Drama Adventure

           I was standing in one of the office's three stark silver elevators next to a very sweaty man in desperate need of fresh deodorant. Or fresh perfume. Or a fresh wardrobe change. Seriously, who wears a suit with orange checks?

           I checked my wrist. Shoot, I had forgotten a watch. I guess I would have to check my cellphone. I patted all around my waistline, then realized that because women’s clothes never have actual pockets I would need to go through my bag. It was a small red cross-body purse my aunt had bought for me when I was ten, and the only one from my childhood that wasn’t yet stained.

           Sweaty Man kept stealing glances at me. What did he think I was going to do, corner him with a butter knife? I could barely cut a sandwich, let alone a person.

           The elevator halted, then started again shakily. This is what you get when you work in a lower-level accounting firm. Although what it lacked in building amenities it made up for in the workplace environment: lower-level accountants were not pompous and stingy. They knew that they were at the bottom of the ladder and though they tried to climb up, they never stepped on you to do so. And most of them found their jobs so boring they sat around and chatted rather than accounted.

           There was also great diversity in the company—I mean, I didn’t even have an accounting degree, yet I had a job there—because the lower-level administrators had super low hiring standards and stingy supremacists were not an issue. Yet somehow we had never managed to hold onto a secretary for a whole month.

           Maybe that was why Sweaty Man was so nervous! He had an interview. Wow, I ought to go into detecting.

           “Are you a secretary?” I promptly asked. Wait, that was wrong. “I mean, are you trying to be one?”

           He shook his head, staring straight ahead. Weird. The elevator rumbled.

           That could be it. Perhaps Sweaty Man only had experience with smooth elevators. “Are you feeling sick?”

           Another shake, and still no look my way. He was intrigued by my purse but not my questions? Curious. This man was hiding something.

           I could imagine it: Minor Legal Worker Catches Local Scammer. I could see television interviews and journalists flocking me as I walked calmly down the street, a smile playing on my lips as I shrugged. “It was easy,” I would say. “Sweaty Man had all the signs of a criminal.”

           Wait. Fame after investigation. “Why are you even in this elevator?”

           As if it heard, the rumbling turned to violent shaking. I spread my feet apart to maintain stability.

           “My mother’s getting married.”

           “Second, third, or over fourth?” I blurted out, before I realized that it probably wasn’t appropriate to pry about a random man’s mother’s previous spouse. Or spouses.

           “First.” Sweaty Man arched his left eyebrow, now annoyed.

            “Oh.” I tapped my chin. “Then biologically, how did she-“

           “Adoption, my goodness, why does everybody care?” Sweaty Man shouted. Okay, this was a sensitive topic. He crossed his arms and turned his back to me.

           “I’m sorry!” I whispered loudly and defensively, and turned my back, too.

           I thought that I was a progressive person. I had no problem with all sorts of marriages and family types, but I believed wholly that for all to become societally accepted they out to be talked about openly without stigma. Obviously, this guy did not agree. But if he was not up for a discussion, I wouldn’t be either. Humph. I didn’t need him or his stench.

           However, after five minutes my curiosity consumed me, and I opened my mouth. “Why is your mother getting married in an accountant’s office?”

           Sweaty Man turned back around and the right eyebrow rose equal to the left. “She’s not. There’s a Public Office in this building.”

           Right. I often forgot that “this building” had 20 floors and only one I worked on. It was also coincidentally one of the top, but with the slow-moving elevator the ride felt like I was riding to the 100th. I would walk up the rickety, twisty stairs, but they stopped at the 10th floor.

           I gathered the Public Office was also close to 20.

           The elevator lurched up, then dropped down. I felt my stomach sink to my toes as we pummeled down for a few seconds. There were no handrails in the elevator, though I had ridden it so many times this was routine.

           What wasn’t routine was the grinding clank of gears and a large thud, then the elevator’s abrupt stop. The weakly yellow overhead lights pulsed as they flickered once, flickered twice, flickered three times, flickered off. Great. A power outage.

           Luckily for me I had no actual deadlines today. It seemed we would be here a while.

           Sweaty Man screamed.

           “What?” I replied, also screaming, my hands grabbing at the air to locate him. Nowhere, he must be sitting on the floor. If only I remembered a flashlight! My father was always telling me to bring a portable light, though he likely thought it would be useful for defending against abductions rather than pitch-dark elevators.

           Sweaty Man grew very silent very abruptly. That just made me louder. I could not be responsible for an injury or death.

           “Are you claustrophobic?” I hollered. “Did you hit your head? Do you need an Epi-Pen? I think I have an Epi-Pen!” I rustled through my purse, things flying out in my haste, until I unscrewed the top of the Epi-Pen and kneeled down, my arms flailing as I searched for any inch of Sweaty Man’s skin to inject it in.

           “No!” Sweaty Man instructed. “Calm down!” His face grew ghostly as a light illuminated it. Wait, where was there a light? As if he could read my mind, Sweaty Man held up my cellphone. I guess it had fallen out and he switched on the lock-screen flashlight.

           “I am calm!” I shouted. “You’re the one sitting on this grimy floor!”

           “You’re the one overdosing me on emergency allergy medication!” he retorted.

           “You’re the one who panics in an elevator!”

           “You’re the one being defensive all the time!”

           “How do you know what I do all the time?” I stamped my foot. “You’re the one choosing some random pokey Public Office for your own mother to get married in while not adequately preparing for the random pokey elevator!”

           “She’s not getting married in here!” Sweaty Man spat. “She’s getting married at the park!” What park? There were about five parks in a two-mile radius. “And now she can’t because I can’t get these stupid documents ready!” He reached into his jacket pocket—why were men’s pockets so large and women’s so non-existent—and pulled out a manila folder, placing it gently on the floor. I could just imagine all the dust climbing into his possessions.

           “Technically you can have the ceremony without the documents,” I pointed out.

           “It won’t be the same,” Sweaty Man grumbled. “It won’t be official.”

           “She won’t know it’s not official,” I pointed out. “I’m not saying to lie to your mother, but you could say that you…forgot the documents, then sneak out after the wedding and get them signed then-“

           “I can’t get there without the document,” he mumbled. “Me and the documents are stuck in this elevator together.” He pulled his knees to his chest and buried his head in his hands. “The wedding’s in four hours. I’ll miss it. I’ll miss the wedding.” 

           And this, kids, is why you don’t leave stuff to be done at the last minute. I sat down next to him, ignoring the crawling, invasive floor-germs, and poked at the folder. “What’s even left to be done?” Because if it was a signature, I would just tell him to forge it and leave. Somehow. Actually, just forge it and wait for somebody to reconnect the power so that the electric doors could open, then he could run back downstairs. We couldn’t be past the 10th floor, yet.

           “Notarized” brought me out of my reverie. It was too obscure a word to be used casually. I asked Sweaty Man to repeat himself.

           “I just need these notarized.” He held out the papers impatiently.

           I felt as if my brain had lit up with the luck of a coincidence. “Well you must have done something right in your life, because I just so happen to be able to notarize things.”

           “You’re a notary?” he asked incredulously.

           “Nope, the Queen of England,” I quipped, reaching into my purse and jiggling my hand around until I felt a familiar cherry-wooden box. Sweaty Man was staring at me with wide eyes. He could not be serious.

           When he asked if he should bow, I saw that he was. “That was sarcasm,” I explained, shaking my head. “I don’t even have a British accent.”

           “And what’s in the box?” He pointed the flashlight at it. I popped open the fake painted-gold lock and gingerly pulled out a pre-inked stamp.

           “This, my desperate friend, is the key to getting your documents done.” I didn’t need light to notarize anything anymore. I pulled a black ballpoint pen from behind my ear and signed my name blindly on the designated line, barely scanning the document, and stamped maroon wax next to it. I repeated for the rest in the folder.

           Boom. The marriage certificates were ready. Now all we had to do was wait.

           Sweaty Man proved very early on that he was physically incapable of waiting.

           “Do you have a cellphone?” he demanded.

           “Sure,” I shrugged, “but the internet here is slower than the elevator.”

           That entertained him for about five minutes. In the meantime, I leaned against the wall, completely giving up on sanitation, and unwrapped a Raisin-Granola bar I found in the bottom of my purse.

           Sweaty Man switched to pressing the “Emergency Call” button on the elevator’s button panel. I didn’t think he understood that these were old elevators. They had no electricity-bypass feature. Nobody was receiving his call.       

           “Why are you so relaxed?” I heard him say. His voice sounded far away. I was busy, very occupied, with the recent discovery of a receipt a waiter had given me when I went to the local diner to pick up eggs. At the bottom he had written “I’d like to see how you serve your eggs,” with a winking face and his phone number.

           Gross. I recalled all the spam-number pranks I had seen joke articles on. Wasn’t there some organization that sent money to save the pandas every time you sent a text message? I could bet this dude would be sending lots of messages. I would pretend I had a phone-number change and would send him the new numbers, and the pandas would get a lot of saving.

           At some point the question registered in my brain, and I raised my hands in surrender. Surrender to society. Surrender to stress. “This is probably the most excitement I’ll have all week.” Lower-level occupation, lower-level triggers. “What’s there to be concerned about?”

           “Your notary job.” He squinted his eyebrows, analyzing me, seeing if some chemical reaction had gone wrong in my brain.

           “Eh.” I folded my hands behind my head as if I were chilling on a lawn chair. “If the company wants to replace me, they can replace me! I heard somewhere that notaries are highly respected in England; they’ll love that I have tons of practice.” I smirked. “And clearly I could just pretend to be the Queen. It’s worked before.”

           Even in the dark I could see Sweaty Man’s cheeks turn red. He didn’t like being wrong. Or corrected. I closed my eyes.

           “Wake up!” Sweaty Man instructed maybe 10 minutes later, shaking my shoulder weakly with his left hand. “We’ve been in this elevator for a whole hour!”

           “First of all,” I scolded, “I was not even sleeping.” I stood up and arched my back in a stretch. Closing my eyes had adjusted them to the dim, phone-flashlight glow and I could better see that the silver elevator panels allowed for a soft, ghostly reflection. It would have been terrifying if I was standing closer to a panel, where I could see my distorted eyes and mouth, so I stood firmly in the middle. “Second of all, you need to ride the elevator with me every morning! We’re making great timing!” I was only slightly exaggerating.

           “We need to leave!” Sweaty Man jiggled his right foot. “I’ve got a wedding.”

           As if I hadn’t already gathered that.

           No, there was no time to be rude. I racked my brain for any memories of being stuck in an elevator. Once at my cousin’s graduation my wheelchair-bound aunt was trapped in a faulty elevator, but then heroic firefighters came and swooped her out. We had no heroic firefighters or any means to call them.

           That only left action movies. “We could climb through the panels.”

           “What?” On second glance, Sweaty Man was pretty puny. Like a limp spaghetti noodle. I doubted he could climb anywhere, especially in his ill-fitting checked suit.

           Still, we ought to try. I pointed up. “The elevator ceiling is made of panels. Above them is a thick rope the elevator is suspended from. We can push up a tile and climb up the rope.”

           Sweaty Man didn’t say anything, just gaped at me.

           “At least then we’ll be out of the elevator!” I tried. Really, I was itching for some action. I didn’t mind boredom if I could be left alone to contemplate my own matters, but Sweaty Man was such a busy-body I wouldn’t get any rest. At least climbing would exhaust him.

           “I think you forget that we’re not children climbing a tree,” Sweaty Man argued.

           “I think you’re just afraid.” That comeback worked on any age group.

           “I am not!” Sweaty Man huffed. He scratched his head. “How will we do this?”

           “You’re probably lighter than me,” I deduced. “I’ll crouch down and you step on my back like it’s a stool, then push up a tile and hoist yourself out.”

           “Then I’ll reach out my hand and pull you up.” He smiled cheekily. Probably the first positive emotion he displayed throughout this entire escapade.

           I kneeled down, then shot immediately back up. “Hold on. Before we do anything, we might as well get personal. Can I ask you a question before we crash this wedding?”

           I don’t know why I bothered because I started asking anyway. What part of him did I want to critique first? I decided on the most obvious.

           “Please, please, put on some deodorant.” I leaned my elbows on the floor. “You get sweaty when you’re nervous.”

September 07, 2020 21:04

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Scout Tahoe
01:26 Sep 08, 2020

Haha, the beginning was funny. I did this prompt too, but yours has so much potential. Thanks for reading my story!


Meggy House
18:07 Sep 08, 2020

Thank you so much for responding to mine! You're a wonderful writer and I wish you all the best!


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Tejas Chandna
18:55 Sep 09, 2020

Great story! The beginning was amazing! How can someone be so good at writing in just a few submissions? This deserves to win! Can you read my story "Freedom to fire the flies"? I need feedback from prolific writers and am making a team of writers on my website! (link is given in my bio) Please share, follow, and ask others to join! Thanks


Meggy House
11:58 Sep 10, 2020

Thank you so much for your kind words! I will definitely check out your story and your bio.


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Regina Perry
13:54 Sep 08, 2020

Cute way to wrap around to the beginning again.


Meggy House
18:16 Sep 08, 2020

Thank you!


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