By Jon Wesick
April Fallows presses the call button and waits for the elevator. The thick plastic rims of her glasses and her boyish haircut frame her face giving her an air of sober competence. She is of medium height, wears a charcoal-gray suit dress, and carries a woman’s briefcase instead of a purse.
A bell rings and the elevator door slides open. April gets in and presses a button on the control panel.
“Going down?” A fat man rushes inside just as the doors shut.
The smile vanishes from April’s lips when she sees it’s Gus Libharm.
“Nice tie,” she says.
Gus nods. April fiddles with her smart phone even though there’s no reception inside the elevator’s metal walls. Gus begins to whistle a tune, which causes April to check the floor indicator display and feign even more interest in her inert phone.
“So, how’s the show going?” Gus asks.
“The show?” April looks up from her phone. “Just got renewed for another year. James Hansen’s going to be our guest Thursday. He’s the NASA climate scientist Bush tried to censor.”
“So glad to hear that.”
“How about your show? Things must be good if you can afford a ten-million-dollar wedding.”
“Couldn’t be better.” Gus looks up at the floor indicator and resumes whistling.
“Did I mention I’m having Freeman Dyson on next week?” Gus says. “He thinks Hansen’s full of crap.”
The elevator stops but the doors remain closed. Gus stabs the lobby button several times. When this has no effect, he looks at April. She reaches around him and presses the emergency button. A bell rings for several seconds until she lets up.
“Elevator must have been put together by illegal immigrants,” Gus says.
“Sit tight.” April presses the bell again. “Someone will come get us out of here.”
“Typical of you liberals.” Gus loosens his tie. “Always waiting for someone to bail you out instead of solving your own problems.”
“You’re suggesting that I unlock the access panel in the roof and climb a hundred feet of steel cable? As I recall the last time a Republican president did that kind of Rambo stunt we ended up in two wars we couldn’t get out of.”
“I’m suggesting you use your cell phone to dial 9-1-1.”
“What? The icon of conservative values wants government assistance?”
“I don’t believe in eliminating government, just limited it. You know the essentials like police, the army, jails…”
“Jails!” April snorts. “Thanks for bringing that up. If jails are good enough for thousands of pot smoker, how come they’re not good enough for a conservative radio host with a prescription drug problem?”
“Hey, it was for a bad back. Okay? Besides I went to rehab.”
“So now rehab is an essential government service?”
“I paid for it with my own money.” Gus points to the device in April’s hand. “The cell phone?”
“It doesn’t work in here.”
“Wait a minute! You spent all that time pretending to dial your phone because you didn’t want to talk to me?”
“Can’t I update my contact list?”
Gus stares at her.
“Well, okay. But only because it’s been a long day and I don’t have the energy to destroy your ego in a debate.”
“I knew it! For all your talk about tolerance, you liberals can’t stand someone with different views.”
“What do you know about tolerance?”
“Don’t change the subject. We’re talking about liberal hypocrisy. With me you know what I stand for – freedom from government interference.”
“If you’re so keen on protecting us from the government, where were you when Bush tapped our phones or when he tortured prisoners in Guantanamo?”
“He did what he had to do to protect us from the terrorists. In case you haven’t noticed, we’re at war.”
“Let’s get back to drug abuse since you’re such an expert. Why should the federal government override states’ medical marijuana laws? And how about the federal Defense of Marriage Act? Are states’ rights only something you Republicans care about when they mean preventing black people from voting?”
“Marriage and the family are the bedrocks of our society. We have to protect them.”
“Bedrocks? Right!” April snorts. “You’re on your what? Fourth marriage?”
There’s a sound of creaking metal.
The elevator drops several feet and comes to an abrupt halt knocking both passengers off their feet.
“Are you all right?” April struggles to her feet.
“I think I hurt my wrist.” Gus cradles his right hand in his left.
“What’s going on out there?” April asks. “Someone should have come by now.”
“I don’t know. Building must have been evacuated. Can’t be a fire or we’d smell smoke. Maybe a bomb threat or some kind of terrorist takeover.”
“Well, if they come in here, I’ve got a little surprise for them.” April removes a pistol from her briefcase.
“Sweet! A 45-caliber Desert Eagle.” Gus whistles. “That’s what I admire about you lesbians. You don’t let people push your around. Can I see it?”
April shakes her head.
“Come on.” Gus moves closer. “Just let me hold it for a second.”
“Keep your hands off of me!” April takes a shooting stance and aims at Gus’s chest.
“All right. Take it easy. I just wanted to look at it.”
“Sorry.” April puts the pistol away and takes out a water bottle. “I don’t like people sneaking up on me.”
Gus looks at his injured hand.
“Hey!” April says. “If the elevator falls to the lobby, you think we can save ourselves by jumping up at the last minute?”
“Never happen. They’ve got automatic brakes to keep these things from falling any farther.” Gus takes a cigar from his jacket pocket.
“You mind not doing that?”
“What are you going to do? Shoot me?” Gus lights up. “I’m officially declaring this a nanny-state-free zone.”
The elevator fills with smoke. April coughs.
“You know, you ought to thank me.” Gus puffs the cigar. “If it weren’t for me, you’d never have a show.”
“How do you figure that?”
“Me stirring up peoples’ passions and all. Without me to debate you wouldn’t have anything to talk about.” Gus looked at the ceiling. “Yeah, we ought to stage some kind of public feud.”
“What do you mean?”
“Make up an issue and get all heated up about it. Could be anything – dogs vs. cats, nacho vs. cool-ranch corn chips, beer vs. cocktails.”
“High heels vs. flats.”
“Exactly, there’s nothing like the shaped of a woman’s legs in high heels.”
“To which I respond they’re a hazard for a woman’s health and a relic of sexism like bound feet in China.”
“Now you got it!” Gus took out another cigar. “Want one?”
“Is that all this means to you? Sensationalism? Ratings?”
“Who says I can’t have fun while I’m putting American back on the right course? Besides, the clash of opposing viewpoints reveals deeper truths.”
Gus looks at his Rolex watch. “Boy, I hope they get here soon. I’ve got to piss so bad I can taste it.”
April looks away.
“Hey!” Gus says. “How about letting me fill your water bottle?”
“I’m not done with it.”
“Well, finish it. I’ve got to go pretty bad.”
“I’m saving it until I get thirsty.”
“If you don’t let me use it, I’ll piss in the corner and it’ll stink.”
“You know what I like about technology?” April takes her smart phone out of her briefcase. “They can put a 5 megapixel camera in this thing. I’m sure the people at Move On would love to put a picture of Gus Libharm’s willy on their website.”
“Okay, I was just joking anyway. But, you know, maybe we should try to get out of here. Help me pull these doors apart.”
Each pulled on one side to try to force the doors open. Gus huffed and sweated while favoring his injured hand. The doors slid open about an inch and then jammed. The gap revealed mostly concrete wall meaning the elevator was stuck between floors. However, there appeared to be an opening near the top.
“Give me a boost,” April says. “I’ll try to climb through the access panel in the ceiling and force open the outer doors.”
Gus leans against the wall and April climbs so she’s sitting on his shoulders. Her skirt hikes up so her inner thighs make contact with his neck. He stumbles back and forth as he tries to stand and position her under the hatch.
“A little to the right. Now back. Good.” April forces a credit card through the gap and tries to spring the latch. “Did your wife ever tell you your stubble itches?”
“My stubble? I thought it was yours.”
When the credit card doesn’t work, April inserts a hairpin into the keyhole and tries to pick the lock.
“How’s it going up there?” Gus asks. “You going to finish anytime this year?”
“Hold your horses.”
“Easy for you to say. No one’s sitting on your shoulders. What do you eat for breakfast, anyway? A half-dozen eggs and twelve pounds of ham?”
“Let me down. This isn’t working.” April gets off Gus’s shoulders. “Is there anything we can use to pry it open?”
“Why don’t we use your gun to shoot out the lock?”
“I don’t want to,” April says.
“Nobody’s going to get hurt. Hell, there’s no one left in the building.”
“I said no.”
“If you’re scared, I’ll do it.” Gus moves toward the briefcase.
“The gun’s not loaded! Okay!”
“Not loaded!” Gus laughs so hard he has to sit down. “I’ve never heard a more fitting metaphor.”
“For your homosexual lifestyle.”
April rolls her eyes. “How about finding something to pry open the access panel?”
“Hold on. I’m making a point.” Gus retrieves his cigar and relights it. “Let me ask you a personal question. How do you lesbians make love without involving a penis?”
“If you don’t know the answer, it’s no wonder you’re on your fourth marriage.”
“I’ll have you know my wives have been very satisfied.”
“With their divorce settlements, I’m sure.”
“I’m serious,” Gus says. “Convince me that lesbian sex is superior and I’ll tell all my listeners to support gay marriage.”
“Sure I could. Try this. ‘Friends, I’ve been having second thoughts about the federal Defense of Marriage Act. While I still consider homosexuality an abomination, I believe states’ rights, a concept enshrined in our Constitution, must be preserved at all costs. If we allow the federal government to usurp the states’ powers regulating marriage, what’s next? I’ll tell you what’s next: government bureaucrats meddling with healthcare, banking, and our schools. That’s why I’m calling for the abolition of the Defense of Marriage Act. Let’s get the federal government out of marriage.’ How’s that?”
“Fair enough! A woman’s body is simply more attractive than a man’s. Face it! You’re hairy, clumsy, and you smell bad.”
“I don’t buy it. I’ve seen plenty of girl-on-girl videos. Nothing ever happens.”
“How about if I just let you pee in my water bottle?”
“You can’t buy me off that easily. Come on, all you have to do is say a few words and I’ll make gay marriage a reality. I can’t believe you’re not jumping at this chance to advance your homosexual agenda.”
“I’ll do you one better, Gus. Convince me that the investment bankers, who ruined our economy, are actually good for working Americans and I’ll tell my viewers we should abolish the SEC.”
There’s a sound of groaning metal. The lights go out. Only the glowing tip of Gus’s cigar is visible. The only sound is his voice.
“There are three things that define America: Christianity, the family, and free enterprise,” Gus says. “The communists who control the federal bureaucracy think they can create wealth by taking money from those who’ve earned it but no government has ever taxed its way to prosperity. The liberal media accuse me of being unreasonable but I will never compromise when defending our sacred values…”
“We’ll never get out of here,” April says.