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Tuesday, December 10, 2002

The Lift
A short story by Larry Getlen

The closing doors left just enough room for the over made mother and daughter to sprint through. The mother, an easy 250 pounds not counting one pound of thickly matted hot pink lipstick, just avoided ramming her shoulder into my incapacitated left arm.
But while the Thanksgiving Day parade incident has made me jumpy – rapidly deflating Goofy made me the first injured spectator since 1954 – it’s fair to say this woman missed my sling by a hair’s width. Considering her 10 mile-per-hour clip – she must have started running at Au Bon Pain, and built momentum from there – her bulk would surely have flattened my arm against the metal elevator wall.
So here I was, ascending the Empire State Building with 100 slowly creeping floors to go, pressed between overbearing mother and adult daughter who, due surely to improper breeding, stood on either side of me.
The latter, I surmised, was a recent college graduate. She looked spiffy in a well-pressed blue pinstriped suit, with the fresh-faced demeanor of a recent inductee into the glamorous world of the W2 and the paycheck.
Breathing heavy from their uncharacteristic sprint, huffing and puffing in my face like a personally delivered Obscene Phone-a-gram, the two settled into place. Once the asthmatic symphony concluded, they regaled me with speaking voices the delicacy of bricks through a pencil sharpener.
“You always do this!”
“Don’t yell at me.”
“Just once, can’t you lay out your clothes the night before!”
“This was a big day for me – I wanted to look good.”
“And now you’re late!”
“Please, don’t ruin this for me. God, why do you always do this!”
The daughter began to cry. Not a light sob, but a wail, a hideous call to the sea that soon became a shriek. Meanwhile, her mother continued her berating, calling her daughter stupid, beyond help, a burden and an ingrate,..., so unlike her.
And with that, the simmering pressure in my brain boiled over. I couldn’t take it anymore. I took a wide step toward the elevator door, spun a 180, and unleashed.
“Stop it. Stop this at once. You’re a despicable woman! How dare you berate this poor girl for your shortcomings! After all you’ve surely subjected her to, you have no right to treat her this way. She has taken enough of your abuse and your insults. The time for you to ruin this girl’s life is over! She is a woman now, and no longer required to tolerate your infernal stupidity.”
Then I turned to the daughter.
“And you. My god, get a spine.”
And with that, is if directed by god himself, the elevator stopped, and the doors opened. I stormed out as they closed behind me, naught but stunned silence occurring beyond.
I looked for the level marker and saw that I was on the 35th floor. I found the stairs and began my long ascent to the top. It would be an arduous, tiresome journey, but one that I would take with pride.

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