This week’s challenge from The Red Dress Club – my writing club: “Think of a person you don’t like, and describe what you might say if you had to share an elevator ride together. Then describe what happens when the elevator breaks down. For six hours.”
To those who know I worked in a Senior’s Residence: This is pure fiction. The character is purely fictional. We have no Government building with an elevator on our island. (The Spirit Guides respond at the end.)
A Cocktail of Napoleonic Pessimism
My being the General Manager did not impress Ben.
Exercising authority around Ben was like flashing the proverbial red flag in front of a hormonal bull. Ben carried a peccadillo that had my name on it. When his wife was alive, I used to shudder at her curt sharpness towards him, but the insights were hitting home.
When Ben came to the Office of the Residence for Independent Seniors to pay his monthly fee, the payment was delivered with at least one caustic remark. Thankfully, for my staff, his impact was somewhat diminished by the fact that the four-and-one-half-foot counter met his chin perfectly.
One day we ended up at the Government Building at the same time. Ben said, “What are you doing here? Wasting more of our money pretending to be working?”
“Morning, Ben. Which floor are you going to?” I stepped into the elevator.
“I’ll look after myself, ” he said. He walked in and faced the panel of buttons. He muttered quietly while hitting buttons that caused the door to slightly close a couple of times. Finally with one last time jab, the door closed properly. We were on our way.
“I’m picking up some papers to start planning the next phase of the Residence.”
“Well I hope they correct some of the asinine mistakes they made in the first phase.”
Suddenly the elevator hesitated, then stopped. The lights blinked, but stayed on. “There’s the emergency phone,” I said, making a mental note of its door.
“Haven’t you got a cell phone?” Ben asked.
“It’s charging in the car.”
“Typical,” snarled Ben. Then the lights went out.
I knew I had no matches. “Have you got a lighter or matches?”
“Don’t tell me you don’t even carry a lighter,” he said.
“Can you push the alarm button, Ben?”
“I don’t know which one is the alarm! I could hardly read those damned buttons.”
“I’ll grab the telephone.” The operator tried to be reassuring. At the end of her questions, well after she asked about the occupants’ state of health, I realized it would have been better to say someone was having a heart attack. “Can’t you call the RCMP or the Fire Department to help us out of here?” I asked. She assured me they would get someone over to our island as soon as possible.
I began to hyperventilate. I longed for light.
“Are you okay, Ben?” I hoped helping him would take my mind off feeling enclosed.
“What could you do about it if I’m not?”
“Ben, please stop talking to me like I’m your enemy.” I fought for a deeper breath. “I don’t know how long we’ll be here… someone’s coming… from the city.”
“From the city? That’ll take hours.”
“Yeah and I need your help…”
“What do you need?” he said abruptly.
“To get calm. To just sit on the floor. Can I hold your hand?”
We both settled on the floor. I found his hand and, ignoring his benign, non-committal response, I grasped the fingers of his calloused hand. My embarrassment over holding his hand was overridden by the need for a lifeline to calm. His grasp slowly strengthened into a message of concern and support.
“How ya doin’?” Ben asked softly.
“I think it’s getting better… I’m starting to calm down.”
“Look up.” Ben’s voice had never been so lilting. “Are you looking up? If you look hard enough, you’ll see some light.”
I looked up and saw nothing. “I can’t see any light.” I said.
“You keep looking. There’s a trap door up there.”
Suddenly, I saw the teensiest hint of light. “Oh Ben! Look at that! But how can we get up there?”
“We can’t. But we know it’s there. And that’s all we need.”
Tears stung my blindness. “I used to be claustrophobic,” he said.
“Used to be?
“Well, you know what kids are like. We used to ride our horses to school so there was a barn by the schoolhouse. The older kids thought it was funny to put me in the empty feed trough and pile hay bales on top of me. I’d sometimes be in there a couple of hours.”
“Two hours? Wouldn’t the teacher know you were missing?”
“They’d tell the teacher I went home sick or some such lie. Somebody would finally pretend they had to go to the bathroom and come and lift the bales off me. “
“What about the weight?” I asked.
“It pinned me down. The worst part was the dust. It stung my eyes. I could hardly breathe. Plus, I’d start hyperventilating. If I tried to get the bales off me, moving my arms would stir the dust up more. At times, I thought I’d suffocate.”
As I listened, the image of this small boy being so bullied and scarred for life created nausea.
He continued, “I learned to stay stone still and let the dust settle. Then, I’d open my eyelids just enough to see where there was some light. Fortunately there were cracks in the boards of that old trough. I’d put my mouth up against one of those cracks and breathe fresh air.”
“Did you ever tell the teacher?”
“Bullies get meaner if they know you’re scared.”
My heart was now lying open at the feet of this man’s spirit. I realized that I had relaxed and my breathing had become more normal.
The next 5 hours were full of Ben’s life and laughter, more than I’d heard in the two years I’d managed the Residence.
After finally being rescued and having a trip to the washroom, I waited for Ben to come into the foyer. As he limped towards the main doors, I approached him. I wanted to hug this tiny man, this past personification of a Napoleonic cocktail peppered with pessimism.
Ben,” I said, “no other person could have helped me the way you did today. Thank you. From now on, I’ll look for the crack that promises light.”
“Yep you got it,” he snarled as he turned to the door. “And don’t ever plan on my being that crack again.”
And for those who tell me they miss what my Spirit Guides have to say about the stories:
So, my Beloveds, this is the first time you will be responding to pure fiction.
The story may be fiction. The experience is one that is no stranger to you.
Yes, I have felt stung after sharing what I thought was a deeply significant experience with different people.
Transformation occurs when it is allowed. Some humans are frightened after being closely or spiritually engaged with another. It is not easy for them to remove a mask. Removing armour is frightening.
Do these people share the joy of these connections?
That joy, that heightened level of frequency, is difficult for them. They become confused about their role so cling to their old, safe one. The old personality requires no change and these people believe it will cause little, if any, pain.
Seeing their old behaviour confuses me. I usually just leave them alone. Is there a better way to handle it?
Remain true to yourself. As long as you are walking your path with love in your heart, whether it is close or distant to them, you can be assured that you are giving what you can. Accept them. Each soul finds its own way.
If I want to pray for them, is it good to simply ask that they receive blessings?
You can start with that. Then ask that they be given all that you desire and more.
Thank you. I love you for all your insights, but especially these divine curve balls.
We love spiritual athletics.
Wow! What an amazing short story.
Perhaps my favorite short story EVER . . . from any author.
So real. We see the burdens he is carrying. We taste the hay, and feel its oppressive weight as it scratches at our eyelids. We smell it in our nostrils, preventing the flow of fresh air.
And your last to paragraphs . . . PERFECT. Looking for the crack that promises light . . . and Ben’s refusal to be that crack again.
Thank you for your comments, Nancy. That means a lot.
Wonderful post, friend. I worked many years with the elderly…many. This touched me. Even if there was no “Ben” we’ve know many Ben’s, haven’t we? And when we listen to their stories….
You really do know, don’t you. I remember that we have shared a past livelihood. Love those folks to pieces but the prickly ones can sure take a lot of energy.
This bit of fiction rang so true to me…I have met people like this throughout my life….the comments at the end of the story provide a fine framework for such experiences…thank you.
So, Charles, I’m just hoping I am not going to be like that when I am – well, even more older. Do you think we can write it out of our being?
Curmudgeonly Ben, I loved the outcome of this story.
Trust you! I can see we are going to have to warn the 5-star senior residences in South Africa.
Stunning story, beautifully told, Amy! I love your line: “My heart was now lying open at the feet of this man’s spirit.” and the Guides’ encouragement not to hold back 🙂
Interesting topic what with the Chilean miners. Boy, must they have some stories to tell!
Thank you, Naomi. The times when that has paid off are memories for old age! Since I recycled my TV, I just checked news videos this morning about the heartwrenching resurfacing of those miners. What story the one situation would make – the miner’s wife who found out ‘himself’ has been having an affair for the past 10 years. What mixed emotion that would bring in a reunion. Wonder what will come of that now that he’s had a chance to view his soul in its raw form.
I read the entire thing and then was left with one burning question.
WHO killed Ben’s wife at the beginning?
You mean the one who carried Sir Lancelot’s dagger in her voice?
“Ben was like flashing the proverbial red flag in front of a hormonal bull.” and “My heart was now lying open at the feet of this man’s spirit.” and “Napoleonic cocktail peppered with pessimism.”… your writing absolutely mesmerizes me… Fantastic story… I should not have read your before writing mine! LOL (talk about intimidation!)
Thank you for your very welcome comments. Thank goodness we don’t all write alike. Talk about boring. Do you think artists who paint, sculpt or draw constantly deal with the comparison issues like we writers can? It can be so hard to remember that we give what we have and when someone enjoys it, that’s a star on top of the icing!
Loved that your guides responded to this fiction because a fiction can be facts for the reader. No wonder spiritual athletics is hard for me, I didn’t come here with a Talent for Activity (you know what I mean). I wish I could have a spiritual homerun everday but I guess we need those curve balls for growth and development.
Aha, Kadian, you wise woman. You don’t have to be worrying about running the 20K for God ’cause you’ll be there on the sidelines waiting to heal those of us who are silly enough to think we can run it – without the heart to power us.
He he he.. You cornered Napoleon and just got a bit of compassion out of him… ! Loved this just like any of your autobiographical work.. 🙂 And as far as getting cornered myself with a person that I am not comfortable hanging out with, I don’t know what I would do??! Maybe sit staring at the crack and force myself to start a conversation about each other’s kids, so I know there won’t be any more “room” for discomfort.. 😉 Moral of the story: Don’t leave your phone in the car for charging!!
Wonderful comments, Rachana! I am still laughing over your Moral. It made me realize what hell may be – the other person has the only cell and sits talking on it for five hours.
Stunning stunning story my friend…this has really touched me, my oh my, how many Ben’s have we come across in our lives? I just love the answers at the end..awesome!!! I think this is imho your BEST so far!!! Big hugs Amy xxx
Thank you, Amanda. Hopefully we learn to spot the Bens sooner and sooner so we don’t trip over them again! Glad you like the Guide’s comments. They will be pleased…:)
Great story, and great job at showing why some people sometimes keep their guard up by being nasty.
Yes, Alannah, fear is an incredible motivator. Thanks for your comment!
I really enjoyed this. I loved how he only opened up in darkness. The detailed descriptions of him in the hay bales were so amazing.
Thanks for reading my version of our challenge, Cheryl. I certainly enjoyed yours as well. Yeah, can you tell I used to play in hay stacks as a kid? 🙂
I adore complicated characters. They feel like real life.
Thanks, FG. With this type of person, I have found they are real life! Amazing, but authentic.
You wrote Ben so well, he was so real. I’d love to hear the stories he told. Really well done.
Thank you, Jessica Anne. Yes, there certainly are Bens in the world – with stories. They are a great source of material for writers. 🙂 BTW – I tried to go to your site, but I could not get it to open. Will try later. (Perhaps it’s the spelling of ‘adventures’…I’ll try this a different way.)
I love Ben. I know him well.
I make it a point to sit next to every Ben I cross paths with. He carries the lessons and validations of beliefs I’m starved for.
I loved the story told. I know it well.
You make me grin, Mel. I see the Ben’s as mirrors as well. I suspect many of us think we would never be like that. Like so many of us, there are some who could come up with a story about me that would shock me. Oh, honey can drips off my fingertips, but does it count when I’m wearing spurs in my heart?
If you hadn’t said it was fiction in the beginning, I would have thought it was real. Your characters are so very believable. I love that feelings were set aside and in the time of crisis, Ben came through for you. What an excellent story.
Stopping in from The REd Dress Club.
Thanks for visiting and leaving your comments. Yeah, I thought Ben was going to come through, but the last line ended any hope! 🙂 Your entry was a great cliff hanger with a twist.
What a story! its fabulously written. he has been on guard for so long that it was against his nature to soften up.
shubho bijoyadashami (Happy vijayadashami)! May the Goddess fill your life up with beauty and happiness
Many thanks, Trisha, for your blessings. Having visited your site this morning, I now understand a bit more about this day of celebration and about your love of this deity. Your devotion is a great example.