Originally published in the Vincennes University Tecumseh Review, 2007, and my book Eclectic Collection.
My tale begins on the eve of Halloween 2006. I had agreed to trade shifts with a co-worker so that I could be off for a party the next night. I was sure I would make enough tips from a Monday to buy a great costume and a bottle of rum. That never happened. Instead I found myself in a very uncomfortable situation. I was trapped in an elevator with a person whom I would never have spoken to under ordinary circumstances. What came from this event can only be described as life changing. Would I do it again, you bet your ass I would.
I was busy slapping out dough and restocking the pepperoni when I got a call for two deep-dish Supremes to be delivered to the Vincennes University Humanities building. I quickly helped Melvin create the pies and clocked the run out. Once they emerged from the oven I would be out the door and have the pizza in the right hands in less than 20 minutes. I was that good.
Like clockwork the pizzas revealed themselves while I prepped the boxes and set up my hot-bag. After several passes with the pizza cutter they were boxed, bagged and out the door. I had seven minutes if I was going to be there in fewer than 20.
My Geo hummed like a song as I darted through the early evening traffic. The only thing that slowed my travel was the occasional redneck in his giant Hotwheels pick up, complete with KC lights and roll bar. I hated rednecks and I didn’t know why. Maybe it was just a stereotype or maybe it was just because they were different than me. Either way it was a long-brewed hatred…and one that the local yokels gave right back to me.
After I made my way to the VU campus and the right building, I pulled my car onto the curb in a no parking zone. I sprang from my vehicle and grabbed the odoriferous bundle from the back seat. I left my car running as I walked briskly into the building. Being a delivery driver gave me certain privileges and one of those was the ability to park wherever the hell I wanted to without fear of repercussion. I knew I was going to be in and out and I didn’t care if anyone liked it or not.
Most of the halls were dark in the building and I wasn’t sure where I was going. I was down to two minutes. The room was 213 so it was obviously on the second floor. That led me to the choice of stairs or elevator. I chose the stairs. Being out of breath when I got to my customers proved how I had hustled and it usually played to their sympathetic sides. Hell, I would crawl covered in blood to a door for an extra dollar or two.
I reached the door labeled 213 without a fuss and knocked on the door. I could see through the little window on the door that I startled the woman who was teaching the class. I laughed in my head causing a goofy smile to spread across my face. Something about this situation took me back to Ridgemont High. I even had to double check the name on the boxes to see if they were for a Spicoli. Much to my disappointment they were for a Mullen.
The woman walked over to the door and handed me a check for $15.64 as she took the boxes from me. I barely got the words “Thank you” out of my mouth before the door was closed again. $15.64 was exactly the price of the two pizzas, without a tip and since the school was tax exempt there wasn’t even a delivery charge included in that price. Thanks for nothing, Mrs. Mullen; I hope you choke on your damn pizza.
It is a general rule that if someone delivers something to you for a living and they don’t get paid FedEx wages, they deserve a tip. Gas prices are a bitch and that’s usually the reason people had food delivered. Or they were just lazy bastards. Tip your delivery drivers, after all they’ll remember you the next time and they usually make a lot of the food that leaves their store.
As I walked to the stairs I stared a hole in the check. It mocked me with its stupid little numbers and illegible signature. I wanted to change the five into an eight but the written part made that too tricky to pull off so I thrust it into my front pocket and stopped at the top of the stairs. I didn’t really feel like walking down so I thought I would just take the elevator. I would have hurried back to the store for my next run but most pizza guys will tell you that your first tip sets the standard for the whole night.
I walked around the corner where I saw a woman and what appeared to be a janitor waiting on the elevator. The chick looked hot from behind in her short black mini skirt and pink sweater. I was only going down one floor but she might just make it easier on the eyes. I then took my place with them and waited for what seemed like a solid three or four minutes. I could have been to my car and on my way back by now, but where was the fun in that?
“Wow, this bastard must be coming from China, huh?” I said in an attempt to dazzle the well-developed young lady with my sarcastic humor. She merely smiled and turned slightly on her pointed red heels. The janitor chuckled a bit and pushed the button again.
Finally after another minute or so a satisfying ding announced the arrival of the mechanical lift. The busty blond and the janitor walked in first and pushed a button on the panel.
“Going up?” asked the janitor.
“Nope, I’m going down.” It sounded perverted, so I smiled at the girl hoping she would roll with it and smile back.
She didn’t smile. Instead she reached over the guy and pushed the button for the first floor. I tried to act like I wasn’t a big dork as I read the janitor’s uniform. It had a patch on each side of his chest. One said Vincennes University maintenance staff and the other said Oscar.
“So, Oscar, is this a pretty good job?”
The two of them looked at each other and smiled as if they were trying to hold in an all out laugh, and the door to the elevator began to close. He began to say something as the doors dinged again and a western style boot forced its way between them. This caused the man to stop his sentence and press the open button for good measure.
Once the doors were open another girl entered the elevator. At least I was pretty sure it was a girl. She was decked out in a pair of tight jeans, cowboy boots and a t-shirt the read “Cowgirl up.” I didn’t know what in the hell her shirt meant but she was obviously a redneck. All we needed now was a cop and we’d have a new version of the Village People.
The cowgirl smiled politely as she pressed the already luminescent number one. She then stood against the wall and watched the doors close. Her long dark hair was pulled into a tight ponytail and it didn’t look like she had much makeup on at all. There was no contest as to who the queen of the elevator was. The blond was a knock out.
There was little talk on the short trip to the third floor. The cowgirl smiled at me as the other two talked at a barely audible level. All I overheard was something about a party, but nothing that made sense. Then, as the elevator dinged once more, the two of them stepped toward the door.
The blond looked back at me with a toothy grin and said “Later dude” in the most masculine voice I have ever heard. Then the two of them laughed and jogged away from the doors. As the doors closed I heard one of them call me a dumb ass and the other said something about how great their costumes were. Ms. Hillbilly seemed to find it all hilarious but I couldn’t even fathom forming a sentence.
Now I was stuck in an elevator with the cowgirl who had been crowned the new queen of the elevator by default. The only thing that gave me more of a sickening feeling was that I knew that I had been checking out a guy this whole time. On second thought maybe he was a queen. At that particular moment I didn’t really care. I hated Halloween and I hated this elevator.
As I settled into my feeling of disgust I watched as the 2 lit up on the panel signaling we were going down. Then as if God had just decided he hated me, the entire elevator went dark accompanied by the sound of power winding down.
I fumbled my way over to the control panel. From there I began mashing buttons like a madman. I could feel the presence of the country bumpkin over my shoulder. If anything she was just as pissed about being trapped in here as I was. She reached over me and tried a couple more buttons. It was official. We were trapped in this box. It had only been maybe two minutes but that was long enough and who knew how long it would last. All I knew was that I would sure as hell never take an elevator on a whim again.
I didn’t allow myself to say it aloud but I had to snicker as I thought; of all the times to leave my phone in my still running car. At this rate someone was sure to have already stolen my car and driven out of town to call everyone they knew, racking up unholy charges. It shouldn’t be long now before the elevator caught on fire. It would only be a fitting end to the day.
Surprisingly, it seemed like an hour before one of us finally spoke. I didn’t have anything to say aside from the bitching and swearing under my breath. None of it seemed to bother the hick chick. She just sat quietly on the floor holding her knees until boredom overtook her and she began to speak.
“It cain’t be too much longer now,” she said with an awkward southern drawl.
I cringed as she chewed up the English language and spat it at me. I assumed she was trying to say “can’t” but the inbred word she produced sounded more like “taint.” Oh well, who the hell was I to judge the way she talked? I was getting bored myself and if talking to this Miss Piggy-farmer helped pass the time it would have to do.
I could see by the glow of the small orange emergency light that she smiled the littlest bit. It looked like she had all of her teeth and as long as I didn’t hear dueling banjos I might even come out of this alive. At least the drag queen was gone. Despite the cowgirl’s attire I was pretty sure she was a she. At least she sounded female even if she sounded uneducated. The funny thing would be if she was just wearing a costume, too. Unfortunately the only way to find out would be to ask.
“So…are you really an uh…um…country western person or is this just a costume for you?”
She smiled again before she looked my direction, causing the light to leave her face. “Yep, country girl, born and raised,” she said with a child’s enthusiasm.
“Huh, well at least you’re really a girl, which is more than we can say for some people who were lucky enough to get out of here before the power went out, right?”
“I guess,” she mumbled as she pulled her knees in closer and laid her head on them.
I looked at the ceiling. I could remember several action movies where the star climbed out of an access panel on the top of an elevator. All I saw was darkness and light fixtures. Maybe it was just hidden but then again it would be my luck for the power to come back as soon as I was on top and I would be smashed. Maybe I watch too much TV.
“So are you really a pizza boy?” the redneck girl asked as she shifted her weight uncomfortably.
“Pizza guy. Yeah I’m a really a pizza guy.”
“Wow that must really suck,” she spouted, unafraid to offend.
“No, not so much. I mean it’s not as glamorous as flinging pig shit, but it pays the bills.”
“You mean cows? Me and pappy raise cattle.”
“Well, excuse the hell out of me for confusing my filthy animals,” I shot back.
After the juvenile arguing was done there was another long silence. I looked at my watch and noticed we had already been in here for two hours. It seemed more like five or six to me but you know what they say ’time flies when you having fun.” Thus far time was just crawling along. At this rate I had plenty of time to feel bad for being a jerk. It wasn’t this girl’s fault that the elevator stopped. Chances were she wanted out of there as badly as I did.
“So what’s your name?” I asked in an attempt to speed up our incarceration time.
She just sat there and didn’t look toward me as she asked, “Why? You’ll just make fun of it.”
“No, really I won’t. I promise. Scouts honor.”
“Jolene, huh? Why would I make fun of that?” I asked feeling like I was on the outside of an inside joke.
“Everyone else does.”
I moved from the sitting position I had been in for awhile and laid on my side looking at her for a minute. She was actually not that bad looking. Maybe a little makeup and some better clothes would help but she had a natural beauty that you just don’t see anymore.
“So aren’t you going to ask my name?” I asked, slightly insulted.
“Nope,” was all she said.
“Well fine, be that way. A guy tries to make conversation and he gets the cold shoulder. I see how it is.”
I could see by the orange light that she was smiling again. It was a little hard to see with so little light but it looked like when she really let herself smile she wrinkled up her nose in the cutest little way. While, if I had a type this chick would not fit the profile, there was something interesting about her.
“So do you think anyone is wondering where we are yet?” I said in an attempt to keep the conversation alive.
“Well, I reckon somebody’s got to be wondering by now.”
“Yeah I’m probably fired but that’s cool. I was going to quit soon anyway.”
She didn’t respond. She just looked at the floor. I, on the other hand, looked at my watch. It had been five hours and still not even a flicker of electricity. Since conversation was pointless maybe it was time to scream and get someone’s attention. The only problem was that this was a small enclosed area and yelling was probably going to give me a headache before anyone heard me so I paced the elevator like a caged puma looking for a way out.
“Are you going to try to get out of here like they do in the movies?” Jolene asked.
“I didn’t think cowboy movies had elevators in them?”
She gave me a fake cold stare that gave way to her cute wrinkled-nose smile as I gave her a cocky smirk, to let her know I was only joking. I then told her my plan about yelling to get help. We agreed it wouldn’t work but both began to yell at the same time and as predicted after several minutes I was done. I could feel the headache echoing through my head in the form of our combined voices.
“I don’t suppose you have any ibuprofen do you?” I said as I sat back into a corner.
“N,o but I know this great trick that cures headaches.”
“Please, feel free to share because I have headaches all the time.”
She then sat on the floor next to me and took my right hand into hers. After pressing her thumb into the muscle between my thumb and index finger she began to massage my hand. My first instinct was to make a comment about it not being my hand that hurt, but it felt good anyway and it took my mind off of my headache and being trapped in an elevator.
Jolene’s hands were hard from working but soft enough to do the trick. As she moved to my left hand her touch became tender and she scooted slightly closer to me. Much to my surprise she didn’t smell like cow shit. Instead she had a subtle scent of jasmine and vanilla. The soft smell and hand massage had relaxed me to the point of closing my eyes without even noticing it. When I opened them I noticed Jolene looking at me through the dark with friendly eyes and a warm smile.
To be continued...
If you liked this part of the story and you want to read more, order your copy of Eclectic Collection now. This book includes the story Contravention that became the short film Meateater, from Darkrider Studios/ Jabb Pictures (on The Collective Vol.1) and Unanswered that will soon be a movie from Well Hung Pictures!