You could hear him coming by the jangle of his keys and the shortness of his breath. It was Digger. Digger the Janitor. He wasn’t “faster than lightning” like Flipper, and no bounce was in his step like Tigger, but boy could he buff a floor. He was hardy and hard-working, like a beef-stew-eating ox.

A little, white cottage stood on the edge of the school property, and in it he lived. Legend has it that he was so attuned to the school’s material needs that he could hear a faucet dripping in the boys’ bathroom all the way from his own hearth. This legend also holds that he had big donkey ears that he hid under his choo-choo train cap when other humans were around. I think he was just embarrassed about the onset of male pattern baldness, but I guess we’ll never know.

Sometimes he’d pretend not to hear us when we walked up behind him and said, “Hi, Digger!” After repeating ourselves a couple times he’d spin around, waving his arms, and yell, “Ahhhrrrrrrhhhhhrrrrr!” We’d leap back and laugh, “Dig-ger!”

When Digger was sick or on vacation he’d get a substitute janitor. This man was wiry and wore flannel. When we found out that he had dentures, we begged him to pop them out at us. He’d refuse and refuse and then all of a sudden lurch forward at us with them hanging out of his mouth. It was horrible and exhilarating. We’d scream, cover our faces, run a few feet away, then come back and shout, “Do it again!” Some people have discolored and crooked dentures, I think to match their remaining real teeth. But wouldn’t you rather have a few mis-matched?

Digger was the solo janitor for the whole school. Everything that was to be done was done by Digger: mowing the grounds, replacing the soap, emptying the trash, fixing the desks, even buffing the floors. Our dress shoes easily scuffed the hallway tiles, and we liked both the squeaking and the streaking it made. Digger didn’t. If he caught us scuffing he’d make us remove the marks ourselves. It was easy. You just rub the scuff with your shoe, but in the opposite direction that you made it in.

(Digger's floor buffer)

You may be wondering how Digger got his name. You may also be wondering if he has a last name. I don't know, are you?

A few years ago I found out that my dad used to help Digger weed the school’s lawn on weekends to defray the cost of my tuition. I was also informed that Digger recently ran away with another woman, so his wife now lives in the cottage alone.