Night Staff at the Library: a triptych by Benjamin Niespodziany

[1] Two janitors arrive nightly in matching designs. One is from Warsaw. One claims Durango. They take photos before and after every shift. They hold hands when they can. I think they run a blog. In the mop closet, they offer me cigarettes, the pack scratched Cyrillic. They offer me licorice and spinach. I echo along to their songs, the three of us laughing like disturbed, distracted gods.

[2] In the mop closet, the janitor from Warsaw is old. Poland, she says. Poland. On her lunch break, she lets me cut her hair. Poland, I say. My family, I say. Poland. I don’t change my shirt. Poland, she says. The lightbulb above us flickers and dies and brightens again. Almost all of her hair is gone. I’ll clean, she says. She laughs. We laugh. The puddle on the floor pours my last name.

[3] In the mop closet, the janitor from Durango is loud. He has me wrap him in gauze. Gauze he found in the library ceiling tile above our heads. Above, he points. Above. I wrap him in the gauze until the gauze is gone and he is gone and in my hand is no more gauze and in my hand is a diamond the size of a new bar of soap. The janitor from Durango doesn’t see the diamond. He’s looking at the wrap of his legs. The shape of the gauze. I rest the diamond atop his bald head. He’s smiling. We’re smiling. He’s saying the door won’t open.


Benjamin Niespodziany’s work has appeared in Fence, Fairy Tale Review, Hobart, and others. Along with being featured in the Wigleaf Top 50, his writing has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and Best Microfiction. With three chapbooks out, his debut full-length will be released in November 2022 through Okay Donkey Books.