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Don Yarber Don Yarber
Recommendations: 42

Riddle Me This

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She had a friend.

This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely the figment of the authors imagination and intended only for the purpose of creating a work of fiction.  The author accepts all responsibility for imposing on anyone's privacy.  If you do not know who Carl Sagan is, you may not understand the ending.

      Riddle Me This

       It was in August of 1937 when the elevator in The American Hotel, St. Louis, Missouri suddenly stopped its ascent.
       “I should have known these modern contraptions would break and leave me here with two danged women and a bawling kid,” said an old man as the elevator shuddered to a stop between the 50th and 51st floors. “Can’t you keep that kid from bawling? I need a cigarette!”
       “Screw you, you bastard,” the younger of the two women hissed.  “Who cares what you think?  I get paranoid in elevators without them getting stuck!  Now do something to get us out of here!”
       The other woman with the small child put her back against the elevator wall facing the door and sighed.  Another job interview shot to hell.  She knew that she might have been late for the interview if the elevator had NOT stopped, but now she was sure she would be late.  
       She had counted on having her daughter take care of her own child for once, instead of dropping him off with her.  Just like her daughter to upset the applecart.  So she had to fix breakfast for the child, get him dressed, and then get dressed her self while keeping one eye on her grandson.  The little boy wanted to brush his hair and apply makeup as grandma was doing, but grandma didn’t have time to play, she wanted this job even if it was only a maid’s position. If it meant taking the little boy with her, she was going to make that interview come hell or high water.  Well, welcome to hell, she thought.
       The old man glared down at the little boy, dressed neatly in shorts and a white shirt.  He was thinking how his own son had died at an early age, and his wife had lost her mind and never been the same.    That was why he did not like kids.  Kids were supposed to grow into adults; his had not had that chance in life.  Lost in his eternal internal grief, he did not reply to the young lady who demanded that he do something to get the elevator car moving again.
       The little boy stopped crying.  He wasn’t frightened at all. He was mad because his granny wouldn’t let him brush his own hair or push the elevator buttons.  He looked up at the woman who had used bad words and shook his tiny forefinger at her.
       “My granny says you shouldn’t curse,” he said.
       “I don’t give a damn what your granny says,” the younger woman shrieked.  “I’m getting a headache and I want out of here.  Help, Help,” she started to yell at the top of her voice.
       Time seemed to be hanging between alpha and omega, creation and eternity, although not much more than an hour had passed.  The incessant screaming of the young woman and the unpleasant odors emanating from the old man were becoming intolerable.
       The child’s grandmother closed her eyes and tried to visualize the ceiling of the elevator car collapsing on the head of this thoughtless, worthless tramp that had the audacity to scream at a little boy.  She was startled when the roof of the elevator car actually did fall.  At least a portion of it fell.  A small trap door swung down on hinges, almost hitting the old gent on the head.  
       A head appeared in the framed opening in the ceiling of the car, followed by shoulders.  A nice looking man smiled down at them from above and spoke in a soothing voice.
       “Please, be calm,” he said.  “I’ll have all of you out of here shortly.  There’s no need to panic. It may take hours to get the cable fixed on this elevator and it is unsafe to try to raise it further at this time.  I’ll remove you all through the roof as soon as I get a harness from my fellow firemen up above.”
       “Take me first!” demanded the young lady.
       “I’m the oldest,” the old gent said, “ I think I should go first.”
       “What about me?” The child’s grandmother asked.  “I’ve got a job interview and I really need a job.”
       “I’ll take the child first,” the fireman said.  “Then whoever can answer this riddle will go next.  

           A man gets on an elevator every morning and goes to the 20th floor.  His job is on the 35th floor.  He always gets off at the 20th floor and walks up the stairwell to the 35th floor.  When he leaves, he walks down the stairwell to the 20th floor, gets on the elevator and takes it to the ground floor and goes home.  Why?”

       “He needs the exercise,” said the old man.
       “He gets claustrophobic, just like me!” said the young lady.
       “He wants to smoke a cigarette and no-one is permitted to smoke on the elevator,” Granny said.
       “All good answers,” the fireman said, swinging down into the car.  He picked up the young child and with ease, sat him on the ledge of the car's ceiling through the trap door.  
       “Don’t be afraid, little boy,” he told him.  “I’ll be up in a second to take you to the top!”
       He turned and faced the other three.  
       “Keep thinking,” he said.  “When I come back I’ll take the person who has the correct answer.”
       With that he leaped slightly, grabbed the frame of the trap door and pulled himself up on top of the elevator car with ease.  
       A harness was lowered from the heights above him and he put it around the little boy and held tight to the cable as it was raised.
       “I know,” the little boy said.
       “You know what, little man?”
       “I know why the man walked from the 20th floor to the 35th floor every day.”
       The fireman smiled.  When he got to the point where his fellow firemen could take the child, he handed him off and returned down the elevator shaft to the cab below.

       “Has anyone come up with the correct answer?”
       No one said a word.  The old man shook his head silently, still thinking hard.
       The young lady couldn’t think at all.  The deep blue eyes of the fireman mesmerized her.      
       Granny was silent, thinking of her job interview.  She hoped that her grandson was OK and not giving the firemen above a lot of grief, asking ridiculous questions that none of them could answer, just as he did at home.  Maybe he’ll be a fireman some day, this one asks ridiculous questions too.
       “O.K. then,” said the fireman.  “I’ll think of a number between one and one hundred.  The three of you guess, and I’ll take you according to who guesses the closest.”
       “Eighty seven,” the old man said.  He grinned a snaggle-toothed grin.  “That’s my age.”
       “Twenty five,” the young lady said.  “That’s my boyfriend’s age.”
       “Forty five,” said Granny with a sigh.  “I am an hour and forty five minutes late for my interview.”
       “The number was fifty,” the young fireman said.  He took Granny first, returned for the young lady who kept looking at his eyes, then finally retrieved the old gent.
       When they were all safe and sound on the highest floor, they all thanked him.  The old man apologized for being gruff.  The young lady murmured a quick “I’m sorry I was so scared.”
       Granny was silent.
       “What was the answer to the riddle?” the old man asked.
       “Yeah, what was it?” asked the young lady.
       “Please tell us,” Granny said. “I’m late anyway.”
       “I know,” said the child.
       In a small, sing song voice, the little boy announced proudly, “It’s really simple.”
       He paused until he had everyone’s attention then smiled.
       “The man was a midget.  He could only reach the 20th button.”
       They all stared in disbelief at the child.  
       “What a smart little boy,” the young lady said.  “I’m sorry I yelled at you, honey.”
       “All’s well that ends well,” the old man said, but in his heart he still felt sorry for himself.
       “Come along, Carl,” Mrs. Sagan said. “I’m late for my appointment.”

                            The End

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