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Short Story Collection

  The Elevator People


I just got back from a trip to Florida. It’s not the big deal you might think. I live in Charleston, South Carolina. It’s the same weather. The trip down was fine. Nothing unusual happened. After I checked in I told Phyllis , “I hope something happens on the way home. I need a story.” I needn’t have been concerned.

Just as I was finished checking in so was a group of people next to me. They seemed to be a half-dozen adults and a passel of kids. They all got into one elevator. That’s not why I call them The Elevator People. That was about to happen.

We got to the elevator right after they filled the one. We decided to wait and go up in the next one. Their door closed and Phyllis pushed the button. Their door opened. It closed and Phyllis noticed the light had gone out so she pushed it again. Their door opened again.

Their door closed and I pushed the light. Yep, the door opened again. It closed and I pushed the light again. The door opened again. Phyllis said to me, “I guess it has to be going to work right. Wait a second.” Damn. I couldn’t go and push it again right away as I wanted to. Phyllis doesn’t like it when I do stuff like that.

Not to worry. No sooner did the door close again than Mr. and Mrs. Crotchety get there. Mr. Crotchety told the Mrs., “Push the light.” She shot him and me both a look. She pushed the light and the door opens again! Now The Elevator People are squealing like little girls. Then they closed the door again and the light went out.

Mrs. Crotchety pushed the light again and opened the door again. Now The Elevator People are really squealing. I leaned toward them and yelled, “Push a damn button!” They did and finally went up.

We, along with Mr. and Mrs. Crotchety, got on ours. The old bat said to me, “What? Did they think it was going to read their minds?”

Lip Reading

Being mostly deaf, I have learned to read lips. I didn’t train to do it, I just developed it on my own. It makes communicating a lot easier but I also’hear.‘what people say about me when they think I’m out of earshot. One thing lip-reading has taught me is that people can be really ugly when they speak. “I don’t know if he’s retarded or stupid.”

“Well, no one else in the family is retarded so he must be stupid.”

“No one else in the family is stupid, either.”

“Yea, well, there is that. Uh, oh, here he comes. Act nice.”

I, of course, heard what they said. I could walk up and tell them, “I’m not retarded or stupid. I just act that way so you two won’t feel so inferior.” I don’t because I’m not positive I’m smarter than them. I’m only a little sure I’m not stupid. I’m positive I’m not retarded. Reasonably positive. I don’t live in a group home. Some people are amazed at my ability to size people up. I do that by reading their lips, seeing what they’re really saying and acting like I ’just know.‘ It makes people think I’m more streetsmart than I am. Fact is, I’m street-stupid. People with accents are a big problem. They form their letter differently. The fact that they might also be speaking a different language is no help either. I ran into that a lot when I moved to the South. I heard words I knew didn’t exist. I thought I was getting stupid as I got older. Then my wife explained it to me and I felt a lot better. Now I can almost make out what these Southerners are saying. That is, I can make out the words. Can’t make any sense out them but then neither can they. It’s all a big pretense.

Being mostly deaf but able to read lips gives me a big advantage. I can pick and choose what I hear and what I don’t. It’s the greatest excuse in the world. If someone is berating me, I keep asking them to repeat themselves until they get disgusted and walk away.

  Death Row, the Last Meal


Tank McQueen was the Supervisor of Guards on Death Row. He had to be there when an execution was scheduled. Tank also wanted to be there. He’d deal with the doomed prisoner for everything. He loved his job. He told one prisoner who was crying about dying, “Hey, it ain’t like the old days when we used ‘Sparky’. Heck, now you just take a cat nap, except you don’t wake up from it. With ‘Sparky’ you wouldn’t be falling asleep. You rode to Hell on lightning! Lightning!”

This didn’t usually make the prisoner feel any better about his doomed destiny. It made Tank feel better period. Tank had an sick streak in him. Tank thought blizzard scenes on tv were entertaining. An accident on the interstate got his blood all hyped up.

“Hey, stupid, what do you want for your last meal? Remember, it’s the last time you’re ever going to eat. Later, after we strap you down, it’ll be the last thing you do ever. What’ll it be, stupid?”, Tank asked tonight’s main attraction.

This prisoner was stupid. Tank said he was too stupid to live. The guy insisted on testifying at his trial. His lawyer warned him not too. He begged him not too. The Judge explained that he’d have to answer every question. The Judge explained it so many times and in so many ways that the DA yelled out, “Objection, Your Honor!".

The Judge glared at the DA. Who was the DA going to object to? The Judge finally put the defendant on the stand. His bailiff swore him in as if the guy was going to tell the truth even if it hurt him. He told the defense lawyer he could go ahead.

“Me? I’m not asking him anything.”

“Oh”, the judge said. He then asked the defendant if he wanted to tell his side of the story. The defendant said he certainly did. He certainly shouldn’t have. He finished with a proud grin on his face. Then the DA asked him how he could claim self-defense when he reloaded the shotgun twice after blowing the arm off the victim causing him to bleed to death.

“Well, maybe he had another gun hidden someplace. How was I to know?”

“He only had one arm to start with, that’s how.”

“Well, you see, it was dark and , uh, well—”. Tank thought he was too stupid to live. He asked him again what he wanted for his last meal.

“Don’t matter. Just don’t give me nothing gassy&rdquo Tank told him not to worry about gas.

  Jury Duty

Several weeks ago I received a very official looking piece of mail from the county small claims court. Holy Cow! Now who am I in trouble with? No, wait, I’m not in trouble. I haven’t done anything so that makes me innocent. Then I remembered that being innocent doesn’t matter. OK, open it up and find out. It was a jury summons.

That’s better. Someone else was in trouble. Me being on the jury insured that. No one in their right mind would want me to sit in judgment of anything. But, there it was. Report or else. Oh boy, I get to do something different and perform my civic duty at the same time.

I looked at the address and it didn’t seem right. The address was for Morrison Drive. The courthouse wasn’t on Morrison Drive. This place was in a bad neighborhood. Probably so everyone could walk to court. When I got there I felt that this might be the last time I saw the van. The place was scary.

The building had a metal detector of course. The guy in front of me set it off like a fireworks demonstration. He tried to say something but the police officer told him to empty his pockets and try it again. Same thing. The detector went off.

“You see-”, he tried to say.

“Please, sir. Let me do my job. I’m a trained professional.”With that, she ran the hand-held detector down one side of him and up the other. When she got to his head it went off.

“Metal plate. It always sets these thing off. This is why I’m called Tinhead.”

We got to the courtroom and joined the others who’d been called that day. We all sat around twiddling our thumbs and dozing off. Then a clerk brought in some magazines for us to read while we waited. It was the last year’s supply of Good Housekeeping. That was the choice. Thank God, the judge came in and got our attention.

He told us some facts about the case. One person whacked another with a car and they wanted some help from a jury to reach a settlement. Right. He asked us some general questions and then each of us some specific ones. I got the feeling that my answers seemed normal. They should have since I repeated what everyone else said.

The plaintiff’s attorney opened with a description of the careless driving by the defendant that caused his client to lose control of her car and hit a fire hydrant. She didn’t require a lot of treatment but had been unable to work for the last two years.

“Mr. Smith, don’t snicker in my courtroom”, the judge admonished the defendant.

“Your Highness, she be lying through her teeth.”

“Sorry, your honor, I’ll keep my client under control. Sit down, you idiot.”

“But she be lyin’”

“So what? We’ll get our chance to lie later. Now, shut up!”

The plaintiff’s attorney entered affidavits from the police and the emergency room doctors. He entered one from her family doctor. Then he called her to the stand to describe the accident. She did a good job, a superlative job. If I didn’t know better I’d have believed it, the story was told so well. Thing is, you can’t bullshit a bullshitter. She’s lying.

Later the defense attorney called his client to the stand to tell his side of the story. It also sounded very good. It was well said and made good sense. It was well rehearsed. He was lying too. Uh, oh.

In the jury room we had a problem. None of the six jurors wanted to be made foreman. It didn’t pay any more money so the heck with that. Finally we elected this one lady to be foreman. She’d been dozing and didn’t wake up in time.

The next problem was coming up with a verdict. We didn’t believe either story. That was unanimous. The problem was getting four votes for one side or the other. Two favored the plaintiff based on better acting. Two favored the defendant based on better lines and direction. One wanted to convict them both if we could. Me? I just wanted to go home. The judge wanted to go to lunch.

We finally decided for the plaintiff. We awarded her no money. We didn’t give her anything for lost wages since, as the defense attorney pointed out, she’d not worked in a year prior and wasn’t looking for work. Besides, she had stolen the car in the first place.


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