That Damn Lift, p.1Diane Lee
That Damn Lift
(A short, short story)
Published by Delicious Publishing, 2015.
Copyright © 2015 Diane Lee
All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced or used in any manner without the express written permission of the publisher other than the use of brief quotations in book reviews. If you have “acquired” this book without buying it or without the author's permission, please respect her hard work and purchase a copy.
Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
First printed 2015.
PO Box 3653
Norwood, South Australia, 5067
That Damn Lift
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That Damn Lift
Ross hauled his heavy frame up the stairs. Already at the second floor with three more to go, there were dark stains under his armpits and his breath was laboured. Damn that lift—it had been out of action for the past week, and the boss lady had promised to have it fixed.
Forcing his reluctant body up three more flights of stairs, he paused at the top to catch his breath, mop his moist face with the clean handkerchief he always carried, and adjust his toupee. He then entered the over lit foyer of McSlape, Forrester & Co.
McSlape & Associates was a large, family owned affair, specialising in the supply of stationery to local businesses, and had been taken over earlier that year—in a friendly manner—by Forrester & Co. After changing the business’s name to McSlape, Forrester & Co—to show it was far from the hostile takeover that was rumoured—the new owners installed the boss lady as manager of operations.
The boss lady—also known as Ernestine Forrester—came packaged with the merger. In her late forties, with neither husband nor children, she had made work her world. She had fired more people than she had hired, and was an integral part of the Forrester & Co dynasty that insisted on taking over smaller businesses in a friendly manner. Although not an unattractive woman, she played down her femininity with expensive, tailored suits in shades of navy, grey and brown, preferably in a pinstripe. She did like brooches, though, and always wore one on her left lapel, with shoes carefully chosen to match each brooch’s key feature—a rhinestone here, a Swarovski crystal there.
Ernestine was given carte blanche by the newly formed McSlape, Forrester & Co to make some strategic decisions, or clear out all the dead wood, as she liked to put it. Within one month, most of senior management—those opposed to the merger—had either been sacked, or had resigned, conveniently replaced by Forrester & Co executives. Of those who stayed, most were close to retirement, like Ross, and preferred to blend in, choosing to take a lesser role over unemployment and a reduced pension.
Ross didn’t really mind that Ernestine was now occupying the chair, office and job he had poured his heart and soul into for twenty-five years. After all he, better than anyone, understood that changing of the guard was often a necessary part of business growth. If he were honest, he was beginning to wind down as he approached retirement anyway, so was happy with his new role as co-director of operational strategy.
His new role didn’t have quite the challenge he thought it would though, and when he accepted the position, he was pretty sure he would be giving more advice to the boss lady than he was being asked to give. And his office was much smaller, tucked away from the rest of the McSlape, Forrester & Co clan. He thought it odd that he was not actually directing anything and that no one much called or emailed or came to see him. But at least he had a job, even if it wasn’t quite what he thought he would be doing. Many of his colleagues hadn’t been quite so lucky. Especially the vocal ones.
Walking through the foyer to the plastic fern-lined administration area, still short of breath, Ross recognised only a few of the faces staring blankly at their computer screens. Ready with his usual ‘Morning!’ to his co-workers, boomeranged greetings had declined over the months, and he note that this morning, they were non-existent.
His office was at the end of a long corridor, sandwiched between the resource room and the ladies’ toilets. It was small, and he had to squeeze past a row of steel filing cabinets to enter the space where his chair was tucked behind the over-sized desk that was crammed into a far corner. He had a pin-up board on one wall, appliquéd with photos from the old days. A small window let in some natural light, but reflected off his computer screen, and caused him some problems with headaches. He had requested a glare reducer some months ago, but one hadn’t been forthcoming as yet.
Turning on the computer, Ross let the machine go through the motions, blinking its meaningless messages, then he opened his email. There was only one message—from Ernestine—advising staff that the lift would be out of action for another three days. Apparently, there was some trouble locating a part for the door, and it had to be flown in from overseas.
Damn that lift—he could tell it was going to be longer than three days until it was fixed.
It had been out of order for a week. Apparently there was a fault with the door—it was stuck shut because of a worn part—and Ross was sick of it. Surely, parts weren’t that hard to come by in this day and age. How hard could it be?
He rang Reception to find out if Ernestine was in, and learning she was, made his way around to her office on the other side of the building.
Ernestine’s office was large and sparsely decorated. Ross always felt a pang of homesickness whenever he had cause to go in there. She had moved Ross’s furniture into his new office space—if it could be called that—and the new u-shaped black desk, bookshelves and filing cabinets she had installed contrasted sharply against the crisp white of the walls. The objects on her desk were minimal—a steel letter opener with a lethal point, a large leather-bound A4 diary and one fake citrus-coloured orchid in a shallow glass bowl of river pebbles. Her laptop was open, but on the other side of the desk, mouseless.
He knocked gently on the partly opened door, and waited for the familiar response: ‘Come.’
Ernestine’s sleek head was bent over a report. Ross began to talk, but she held up a pointed index finger until he choked on his words, then lowered it to find its place again on the page.
He stood by the door for precisely seven minutes, shifting his weight uncomfortably as it became obvious that she was enjoying making him wait.
When she finished the report, Ernestine looked up, lips moving in attempt to smile. She indicated he sit in the black leather chair opposite her desk.
‘Ross. What can I do for you?’
He placed his heavy frame carefully into the chair and looked at her thoughtfully. He noticed she was wearing an onyx brooch in the shape of a snake on the lapel of her grey jacket. Its eyes were two rubies, and he assumed that she would be wearing red shoes to match
‘It’s about the lift, Ernestine. I’m disappointed that the repairs have not been addressed adequately. A further two days—inconveniencing staff—is just not good enough. You did say that the problem would be fixed today.’
Ernestine leaned back in her chair, index fingers pointed together, steeple-like, under her chin.
‘Yes. Yes, I did say that, didn’t I?’
‘Yes. You did.’ He waited for her response.
‘Clearly, then, you are not happy with the situation.’
Confident he had her ear, Ross continued.
‘No, Ernestine, I am not. I am not happy with the situation at all. McSlape & Associates did not experience p
He paused for effect.
‘The changes brought about by this merger have been more far-reaching than I anticipated. The lift issue is symptomatic of the demise of corporate knowledge, Ernestine. Former McSlape & Associates staff—of whom there are now very few—would have dealt with this issue much more efficiently.’
Ernestine picked up the letter opener and tapped it on the desk in front of her, digesting Ross’s concerns. Tempted to continue, particularly to say that he was grateful for his place in the McSlape, Forrester & Co fold, he decided against it and waited for Ernestine’s response.
‘Clearly, then,’ she said.‘You are not happy with your role here at McSlape, Forrester & Co. Perhaps it is time to consider another position—somewhere outside the company. A man of your many… talents… would surely have no trouble securing alternative employment.’
Ross opened his mouth to protest, but Ernestine silenced him with a look that reflected the cold, red glitter of the snake’s eyes on her brooch.
‘Your resignation letter will be on my desk, dated today. I am sure you are owed some leave—all of which will be paid. The leave, in effect, means that you will vacate your office immediately. Thank you for bringing this issue to my attention—that will be all.’
She turned her chair to face her laptop, her back now to Ross, indicating that the appointment was terminated, as was he. Panicking, he picked up the letter opener, and banged it once on the desk, trying to get her attention. This was not how he expected today to turn out.
‘Ernestine,’ he said. ‘Ernestine—that is not what I meant. You don’t understand.’ He banged the letter opener again. ‘Ernestine. Listen to me.’
Still facing the screen, voice a monotone, except for the accent on one word, she responded: ‘If you continue with this behaviour, Ross, I will call security.’
Ross glanced at the letter opener grasped firmly in his right hand, and in a flash of acute awareness, marched around to Ernestine’s side of the desk. Grabbing the back of her chair to steady himself, he spun her round so that she was facing him. He guided the letter opener to her throat, slightly piercing the skin.
‘Ernestine, you will listen to me.’
Her eyes, usually slivers of dark flint, were wide. She nodded, and he talked.
‘When this merger occurred, I thought it would be best for the business. I supported it. I rue that day. I repeat: the changes brought about by this merger have been more far-reaching than I ever expected. I can cope with the fact that I do not have a role here anymore. I can almost cope with the fact that most of my colleagues have been forced out. I can even cope with the fact that you, Ernestine, are cold and untrustworthy. But I cannot cope with is the fact that the lift, which used to work so well, now does not. You will call the lift company, and you will demand that it be fixed. Today.’
Ross dropped the letter opener on the desk, and half-smiled at her.
‘And then you will have my resignation.’
He turned and walked out of her office, without a backward glance. If he had, he would have seen her quickly wiping blood from her neck, and reaching for the telephone. He walked back through the administration area to the foyer, whistling cheerily through his teeth.
Out of habit, Ross pressed the down button, and immediately, that damn lift opened its doors.
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About the author
Diane Lee lives in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia and one of Australia’s premium wine and food districts. Adelaide is a gateway city to the outback and is regularly rated as one of the top cities to visit in the world.
Diane has a Graduate Diploma in Education, a Master of Arts in Communication Management, and has been working in education since her early thirties. She dreams of one day running away and joining the circus. Failing that, she’d love to be a location independent writer.
Active on social media, Diane has been blogging regularly since 2006 and at The Diane Lee Project since 2009.
An enthusiastic runner, constant traveller, and half-decent photographer, Diane lives with her daughter, Tessa and is the valued employee of Bella, her much-loved cat.
Diane has never married.
That Damn Lift by Diane Lee / Thrillers & Crime have rating 2.3 out of 5 / Based on36 votes