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Creative Nonfiction Drama

Write a story about a character who’s stuck in an elevator when the power goes out. 

Dorothy Scott

I'm Hangin' In There

August 6, 2018 – Monday – 3 p.m.

“Let's get those hearing aids in your ears so you can hear the doctor.” I hated putting in Bob's hearing aids. I couldn't get them in deep enough and usually, when I turned my back, he would take them out. “And please leave them in,” I pleaded. “They won't do you much good if they're not in your ears.” 

“Okey-dokey!” Bob exclaimed with a smile. 

Okey-dokey was his favorite phrase to pacify me. I wondered if it would be a good day or one where he would put me through hell again. 

“Where are we going?”

“I just told you...to the doctors.” I had hoped I didn't have to repeat it again and again. That only frustrated me. “Put your glasses on and let's go.” We headed to the garage to get in the car. 

“So, where are we going?” Bob asked again. 

“To the doctor's, and please don't ask again.”

“Okey-dokey!” Bob repeated again as he sauntered to the car. 

I just bit my tongue, got in the car, and unlocked the passenger door. Before I could even back out of the garage, Bob asked again, “Where are we going?” 

I took a big, deep breath and sighed. “We have to go to see the heart doctor. He wants to check up on you to make sure you are doing well. He hasn't seen you since he did the artery surgery and cleaned out some of your arteries.” I don't know why I was explaining everything. I knew within three minutes, he wouldn't remember anything I said. 

Eight minutes later we were in the parking lot. “It looks like we are going to get some rain for sure.” I sensed the smell of fresh, aerosol rain that would soon hit the dry ground and flowers. “It feels like it, too.” The sky was overcast, the clouds were rolling in across the valley, and my skin had that clammy feeling that I only got during the monsoon season. We really needed some rain. The weatherman had just remarked this morning that the last mark of any rain in Las Vegas was 128 days ago, but the rain was coming. It was the monsoon season, so I suspected he just might be right this time.   

After parking the car, we took the elevator to the third floor to Room 306 to see Dr. Sheik. No one was waiting, so I figured we would get in and out quickly. I signed Bob in to see the doctor and then sat down to read a book on my iPad. I hardly got started when the nurse called Bob in to see the doctor. 

“Why are we here?” Bob kept forgetting why I told him we needed to see the doctor. And, I kept telling him why. 

“Remember I told you the doctor needed to see you to make sure you were okay after he cleaned your arteries out.” I worked hard to stay as calm as possible. After all, it was through no fault of his own that he easily forgot. 

“I don't know why I have to see the doctor. I feel fine.”

We followed the nurse into the room where she took Bob's vitals. “Oxygen is 98, blood pressure 116 over 75, and the lungs are clear. Let's get your weight. Please come over here and stand on the scale. Hmm...your weight hasn't changed since the last time you were here. Still at 165 pounds. That's good. Please wait here and the doctor will be here in just a moment. He has one patient ahead of you.”

There wasn't a window in the room, so I didn't know if it had started raining or not. I hoped we didn't have to wait too long for the doctor. I didn't want to drive through any raging water on the way home. Nevada is notorious for fast flooding and torrential rains during the monsoon season. Rather than worry, I got the iPad out again and began reading a book I had started and wanted to finish before the weekend. I got through about ten pages before the doctor came in. 

“Hello, Mr. Carter...Mrs. Carter.” He sat down and opened up Bob's medical folder. “Looks like everything is good. Have you had any pain in your legs?” He looked at Bob. 

“What did he say?” Bob looked at me. He looked back at the doctor. “I don't hear very well.” 

I knew it… Bob had taken the hearing aids out again! I raised my voice an octave and looked at Bob so he could lipread what I was saying, “He asked you if you are having any pain in your legs.”

“No,” Bob answered in the negative, although, he would answer in the negative even if he was dying of pain. He wanted everyone to think he was still strong and healthy at eighty-seven years old. That's why it was always so difficult to determine if he had health problems or not. You just never knew until something serious happened and he ended up in the hospital. 

“Well, I think it can be safe to say the artery surgery was a success. But, I want to keep a close eye on him because of his age.” The doctor looked directly at me and I could feel some concern in his voice. “I'd like to see him in six weeks for another follow up.”

“Okay, thanks. I'll make an appointment.” 

We left the room and met with the receptionist to make the appointment. “Tell me, is it raining out yet,” I asked her. I wanted to be prepared for the weather.

“It was raining really hard a few minutes ago and that lady sitting over there said it was thundering and lightening. We haven't had a storm like this in quite some time. I hope you brought your umbrella.”

“Umbrella,” what's that I thought. We haven't used an umbrella since we left Michigan eighteen years ago. “No, I don't have one. Oh, well, we'll just weather the storm.” We thanked her, turned, and headed out the door to the elevator. I looked to the far end of the hall and could see that it was raining hard. Bob entered the elevator as a man walked by. 

“Looks like quite a storm! Better drive carefully.” The man quickly disappeared as he turned and headed down the staircase.

I turned to answer him but didn't see him, and when I stepped forward to get in the elevator, I noticed the door had closed. 

3:55 p.m.

In a flash, tumultuous thunder rolled in followed by scarlet lightning. All the lights went out and everything turned dark except for the fading light from the sky that was seen through the three-story windows at the end of the hallway. I pushed the elevator button to open the door. I pushed it again...and again. Nothing! Nothing happened. I yelled, “Bob, are you okay?”

In a faint distance, I could hear him say, “I'm hangin' in there.” 

“Just stay calm. I'm going to get someone.” I saw a security guard come by. “Sir, my husband is caught in the elevator and I need help.”

“I'll go and get help. Is anyone else in with him.”

“No, just him.” I was scared. What if he panicked, what if he needed to use the bathroom, what if...what if – so many thoughts going through my head. Was he on the third floor...what if he was between floors and the lights go on and the door opens, what then...all unanswered questions?

I waited while Bob stood in some dark, dreary elevator alone for what seemed like hours but was probably only five minutes or so. The security guard came back with a guy who looked like some sort of technician. He looked at the elevator, pushed the elevator up and down button several times (Duh, I already did that, I thought) and said, “I don't have any key or tools to open the door. I'll have to call the fire department. They do this all the time and they have the right tools. Just wait here. It should only take a minute.”

Like I am going to leave. I don't think so. My husband was caught in some unforgiving elevator and there was nothing I could do about it. The rain was waning, but the electricity was still out. They needed to get Bob out before he panicked or did something we'd both regret. It was dark in the elevator, and he didn't have any means of light. 

4:15 p.m.

I waited for about twenty minutes for the firemen to show up. In the meantime, I prayed, called out to Bob to make sure he was okay, and prayed again all while the storm was escalating. I knew I had to keep him calm. I didn't want HIM to panic. 

 The firemen showed up with bags full of tools to open the elevator. They spoke to the security guard first. “Do you know if anyone is in the elevator?” 

The security guard said, “Yes” and motioned for them to speak to me. 

“Mam, do you know how many people are in the elevator?” one fireman asked.

“Just one, my husband.” I tried to be calm, but I knew this could quickly change to a disaster. 

“What is your husband's name?” Another fireman inquired. 

“Bob, Bob Carter,” I answered. 

“Does your husband have with him a cell phone or tablet, something that produces light?” The first fireman continued his questioning. 

“No, he has no clue on how to use technological devices. He eighty-seven years old and has problems with short term memory.” I didn't want to tell them that he not only had short term memory problems, but he could get very restless and had some anger issues...all symptoms of dementia. I didn't want to admit that he was seeing a neurologist for the dementia symptoms. I wanted him to keep his dignity.

While one fireman asked me questions, the other firemen were working on opening the door by using tools that they anchored to each side of the top of the elevator and then the middle.

“Have you ever known your husband to be claustrophobic?” The first fireman spoke again.

“No, but you never know what he might do or try to do.” I felt they needed some hint that he might get excitable. 

The firemen were finally able to open the door. But, no Bob! All anyone could see was large cables on each side of the elevator shaft and lots of apparatuses and such that reminded me of a computer server room. The elevator floor was open about two feet or so from the bottom. I peered closely and saw a fireman get on his knees and look through the small opening of the elevator. 

“Hey, Bob, how are you doing?” 

“I'm hangin' in there,” came a laid back response from Bob.

“That's his favorite line,” I remarked. “Well, I guess that answers my concern about whether he might panic or not." I spoke to the fireman standing near me. 

Another fireman spoke directly to Bob, “We're going to close that inner door right there for a minute. We're going to leave it closed for a minute. Then we're going to move the elevator to get you out…okay. Do you want some light?” The fireman reached in through the small opening and handed Bob a flashlight.

I tried to see what they were doing, but there were five of them all trying to determine the best way to get the elevator to the level in which Bob could actually walk out. From peering between the men's legs, all I could see was the top of Bob's head and that was only because they were flashing light in the elevator. He wasn't panicking, but I was beginning to think they would never get him out. Panic was beginning to be my middle name. I began to pray again.

I was worried that Bob would get frustrated and his ability to understand what they were trying to do for him might be buried in all the turmoil. They moved the elevator and then opened the door. Now, all I could see was his knees to his toes. 

“Hey, how are you doing, Bob?” the tallest fireman spoke. I believed the firemen sensed he might panic and wanted to keep him as calm as possible.

“I'm hangin' in there.” 

“Just keep hanging on and we'll get you out.” They closed the door again and moved the elevator. This time, all I could see was his torso.

A fireman came over to me. “Don't worry, we'll get him out. It just might take a little more time.” He must have determined I was getting very nervous.

The five men began to talk a little softer. I strained to hear what they were saying. People were walking by talking loudly trying to make their voices heard over the heavy storm. It became more and more difficult to hear the firemen clearly. Finally, the noise level lightened up a bit and I heard one of the firemen say, “Can you do it from the third floor?”

“I don't know; these floors are pretty tall. I'm going to the first floor. You can close it up and meet me there.” I think that was the head fireman speaking. I couldn't really tell. 

The fireman picked up their paraphernalia and headed down the stairs. I followed them the two flights down to the first floor. They put their tools down and proceeded to unlock the elevator door. It was more difficult to see what they were doing because they were working body to body and they kept their voices in a low tone, They flashed the flashlight into the open door and all I could see was an elevator shaft, just like you see in the murder mystery movies when someone is pushed into an open shaft. I kept worrying about how they would get Bob out. 

Three firemen peered inside the shaft with their flashlights. They scanned the shaft with their light. “We have to lower the elevator and make sure the cables on each side are level.” 

“Exactly, but there is no power.” The other answered. “It's good that we have a double door here. We can keep the inside door closed while we lower the elevator manually.”

“When we lower it, we need to make sure it's not too fast.” Their voices were blending together.

“Mr. Carter, we are going to lower the elevator now. Please step away from the door.”

“I'm trying to lower it, but it's stuck again!” The firemen looked at each other. 

They tried again and again. The elevator went up a little and on the next try, it went down a little. Kind of reminded me of when we stayed in New York at the Intrigue Hotel and we actually had a man who sat on a stool at the inside front corner of the elevator and manually controlled the elevator making it go up and down. He never seemed to get it just right and we always had to either step up six inches or step down six inches. We thought that was fun then, but now, it didn't seem like so much fun. 

About the third or fourth time, the elevator moved up significantly.“The opening is big enough to get him out,” said the fireman nearest the opening. 

 “Just be careful,” another remarked. 

Okay, Bob, there's a little step down as you come out.” The taller fireman took Bob's arm and helped him out of the elevator. “Glad to have you back, Bob!” I could see the look of relief on their faces. I wondered if they really thought they would get him out without harm. 

5:18 p.m.

As Bob walked out of the elevator, he looked down through the still open elevator shaft.” I didn't know it was that far down there.”

Bob started to walk toward me when the security guy reached out his hand to Bob. “Well, Mr. Carter, I am Dave, the guy who made the call to the fire department. How are you feeling that you're finally out.”

“I'm hangin' in there!”

I was shaking and almost in tears of gratitude as I thanked each fireman individually and the security guard and technician who all stayed to make sure Bob got out of the elevator safely. It could have turned out really bad, but it didn't. I looked out the large window at the end of the hallway and saw that the rain had stopped and the storm had ended. The clouds were moving out and the sun was shining.

The fireman standing nearest to me asked, “How do you feel now that your husband is finally out of the elevator?' 

I took a deep breath, “I'm hanging by a thread, but I'm hangin' in there!”

September 08, 2020 22:54

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