Darlene glanced nervously around as she heard the elevator slowly grinding its way down from the third floor. She knew exactly what her job was — she was supposed to retrieve the one gigantic suitcase that fit in the tiny lift, and then send the empty car back up to Lucinda, who was waiting up there with the rest of the luggage. !No problemo! as the French would say. (Actually, that might be what Spanish people would say. She really had no idea. She did not speak French. Or Spanish.)
Her anxiety stemmed from the fact that the elevator opened into a small room, and the glass door to that room opened up into the courtyard where she was now standing. She had run down the stairs to get to the descending luggage and exited into the courtyard from a different door that had slammed shut behind her. As she heard it click shut, she realized she had no way to get back into the building, having deposited her rental keys in the small silver bowl that was embossed with rabbits. But she was certain that if Lucinda needed her to do something else, she would come down to get her. Well, pretty sure. Lucinda did not like the stairs.
She pushed the button to unlock the door into the elevator room, and through the glass she could see the lift standing open with the solitary piece of purple luggage inside. What a beast it was; it took up almost the entire car. She really had overpacked. She pulled the handle on the outer door but nothing happened. The button lock had been a bit sticky all week, and now she remembered that the door had not opened for them yesterday, either. Her eyes widened as she watched the elevator doors slowly close, and the car began to ascend to the third floor, still completely full of luggage.
Lucinda stood in the hallway outside the adorable apartment where they had spent the last week. Paris had been amazing, but today was supposed to be kind of hot and she was ready for some air conditioning and iced tea. The elevator opened and she started to push her suitcase into the car, but stopped in confusion as she realized that there was no room. The huge purple bag was still in there. This was not correct. What part of this did Darlene not understand? Exasperated, she pushed the button again and watched the doors close as it began its repeat journey.
A tiny trickle of terror ran down Darlene’s temple as she pushed the sticky button again and again, but the stubborn door would not budge. Horrified, she watched through the glass as the elevator doors opened with the purple bag still intact, unmoveable. There was a very long pause, and then the doors slowly slid shut and began, once again, to ascend. She considered pounding on the exterior door for someone to let her in, but it was early on the third morning of a four day holiday weekend and Paris was still sleeping. Also, there had been a bit of an altercation with someone from the building the day before. An angry Asian man had muttered at them in French, and then said in English “How did you get the code?” This was baffling because it was a button that unlocked the door, not a code, and left both of them wondering if they had been mistaken for spies. The next day a sign had appeared on the glass door to the elevator. It was hand-printed in French and neither of them had any idea what it said, but they both had a feeling it was directed at them. There were a lot of exclamation points used.
Darlene stood in the courtyard, sweating, unsure what to do. The Uber to the airport was already waiting for them, and she was pretty sure Lucinda was going to be ticked off about her not doing her part with the luggage, even though it was totally not Darlene’s fault. She wished that she had a way to communicate with her, when it suddenly it occurred to her that she was holding a phone in her hand. Darlene was halfway through an apologetic text when the elevator doors opened again; but instead of the big purple suitcase sitting frozen in time and space, it was Lucinda who was inside. She had analyzed the situation from her position on the third floor and had realized the door was probably stuck. Either that, or all that cheese had made Darlene really stupid.
She pushed open the glass door into the courtyard as Darlene rushed inside, apologizing and trying to explain what had happened. Lucinda waved her hand in dismissal and said she had figured it out, then got back in the elevator and went up to start the loading process again. Darlene was relieved that she was finally inside the correct cubicle, because she had been envisioning Lucinda coming out the other door and having it slam shut with both of them outside the building and all of their luggage in a pile on the third floor.
The elevator slid open, and Darlene wheeled out the purple beast and happily pushed the button to send the lift back to Lucinda, this time completely empty and eager for some suitcases that were not this shade of aubergine. She squeezed around the bag in the tiny room and reached for the doorknob to exit into the courtyard. As she turned the handle, it came off in her hand.
Hysterical laughter inappropriately burbled up inside her as she stood there, trapped with the huge suitcase, knowing that at any moment, the lift would silently open with another large bag inside (this one orange) that she would have to watch helplessly rise again to the third floor where Lucinda waited with the last of the carry-ons to be loaded. Darlene looked through the glass prison she was now entombed in and realized that she had left her phone on top of her purse in the courtyard. She suddenly had to pee really badly.
She heard the rumble of the elevator descending and knew it was just a matter of seconds before it was going to get really crowded in there. Holding her breath, she carefully re-inserted the doorknob shaft back into the proper hole. She turned the handle very slowly, and as the elevator doors opened behind her, she heard the magic click as the lock disengaged and the tiny room released her. She shoved Barney the Purple Dinosaur into the space to hold open the door and managed to turn around just in time to get her arm inside the elevator as it was closing. She forced the door open and dragged the orange suitcase out into the cubicle, then triumphantly punched the button to send the lift back up for its final destination of the morning. The next time those doors opened, she would be standing nonchalantly in the courtyard with both suitcases and looking at her watch to see if there might be time to get a chocolate croissant before they headed to the airport.
Lucinda would be so proud of her.
The Blind Woodchuck has locked herself in her burrow and will not come out until she has finished The Muller Report. Please enjoy this short fiction from her friend Darlene (who may or may not be The Blind Woodchuck.) She knows this is very confusing, but at least half of it hasn’t been redacted.