short stories / Uncategorized / writing

Impropriety on the Twentieth Floor

This short story was previously published in Texas Writers Journal – 1st Quarter,  January 2015.  I have also previously posted an excerpt of this one.  

Nobody knew how the meat freezer came to be delivered at the law firm. All that was known was that the receptionist went to make coffee and when she came back to her desk, there it was in the middle of the lobby. A large silver metal freezer with a black handle. No tag, no papers, just sitting there taking space.

“Ahh, Mr. Sellers, you might want to come out and take a look at this.”

“What is it, Edith? I am really busy.”

“Somebody has left…uh…what looks to be a freezer in the lobby.”

“A freezer? What do you mean? Is this a joke?”

“No sir, somebody left a meat freezer in our lobby, and I need to know what to do about it.”

“Ill be up in a moment,” he snapped. One just couldn’t depend on support staff. All the little people in the world worming their way about day after day. They were simply too ignorant to take a comprehensive course of action, it was impossible to expect them to think for themselves. They needed leadership from people who knew. So Mr. Barnaby Sellers the Third shoved his most important brief aside and strode hastily up to the front to look at the freezer.

“Edith, can’t you just find a tag and call the delivery company and have them pick it up? It’s obviously a mistake.”

“Uh sir, I can’t find a tag on it,” she said.

And they looked all over for the tag, but the freezer had none. It sat in the lobby reflecting the sun’s rays that filtered through the mini blinds.

“Martin, take a look at this,” said Mr. Sellers.

“Why, whatever do we need a freezer for? asked Martin.

“We don’t need a freezer. It has been delivered by mistake.”

“Maybe we should canvas the staff just to be sure. Maybe there is a party or some benefit thing going on,” volunteered Martin.

So they sent an e-mail message throughout the firm:

IF ANYONE HAS ORDERED A MEAT FREEZER TO BE DELIVERED TO THIS FIRM, PLEASE CONTACT THE RECEPTIONIST IMMEDIATELY.

Everyone began to filter through looking at the freezer, the lawyers looked down their noses with disgust and the secretaries laughed softly to themselves.

“We are going to have clients in shortly, what will they think? asked Mr. Sellers.

“I’ll bet it’s just a matter of calling security to remove it,” said Martin. “Edith, call security and asked them to come up right away.”

“Security doesn’t have the tools to remove it,” observed a secretary.

“We may have to call a moving service,” said Raymond, a mousy attorney looking down his nose through his wire spectacles.

“What if it should contain a bomb?” asked Martin.

At that suggestion, everyone began to move away from the freezer, but the freezer was absolutely quite. It sat there in the lobby as if it belonged. Just waiting to be plugged in so that motor could run and the fans could buzz.

“Edith call security,” said Mr. Sellers.

“Right away,” answered Edith.

Security came up to examine the situation. Oscar the security guard paced around the machine with his key chain clinking. He strutted in the spotlight enjoying the hanging faces of the lawyers.

“Nope, no sign of a bomb, no ticking, no tinkering, just got yourselves a great big ole freezer here. It’s heavy too,” said Oscar. “It’s almost like it is anchored right here. What are y’all gonna do with it?”

“You need to remove it then…NOW!” said Mr. Sellers.

“Sorry sir, we can’t move this. Your gonna have to call a moving service. We can’t be responsible for the injury it might cause employees,” said Oscar.

“Don’t you people have some belts or something you can wear?”

“No, not to move something like this,” said Oscar. “And besides, we aren’t a moving company, we do the security here and that’s it.” He turned on his heels and left the group of lawyers puzzling over the solution.

“Lot number thirty-nine,” read Raymond from the back of the machine. “Serial #006439, Straton, Ohio, FREEZE-O-MATIC, 220 VOLTS.”

“Edith, get a moving company on the line,” said Mr. Sellers.

“Right away,” said Edith and she dialed the phone as she stared through the human circle gathered around.

“Yes…hello…can you pick an item up? Okay….I have one rather large freezer to be retrieved,” said Edith into the receiver. “Oh, I don’t know, let me check. Mr. Sellers where would you like it to be delivered?”

“What? I don’t know. Can’t you just have them take it away?”

“Certainly,” said Edith, “Can I make those arrangements when you arrive to pick it up? Ok, Good….”

The lawyers milled about the machine, pacing up and down, unable for some strange reason to leave the room.

“Mr. Jacobs is on the way up,” said Edith.

“My client,” said Martin.

“Is that the bus line case? Asked Raymond.

“Yes, the one-legged man who was pushed out of the back door by the bus driver. He pulled a gun from his other leg and tried to shoot the driver as he fell out of the bus.”

“So will the bus line make it out okay? Asked Mr. Sellers.

“We are hoping for the best, looks like we will win it. After all, the driver didn’t have a choice, had to get rid of the Nut Case,” said Martin.

“Well, what is everyone standing around for, it’s time to let this go and get back to work,” said Mr. Sellers.

Mr. Sellers had a hard time working that morning. He continued to walk by to see when the freezer was leaving. He was frustrated that any fool could deliver a machine like that to a law firm. Why would anybody believe they needed a freezer? It was ludicrous.

“Three Men Movers at your service,” said the burly man to Edith.

“What can we do for you today?”

“See this freezer?” asked Edith.

“Sure,” said the delivery man.

“Well, we need to get it out of here,” said Edith.

“Where to?” asked the delivery man.

“Could you just take it to a dumping place or something?” asked Edith.

“Well, there will be an extra charge for that,” said the delivery man.

“An extra charge, why?” asked Edith.

“Lady, you have to pay extra at the Dump Ground. You want it or not, make up your mind”

Raymond approached the front desk. “Are you the movers?” he asked.

“Yeah we are the movers.”

“Well, when you move this thing out, make sure you don’t scratch the lobby doors,” said Raymond.

“Yes sir…got it..”smirked the mover.

“Hey lady, where’s it goin?” he asked.

“I’ll be right with you,” said Edith covering the phone with her hand. “Let’s see, what time is your appointment with Mr Sellers?….Sure we will have it ready for you.”

“Lady, we don’t have all day here,” said the mover.

“Okay, you need to know where to take it? We will go ahead and pay extra for the Dump Ground,” said Edith. Although she thought it might be funny to have it dropped at a competing firm.

She handed them a check, then the freezer was free to leave its lofty perch at Harper, Drum & Llithgow, 1200 Main Street.

“Alright then, we can drop it after hours,” said Mover Man.

So they loaded it onto the dollies and moved the gleaming, steel freezer through the lobby and down the elevator. Edith sat at her desk and looked at the indention the freezer had made in the carpet. Then she noticed a piece of paper. She walked over and picked it up. It read simply:

TO STORE THE CARCASSES OF HUMANITY

“Hmmm,” mused Edith.

“What’s that ?” asked Sellers as he made his timely swoop.

“Oh, it’s just a piece of paper I picked up from the floor,” said Edith.

“Well, throw it away,” snapped Sellers, “And get building maintenance to come up and vacuum this mess!”

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7 thoughts on “Impropriety on the Twentieth Floor

  1. A short story with a moral, so refreshing these days, but so sad that no one “got it” in the story itself … just us readers, always looking for clues and such. I do want to point out a typo early on in the story in case you plan on doing a cut-and-paste to another site … “but the freezer was absolutely quite.” I do believe you mean “quiet”. Just a little comment to substantiate all those editorial blogs I write about spell-check, your best friend or worst nightmare. As long as it makes a word, spell-check leaves it, whether it makes sense or not. Us poor authors, read right over these pesky little glitches because our writing is ingrained in our brains. Hope you don’t mind me pointing out this example of my recurring advice, “You can’t proofread your own writing.” If you go back and read my stuff you’ll find glitches galore!

    • Thanks so much..this is one of those vintage stories that I wrote from the 1990s. I have more than one version of it, so I’m not sure if the typo is actually in the published version of it or not, ha ha. I really have slacked off on proofing these days too, but I also have not been submitting anything lately. Thanks also for reading!

    • Thanks Robin. It could be, I actually never thought about the reason other than making a statement of how some members of society have such little regard for their fellow men. …I wrote this story in the nineties 🙂

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