a comforting hush out in the audience became charged with darkness up on the stage and he always felt like he was being watched…and barely tolerated. As a result, he always rushed through the mopping and ran out as soon as he was done. He didn’t care if anyone ever complained about his handiwork – let the lousy stage manager take care of it before the show. He wasn’t going to mess with ghosts. He’d scrape all the gum they wanted him to, but no way was he going to spend one more minute than necessary on that dark stage…