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What Floor?

by Arnold Hollander

Charlie was excited. This was his first job, since he got out and he wanted to make a good impression, so he was a bit early. The office he was to work in dealt with manuscripts. His particular job was to read them and then, if he felt they warranted further review, pass them to his immediate superior, Donovan Raines. Only a few manuscripts that were treated this way ever got published, but Charlie would not know that.

This type of work was well suited to someone of Charlie’s disposition. There would be no deadlines to meet, and he envisaged a calm, quiet, almost somnolent environment. Not that he would sleep there: he was a hard worker and was grateful to have the chance to show he could do well.

The building hosting his employer, Generation Publishing, was set in a less than bustling section of the city, midway on the 300 block of Alvira Avenue. The building was nondescript, blending into the neighborhood of three- and four-story brownstones, some of which were private residences. It distinguished itself with a two-foot square sign bearing its name and logo hung on a post in the front garden.

Climbing the ten stairs to the front door did not leave him breathless, but he counted each step, as he counted many other things. That was something he did very well, counting. He looked back, to make sure his count was correct. It always was, but he had to make sure.

Satisfied, he faced the door and pushed the doorbell. A buzzer sounded. He looked a bit surprised, then a voice said, “Yes?”

Startled, he backed away from the door. The voice said, “Yes, who is it?

“Hi, I’m Charlie Davis and I’m supposed to work for Mr. Raines,” he stammered.

“Oh, yes. I’ll buzz you in. Take the elevator to the third floor.”

This time, when the buzzer sounded, Charlie reached for and turned the handle, pushing the door inward. He entered an anteroom. It was austere in its decoration, an oriental throw rug centered the room, which itself was surrounded by deep, mahogany-paneled walls. A Queen Anne table against a wall facing the entry door was the only object in the room save for the placard resting on it, a placard with the words “Welcome Charlie Davis” printed on it.

Charlie picked up the smell of furniture polish that permeated the air. It was not unpleasant. There were two other doors, one to the rest of the floor, the other to the elevator. There were two buttons on the side of the elevator door, one with an up arrow, and the other with a down arrow. Above the door was a small screen displaying the floor number where the elevator currently was located. It showed the number 5.

“Curious,” Charlie thought, “this is a four-story building and I entered on the second floor. At least I think this is the second floor.” He pressed the down button, which immediately lighted up, although he barely heard anything.

The elevator door slid open and Charlie was staring at a mirror image of himself. “You look fine,” he said to himself, “Everything will be okay.” He stepped inside.

“What floor?”

Copyright © 2007 by Arnold Hollander

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