Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Arnold Palmer 4

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Where the hell was the letter? He remembered placing it right on top of his desk. He quickly checked his pockets. A sudden sensation of dread washed over him as he imagined finding the letter in his pants pocket. If he had it this whole time, he'd never forgive himself for his idiocy.

The letter wasn't in his pockets. He scoured his desk, picking up every paper, looking under every folder and even his desk calendar. He looked in the drawers of his desk, despite the impossibility of finding it there. The one time he found his misplaced keys in the fridge in college left him searching in even the most ridiculous of places whenever he lost something.

Where the hell was the letter?

He collapsed into his chair. He really needed a drink. Wait, needed? Maybe he did have a problem.

Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed something white on the floor under the cabinet next to his desk.

"Please, God..."

He gently stood up and limped the few feet to the cabinet. There, with one corner sticking slightly out from under the cabinet, lay the envelope. He bent down, picked it up, and kissed it.

He didn't waste time wondering how it had gotten there, he simply walked out of his office with the envelope in hand and headed towards the elevator.

"Time for that Arnold Palmer."

He pushed the button and the elevator opened immediately. Finally, things were going his way. He stepped in and pressed the button for the ground floor.

As he descended, he began humming to himself. He could almost feel the cool liquid easing down his throat. The pain in his foot even subsided a little as he envisioned the refreshing future that lay ahead.

As he began humming the second verse of "You are My Sunshine" (he wasn't really sure if there was a second verse, but the song is really short otherwise) the elevator slowed to a halt. The door made that annoying "ping" that informed Steve he would be having company on the rest of his elevator ride. He looked at the numbers above the door. He was on the 2nd floor again.

Maybe the young woman was leaving. This could be his shot at redemption. He stood up straight, sucked in his gut that had slightly begun hang over his belt, and looked up at the reflection in the ceiling to fix any hair that might have fallen out of place. Satisfied, he quickly prepared an explanation for his previous lack of courtesy. Just as he came up with the perfect quip, the perfect combination of words that would express his remorse and show her just how witty and helpful he really was...the door opened.

It was the custodian.


He moved to the side of the elevator to make room for the custodian and his enormous vacuum.

The young man, without looking up or acknowledging Steve in any way, pushed the vacuum inside and maneuvered it around so it was facing the door and he was standing behind it, somehow managing to miss Steve's foot this time. As he settled into his position, the doors closed and Steve let out a sigh of relief as the elevator descended again.

After a silent ride, the doors opened to the ground floor.

Neither man moved. It was the world renown elevator conundrum: who exits first? Now, there are many schools of thought on this. When the elevator is full, there is no problem: the people closest to the doors leave first and people simply spill out as they can. The problem arises when there are only a few people. Generally, people stand at the back of the elevator when given enough space, so oftentimes nobody is closer to the doors than anybody else. When there is a man and a woman, the code of chivalry says to let the woman go first; on the other hand, two men, alone in an elevator, exiting on the same floor, is the world's biggest riddle.

No movement.

Steve snuck a look at the custodian, who was slightly raising his head to do the same. They met eyes. Steve nodded, indicating to the custodian that he could go first. The custodian nodded back, but didn't move. Was his nod indicating that he understood Steve, or that Steve should go first? Should Steve go?

He was going. It was ridiculous just standing there. He was going.

He stepped forward, just as the custodian started to move.

He stopped. The custodian stopped.

They looked at each other.


The elevator doors began to close.

Steve stepped forward with his arm out to stop the door as the custodian did the same thing; while doing so, his vacuum jerked forward.

Directly into Steve's toe.

He felt the anger rise along with the pain. His eyes narrowed, his face reddened, his fists clenched and he let out a primal scream from the pit of his stomach. Using all the force in his body, he slammed the vacuum back into the custodian, jamming the handle into his stomach. The custodian slumped over and Steve unloaded with a vicious uppercut to the young man's forehead. His head snapped back with a loud "crack" and hit the elevator wall. He started to fall towards the floor but Steve's hands were around his neck before he got too far. Steve saw the fear and confusion in the young man's eyes and it only enraged him further. He squeezed his hands tighter and tighter, until the custodian's face turned bright red. As it began turning to a light shade of blue, Steve tossed the man out of the elevator door. The custodian was of average build but Steve's fury allowed him to toss the man like a trash bag, which is how Steve currently viewed him. He hit the ground and coughed loudly as he curled into a fetal position. Steve grabbed the vacuum, and once again using the strength of his fury and momentarily forgetting the pain in his foot, he lifted the vacuum over his head. He could already picture the man's head bursting open and blood and brain matter splattering the floor and walls of the lobby.

He brought the vacuum down as hard as he could.

"You all right man?"

Darkness surrounded Steve as a distant voice called to him.


Blurred images began to take shape. He could see a face leaning over his. The voice was coming from the face.

"You went down pretty hard. You all right?"

"Huh?" Steve managed to blurt out. He now recognized the face as the custodian. Why was it still in one piece?

And why was Steve on the floor?

He saw the custodian's hand reaching down. Reluctantly, Steve grabbed it and attempted to get to his feet as the man pulled him upward. As he moved, he was reminded painfully of his broken toe.

"Ahh!" he half screamed and half mumbled, letting go of the helping hand. He got upright on his knees and stopped. He was on the floor next to the elevator door, with the vacuum standing next to him. He instinctively sneered at the uncaring machine, grabbed on to the handle and pulled himself up on his right foot.

"Dude, you need some help?"

"No," Steve replied. "Thanks." After a slight pause, he asked, "What happened?"

"I don't know man. We were leaving the elevator, then all of a sudden you turned like bright red and just fell over, knocked out. Weirdest thing I've ever seen."

Steve tried to remember what happened. All he could remember was his vision of the custodian's dark red blood splattered on the lobby's grey carpet.

"Then you were just layin there while the door kept trying to close on your head. You got a little cut on your forehead. So I kinda dragged you out here."

Steve put his fingers to his forehead. Sure enough, there was a slight trickle of blood and a large bump beginning to form.

"Uhh, thanks."

"Least I could do. So what happened man? You got like a condition or something?"

Steve considered his answer. "Uhh, no..." He was still a little out of it, trying to make sense of everything. The pain in his foot was almost matched by the pain in his head. What happened?

He looked down again at the vacuum he was leaning on. The vacuum.

The damn kid hit him with the vacuum again. That must have caused him to pass out, either from pain or anger, or both.

He felt the anger rising again.

"No, I just...forget it." He swallowed the rage bubbling up in his throat.

"All right. Man, you had me scared for a bit. I thought I did something at first."

Steve almost passed out again, this time most definitely from anger, but he took a deep breath, held tightly to the vacuum handle, and composed himself.

"Nope, all good," he managed through gritted teeth.

"All right, cool. I'm on thin ice here already, I can't have any more bad reports or I'll be back out on my ass."

Steve had a vision of his geriatric boss literally kicking the custodian out of the building on to his ass. A slight smile crept to his lips. Hell, all he had to do was write a quick note and this kid was gone. He didn't even have to resort to violence, or even a verbal confrontation.

He thought of what he would write. Maybe he'd even use his Creative Writing degree for once and put the note in haiku form.

Janitor is bad
So incapable
My toe really hurts

Granted, he was a little rusty.

"Oh, yeah, and you dropped this." The custodian reached toward Steve, holding some kind of paper.

The letter.

God. Damn. It.

"Thanks." Steve took the letter, and all thoughts of revenge disappeared. He couldn't punish the guy now. Steve probably would have forgotten the letter entirely if not for him. And the guy did pull him out of the elevator. Sure, he caused the situation in the first place, but at least he acted appropriately afterwards.

And was it really the guy's fault? The toe was already broken. Hell, if Steve just said something about it in the first place, this probably could have been avoided. Why was he being such an asshole? This was becoming a trend lately.

"Thanks a lot. I really appreciate it."

"No problem. Just be careful man. You look famished. Get something to eat, and stop working so hard dude. Usually I'm the only one here at this time. If nobody else is working this hard, you shouldn't be either, that's my motto."

Now the guy was a life coach and a philosopher. But he was right. Steve needed a good meal and some rest.

And that Arnold Palmer.

He thanked the custodian again and limped to the front door, for some reason still trying to hide the fact that his toe was broken. Despite all evidence against it, he maintained the idea that this was the best way to handle his situation.

He opened the door and stepped into the dark night.

-end pt 4

I Love You All...Class Dismissed.

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