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The Top Floor


Harry Buschman

At the bottom of the stair was the elevator landing. If Ronnie got on here there was no way but up. Well, that’s what he wanted – all the beautiful people were up there. The big salaried guys with their thousand dollar suits. Ronnie could fit in up there. He pulled his cuffs a half inch out – just far enough so his Rolex would show, if he had one.

But he didn’t have one, and besides the cuffs of his shirt were frayed, so he pulled them back in under the sleeves of his jacket. He noticed a dark stain on the left sleeve – it was from carrying the want-ads section of the newspaper under his arm as he walked the streets of New York. He dropped the newspaper on the floor – he was through with job-hunting. Sick of it. He’d been turned down for everything. Plumber’s helper. Handyman. It was time for him to make a run for the top.

That elevator would take him there, he was sure of it. It was brightly lit – maybe a little too bright, he was afraid it would make the dirty collar of his shirt and his run down heels plain to see. But, “What the hell!” If he put up a bold front and talked fast he’d get away with it ... that was the main thing ... talk fast!

The door opened at the top of the stair and a well dressed man in a blue serge suit walked in, paused at the top of the stair and looked down, then he walked quickly down and entered the elevator. He pushed the button for his floor and the doors closed with a whoosh. The elevator rocketed upward and disappeared.

No question about it. If that guy could do it, Ronnie could do it! He stood there waiting impatiently for the elevator to return. The doors opened with a gentle hiss and he peeked inside. It was spotlessly clean, perfumed and the sound of well tuned strings played familiar music. He stepped inside but held the doors open, trying the read the call buttons.

He expected to find numbers – floor numbers. These weren't numbers, These were words ... words like ... Control! Power! Wealth! Authority! He wanted all these things, even when he was a little kid he wanted them. He couldn’t believe his eyes. Could it be this simple – just push a button? But which one? Ronnie considered the possibilities, how could he have Wealth without Authority? And maybe along with Authority came Responsibility – wouldn’t he have to be responsible for making decisions? He wondered which button the man in the blue serge suit pushed, he didn’t hesitate, he just walked in – the doors slid shut and off he went.

Ronnie swallowed hard and let the doors slide shut. He thought he’d push the top button – that’s where the action must be. That’s where the beautiful people must be. There was a question mark on that button – but it must be the top floor. The top button was always the top floor, wasn’t it? Of course it was, every elevator he’d ever been in was like that. The boss always pushed the top button.

He pushed the top button.

The elevator descended.

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