ELEVATOR LIFE • by Scott Bartlett

I stepped into the elevator at Centennial Hospital and watched the steel doors clamp shut.  A woman in a nightgown was standing in front of the number pad.  I debated on whether to say “seven please” or just maintain a silent vigil until she asked. Besides, I was making a pizza delivery and my hands were full.  Asking seemed a little less intrusive than pushing her into the wall with a double cheese and pepperoni combo so I could press a button.

After a couple of awkward seconds, she didn’t say anything.  I decided to break the ice.

“Seven, please.” I said.  She smiled and depressed the number seven, making the button glow a pale orange.  I looked at her stomach.  She looked pregnant.  I wanted to say “when is the baby due”, but decided against it.  I got bit on that one — just once.  The woman was simply fat.  Once was enough for me.

As I pondered things like high-fructose corn syrup making people fat and if Josh Groban would be classified as elevator music — the power went out.   We stood alone in the silent darkness for a few seconds.

The emergency lights came on and the woman was sitting on the floor.  Her nightgown was wet.  I thought she may have gone into labor.  She began to scream.

I knelt beside her, trying my best to comfort her.  I was 20 and working my way through school — that should have counted for something.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“I’m in labor!” She screamed.  I guessed that meant she wasn’t okay.

She began to breathe in pulsing gasps that sounded like Thomas the Tank Engine.  I visualized Thomas’s gray face, chugging along the railroad tracks.  To this day, that face of his still gives me nightmares.

I reached into my pocket and took out my iPhone.  I dialed 911 and filled the operator in on the situation.

“….yes, between the third and fourth floor.  She says she’s in labor.  I think you have time.  My mother said she was in labor for 15 hours when she had me.  She tells me that every time I don’t call her.”  I turned to the woman in labor.  “I said that out loud, didn’t I?”

Her eyes were wide open and she nodded.  I offered my hand as some kind of penance.  She squeezed my fingers so hard a pain shot up my arm.

I held my cell phone out to the woman and asked if she would like to talk to the 911 operator.  The woman took the phone from me and began to scream and curse at the operator.  When she was done her tangent, she threw my iPhone against the wall and I watched it ricochet against three of the steel walls.  I waited in line for six hours to get that phone and now it was in two pieces.

“I guess you told her.” I said, trying to make her feel better.  My fingers were now a hue of purple and I wondered how I was going to get my iPhone repaired.  I bought insurance, but wasn’t sure if a psychotic pregnant woman’s conniption fit was covered in the fine print.

“He’s coming!” she yelled.

“He?  Who’s that?  Your doctor?” I asked.

“Jayden!”  I assumed Jayden was her baby.  The kid wasn’t even born and already had the deck stacked against him.  With a name like Jayden and a psycho mother that throws iPhones, she’d better get a therapist on retainer.

“Already?  Are you sure?” I asked.  I never saw a woman in labor before.  I saw a few on TV, but I didn’t think that counted.

“I had two already.  Trust me.  I know!  Ahhhh!” she yelled.

The power came back on and I could hear the whirring motor of the elevator working.  I pressed the lobby button, hoping that would make things easier.

“What are you doing?” she asked.  It was more like a scream that made my head ring.

“The EMT’s.  They will come in through the lobby,” I said.  She ignored me and continued her Thomas the Tank Engine sounds.

The elevator doors opened.  I pressed the emergency stop button — I always wanted to hit that button.  About a hundred people were in the lobby looking at a woman in labor as the emergency buzzer echoed throughout the lobby.

“Is there a doctor in the house?” I yelled.  When they say that in old movies, it always sounds cool.

“I’m a doctor,” a man said as he rushed to the elevator.  He had a stethoscope around his neck and was in blue hospital scrubs.  He looked like he was about my age, a little too young to be a doctor.

“A real doctor?” I asked.

“I got it,” he said as he brushed me out of the way and knelt beside the woman.

I stood in the lobby looking at the pregnant woman and doctor in the open elevator.  My broken iPhone was in there.  I had three large pizzas in there — and the worst part was I had to deliver those pizzas to the seventh floor of Centennial Hospital in five minutes or I had to pay for them.

Scott Bartlett is an American writer. When he isn’t writing, he is a student at the University of Massachusetts and works as a Software Development Team Lead for a large IT Security company. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and two rescued Golden Retrievers. His fiction has also appeared in Crack the Spine Literary Magazine.

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