LEWISTON — For almost three years, Mark McBride grew accustomed to sweeping the halls and washing the floors at 880 Lisbon St. without interruption.

On rare evenings, the daytime inhabitants of the aging, three-story building would appear, but typically, his day started when they left.

Then, the daytime custodian was hurt and left the job. And the mild-mannered man from Auburn became the lead custodian of Martel Elementary School.

“It was a little weird ’cause I was so used to working at night,” McBride, 32, said. Little ones were curious about the guy who cleaned their spills in the cafeteria.

“They had questions,” he said. “I learned to answer them.”

Another three years later, McBride has become Mr. M&M.

Outside his little office and workshop near the gym, he posts daily riddles on a bulletin board.

Each day he asks a new riddle, or several, and gives the answers to the previous day’s questions.

For instance: “What do you call a bear with no teeth?” he asked recently. “A gummy bear”

Children want to be helpers, sometimes wheeling trash cans for him. But usually, the interaction is about smaller moments, such as helping a girl open her milk carton or a high-five in the hallway.

Often, there’s little time for more. He has a big, old school to care for.

“For being 88 years old, it’s in pretty good shape,” he said. “We try to keep up on the maintenance. There are a few things that might take longer to fix than others, but we always try to make sure the bigger issues get done first.”

Days starts at 6 a.m. with making sure the boiler is running.

Then, there are offices, bathrooms and classrooms to clean. He helps as much as he can at lunch. And he cleans up when it’s done.

“I make sure that the day-to-day operations at the school happen,” he said.

There have been exceptions. For three years running, he has accompanied sixth-graders on their overnight trip to the University of Maine 4-H Camp & Learning Center at Bryant Pond.

He goes because the school needs a male chaperon and because he likes it.

“It’s interesting to see the kids who don’t get to go out of the city,” he said. “And I like it at night, when they get to see the sky without the city lights.”

Does he want attention? No. As he tells the students, “Ain’t no thing but a chicken wing.”

He relishes his work in the light.

“People ask me if I have kids,” he said. “It’s like, ‘I got 300-plus.'”

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