There it was, an empty cab. Philip Dante, doing his best Michael Johnson impersonation, sprinted towards it. Around, over, and through whatever inconvenient obstacles, known to laymen as pedestrians, happened to be in his way. Dammit! Someone was about to get into his cab. A pregnant broad carrying a shopping bag from Gristedes. Alright! The gods were
smiling on Philip today. As luck would have it, a package of Wonder Bread had fallen out of her overstuffed bag. Being overstuffed herself, the woman was having difficulty bending over to pick it up. This afforded Philip just enough time to slip into the cab ahead of her.
"Fiftieth and third", said Philip to the cab driver. "And step on it.
I'm in a rush." The driver was a foreigner. Weren't they all? Didn't America make cab drivers anymore? Philip was not pleased about being chauffeured by a terrorist who smelled like stale falafels. He tried to make out the man's name from his ID card, but the jumble of letters was nothing Philip's tongue could possibly pronounce.
The cabbie muttered something incoherent and began expertly weaving through traffic, disobeying all laws of traffic and physics. In no time they pulled up at Philip's destination. The meter read $4.75, so Philip handed the driver a five dollar bill.
"Keep the change, Mohammed."
"Hello, Mr. Dante." "How's it going, Mr. Dante?" "Nice suit, Mr.
Dante." "Could I have a moment with ..."
Philip brushed past the herd of brown nosers greeting him. No time for small talk with small minds. He was about to make a deal that would bring another fifty million dollars his way. And if he was in good form, which of course he would be, it should take him all of twenty minutes to do so. Then it would be off to the tennis courts.
Out of the corner of his eye, Philip spotted Larry Drake. Drake was a pesky journalist who had been trying to get an exclusive interview with him for weeks.
"Mr. Dante, a word please. Is it true that you are buying out Donald
Philip may have stopped to answer the question with his standard "no comment", but noticed that the elevator doors were closing. With the agility of an alley cat he bounded towards the closing doors, getting there just in time to shove his hands between them.
It was annoyingly crowded. Philip stepped in anyway. He didn't have time to be picky about his travel companions.
As the elevator began to rise, Philip reflected on his considerable
success. Not yet forty years old, he had taken over his father's business right after graduating from college, turning a few measly millions into a couple billion. This plus his dashing good looks made him the most eligible bachelor in America, despite the fact that he happened to be married. His mug graced a dozen magazine covers at a time. Everyone wanted to be him, was willing to settle for just knowing him, simply touching him would suffice. Philip's pleasant thoughts were interrupted by an unexpected jolting of the
elevator. It had stopped between floors.
"I don't believe this," he moaned. "Why does crap like this always
happen to me?"
One might reasonably argue that Philip had led a sheltered and privileged existence from day one. Very little "crap" had come his way, and for that which did, there was usually someone on his payroll to deal with it.
Philip turned to discover the origins of the odious sound. The man
directly behind him wore filthy, tattered rags, and his index finger was earnestly probing his nose.
"Nice suit, mister," he said, touching the sleeve of Philip's suit jacket
with that very same finger.
"Please don't touch me," Philip said. Though he said please, there was nothing polite about his tone of voice. He absolutely loathed beggars. If it was up to him they would all be put on ships which would be sent way out to sea and sunk. They were extremely irritating, smelled horribly, and were an eyesore. How one got into this building was beyond Philip, but he would make sure it never happened again.
"He's right you know. That is a fabulous suit. You have impeccable
fashion sense, Mr. Dante."
The voice either belonged to a rather masculine female, or a very
effeminate male. Philip turned to find out which choice was correct. Upon first sight, he still wasn't sure.
"What the hell are you?" Philip asked. He was not known for his subtlety.
"I'm Gabe. My friends and lovers call me Gabby."
"Does Boy George know you raided his closet?" asked Philip, rather
impressed by his quick wit in such an uncomfortable situation.
"Why, aren't you the clever one. Tell me something, Phil. Can I call
"Are you really sexually insatiable like that article in the Enquirer
said? You know, Phil, I think you and I have a lot more in common than you'd ever guess."
Phil felt sincere regret for the fact that he was not in the habit of
carrying a firearm. He pressed furiously on the panel of buttons before him until every last one was lit, but still the elevator refused to budge.
"MURDER! MURDER WAS THE CASE THAT THEY GAVE ME."
Philip's heart nearly leapt out of his body as a radio suddenly blared.
He cringed in response to the jungle music reverberating off the walls of the elevator. After a few more verses, the noise was turned off. The perpetrator of the audio crime was a black youth, about sixteen years old. His garb was atypical hoodlum attire, starting with gold (necklaces, rings, teeth, and God knew what else), moving on to the cryptic designs shaved into his hair, and ending with the aforementioned boom box. Philip couldn't begin to imagine how he had gotten into the building, much less what business he had doing here. Had security taken the day off?
"What you staring at?"
Positive that the punk had a gun, knife, pipe, and whatever else these kids walked around with, Philip looked away rather than risk bodily harm. All he wanted was to get out of the elevator alive.
"Don't worry, honey," Gabe said. "I'll look out for you."
Oh great, now he felt safe. He could avoid being killed by opting for
"Coke is it."
The voice sounded as if it had come from a parrot. Philip didn't care
why a parrot was on the elevator. It was a welcome change from what had been encountered so far. He turned to his right and found a man huddled in the corner, wearing a facial expression which made it instantly clear that he comprehended little of what went on around him. Phillip was dumbfounded by the motley crew he was trapped with.
"You got any change, Mister," the beggar asked, shoving a paper cup in Philip's face. Philip chose to ignore the question. The offensively scented mendicant chose to pursue the matter.
"Anything, man. A quarter, a dime, a penny even. I just need to get me something to eat."
"You want money? Get a job."
"You got any openings? Here's my resume." He waved his cup in Philip's face again.
"Just leave me alone."
"You got millions of dollars. All I'm asking for is some pocket change."
"I don't owe you a living. My money is my money. I worked for it. I
earned it. You want money, you do the same. Now if you don't mind."
"NUTHIN BUT A GANGSTA PARTY! IT AIN'T NUTHIN BUT A MOTHER FUCKING GANSTA PARTY!" the radio roared. Once again the cacophony continued for about
twenty seconds before its owner chose to shut it off.
"Must you do that?" asked Philip. How did black people expect to get anywhere when this was a typical example of how they turned out.
"You say something to me, man?" the kid asked menacingly.
"No, not at all", Philip answered. No need to provoke violence. He
wouldn't have spoken out to begin with if it wasn't for the fact that he absolutely loathed the so called music these people listened to. Rap is what he believed it was called. Barbaric poetry about killing accompanied by
primitive tribal beats is what he knew it to be.
"You better be careful in here, sweetie," said Gabe. "I wouldn't want
you to get in a fight and wrinkle that lovely suit."
"I'm not your sweetie," Philip said. Oh, how he loathed gays. How could a man and another man ...? He didn't even want to think about it.
"No need to be defensive. Unless of course you're struggling to conceal your obvious attraction towards me. But that would be silly. We might be stuck here together for a while, so don't you think we should spend that time pleasurably?"
"Your father must have shot himself when he saw you."
"Meow. Aren't we catty."
"Oh what a feeling, Toyota." It was the man with the empty eyes and parrot voice again.
"Anybody mind if I go to the bathroom?" the beggar asked.
"Elevators don't have bathrooms. Didn't you learn anything in bum
school?" Philip smirked, having touched his own funnybone.
The beggar positioned himself in a crouching position. "If a man's got to go, a man's got to go. It don't make no difference where he is."
"Oh Jesus! You're not thinking of ... Look guy, just hold it in,
"If a man's got to go..."
"Look, here's some money", said Philip, taking a handful of bills from
his money clip and shoving it into the beggar's hands. "Now please, try exercising some bowel control."
The beggar looked at the money, not bothering to count it, just getting used to the unfamiliar feel of bills. He put the cash into his pocket. "Okay, you just bought yourself five minutes. But after that I really got to go."
"WORD TO MOTHER, I'M DANGEROUS. CRAZIER THAN A BAG OF FUCKING ANGEL DUST! WHEN I BUST MY GAT, MOTHER FUCKERS TAKE DIRT NAPS. I'M ALL THAT AND A DIME SACK! WHERE THE PAYBACK?"
Philip pressed his eardrums up and down to dissect the noise, but there was no escape from it. No sounds go unheard in an elevator. When the voodoo chants finally abated, Philip stretched another handful of bills towards the kid.
"Will this stop you from making all that blasted noise?"
"When I want your money I'll take it", the kid said, after which he
proceeded to snatch the money from Philip's hand. "And when I want to hear my music, I'll play it."
"Have five minutes gone by yet," asked the beggar.
"No they have not," Philip said between teeth gritted in aggravation.
"That watch you have on might help me tell time better. Can I have it?"
"No you may not."
"How 'bout some change then?", he asked, once again shoving his cup towards Philip.
"Oh, stop pestering him," said Gabe. "I'm sure he'd much rather spend this time getting better acquainted with moi. Isn't that right, Phil?"
Philip didn't answer. He had decided that if he kept quiet and tried to think about something else, anything else, maybe this torture session would go by a little quicker. He refused to step down to these people's level any longer.
"Don't squeeze the Charmin."
"Oh, shut up!" Philip seethed at the fact that idiots like this were
legally allowed to mix with decent society. The freak should have been locked up in a loony bin, or better yet, put on the same ship all homeless people should be placed on. And room should be made for AIDS carrying homos and these dangerous blacks as well. Philip had made a lot of money in this city, but its liberal nature was causing it to go down the toilet. The notion of people like this getting into a luxury building and rubbing their grimy elbows with a man such as himself was more than enough proof that the
situation had been allowed to get way out of hand.
"Don't shout at him, Phil," said Gabe. "He can't help the way he is.
Nobody can. We are what we are."
"Listen faggot. If I want philosophy, I'll read Plato."
"Must you always resort to name calling to cover up your insecurities?"
"NOW TELL ME, WHAT'S MY MOTHER FUCKING NAME! SERIAL KILLER!"
"I can't hold it in much longer."
"Never had it. Never will."
"Let your feminine side show, Phil."
"WE'RE TRADIN WAR STORIES! WE OUTLAWS ON THE RISE! JEALOUS NIGGAS I DESPISE, LOOK IN MY EYES!"
"It's the quicker picker upper."
"Can I call you Phylis?"
"Hold your noses, cause here it comes."
"Noooooo!" Philip pounded on the elevator doors. "Get me out of here! Get me out of here now!"
His tantrum was to no avail. Philip sunk to the floor in frustrated
exhaustion. The radio came on again, this time not blasting rhyming rants, but broadcasting a news report at a reasonable decibel level.
"THIS JUST IN. MULTIBILLIONAIRE PHILIP DANTE WAS KILLED EARLIER TODAY IN AN AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENT. MR. DANTE HAD TAKEN A TAXI AFTER HIS LIMOUSINE BLEW A TIRE. THE CAB WAS STRUCK BY A TOUR BUS ON FORTY-FIFTH AND THIRD. THE CAB DRIVER MIRACULOUSLY ESCAPED INJURY, BUT PHILIP DANTE WAS KILLED INSTANTLY. ONE PECULIAR SIDE NOTE. UPON EXAMINATION OF HIS BODY, IT WAS DISCOVERED THAT UNDERNEATH HIS STYLISH BUSINESS SUIT MR. DANTE WAS WEARING LACE PANTIES AND A GARTER BELT. NOW DON'T THAT BEAT ALL?"
"No! That can't be right. Not me. I'm not just some ordinary schmuck. I'm Philip Dante. This can't be happening."
He turned around to look at his travel companions, who were all smiling at him.
"It's true. I am dead. And this is hell. Does this mean I have to
spend eternity stuck in here with you people?"
Philip had not prayed since childhood, having little to ask for, and not thinking to use the opportunity to express gratitude for what he had been given. Nevertheless, maybe he could procure one last favor. Whatever it cost, he could certainly afford.
"Come on big guy. Give me one more chance."
"You ran out of chances on Forty-fifth street," said Gabe. "But don't
worry, you're not in hell. This is just how you're getting there."
Gabe opened up a panel in the wall of the elevator, from which protruded a lever. "Going down." He pulled down the lever and the elevator began its descent into parts unknown.
"I'm a pepper, he's a pepper, she's a pepper."