Originally appeared in Blab! #8, Summer 1995
“Must be getting a little nippy out there,” announced Gus. His elevator car filled with ten elementary school kids, crowded past capacity. Gus was breathing heavy, huffing and puffing as usual. Not that this line of work required much physical effort. It was like being an astronaut; they didn’t need to drive their crafts, just vegetate inside. Gus was an elevator astronaut, perhaps, soaring, soaring through the 35-story heavens high above, driving his Otis car on its vertical route, o’er electrical cable and chain.
He closed the door and the golden gate, the kids squeezed in nice an’ snug. Gus was breathing heavy as he cranked the manual drive throttle, and some of the kids were giggling. He knew they were laughing at him again, because he breathed funny.
Suddenly, one of the high-pitched voices screamed, “Fuck the elevator man!” It sounded horrible to Gus, he’d heard it before. But he always remained stoic, having to open the gate and door for each little bastard.
“Fuck the elevator man!” shouted the prepubescent voice once more, too quick for Gus to see who it was when he turned around.
“The elevator man is your friend,” came one little girl, admonishing the group. “Be nice to him.” But Gus could hear the sarcasm in her voice. His breathing became worse. More giggling.
“Fuck the elevator man!” spat the little voice once again.
Then something broke inside of Gus.
“Fuck the elevator man?” said Gus, rhetorically, halting the elevator and whirling around. “Fuck the elevator man?” His lips contorted. “I’m a man, goddamnit! I have a wife and kid. I have a job. I go to woik every morning, and church every frickin’ Sunday.” And then his face flushed red. “But I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let anybody fuck me. I may drive an elevator, but I’m a man. A man!”
There was death silence among the kids, clutching their schoolbooks to their chests. The smiles were wiped off their faces. Gus’s respiration became that of a dragon exhaling, building steam. The elevator was stopped somewhere between the 22nd and 23rd floors. He crooked his finger menacingly at the whole bunch.
“Now… Who’s gonna fuck me? Who’s gonna fuck the elevator man?”
There was no answer.
Gus grabbed the first boy in front of him by the scruff of the neck, and lifted him off the ground. Gus’s head twisted within an inch of the boy’s face, cockeyed. “I must be talking Japanese. I said, who’s gonna fuck the elevator man?” He dropped the boy. The rest of the kids cowered against the rear, managing a small clearing before Gus. They were sons and daughters of psychiatrists, ambassadors, rich kids and their friends.
“Howsa ’bout you? You wanna fuck me?” Gus demanded, his inflamed face staring down another 6th grader. “Which one-a-youse wants to fuck me, speak up? I’m a man, I still boff my wife, I do my woik.”
The kids saw Gus’s nostrils flare with every breath. The red blood vessels in his nose became inflamed and agitated. None of the paralyzed kids spoke up to rat out the culprit among them.
“I spent t’ree years inna 77th Infantry Division, I was honored after the goddamned war. Honored!”
Gus took the elevator back down to the lobby. He slammed open the gate and door. The prisoners were released, all of them sighing with relief. The loudmouth was not caught. Who knows what Gus might have done had he caught him. Fats the Doorman came to Gus’s elevator. He was a heavy breathing fellow, too.
“I ain’t takin’ any of these little bastards up anymore,” said Gus, between tears and rage. “One of ’em says he’s gonna fuck me.”
“All right, Gus, calm down, calm down.” Fats called for Chappy, in the A-B line, to leave his post and drive the school children up. Gus caught his breath, Fats patting him on the back, telling him to take it easy. The kids streamed back in the elevator.
And then Gus heard the prepubescent voice come at him again, as the elevator doors closed:
“Fuck the elevator man!”
© 1995, 2010 Josh Alan Friedman