Charles Pendelton
      © 2008 Marty Langdon
Chapter 05

                         Danger on the thirteenth floor!

Often as a child I would imagine the framework and hours of labor entailed to
erect such a prodigious edifice as my stepfather's place of work. I can remember
being there for the first time when I was only twelve years old. It was toward
the end of summer, and we were getting very close to Labor day weekend.

In the late afternoon hours on a Saturday or a Sunday, the building would be as
empty as an abandoned courtyard and as quiet as a summer breeze. Crowds of
people passing by get less and less as cars and trucks diminish, until the street
once again reclaims the night. There was nothing now but the ever slow release
of tranquility, emanating from the end of another stressful workweek. There was
no more work to be had for anyone who occupied an office here beyond that of
the ordinance of an average workweek, for all businesses were closed pending
a standard two day leave. Everyone was off in their own direction till Monday,
and you could almost hear the quiet peaceful hum of silence.

The contentment I found while roaming the dimly lit corridors was a lull of
placidity between myself and my thoughts. Perhaps it was the old-fashioned
layout that allured me, with its forgotten past and the untold stories which
took place in an extravagant penthouse, overlooking a stately promenade. Or
how the ever brooding silence could penetrate the stillness of a lonley heart
and mind to transpose a rather ordinary day into a memorable occasion.

As I ascended the spiral staircase of white textured marble, I could hardly
wait to reach the penthouse on the thirteenth floor! Since it was one large
room opposed to twenty little ones, it was simply labeled Penthouse Suite,
this was understandable. What I could not understand however, was how
a business owner in this day and age could profit by appeasing our fatuous
and empty-headed ancestors, and not just calling it thirteenth floor. The
adjoining building doesn't even have a 13th floor. It's labeled 14th floor,
which proves that even man in all his boastings can be easily susceptible
to silly superstitions laced in fear, carried over from an earlier century.

Back in the middle ages if you accidentally belched while walking down
the street, they would assume you had a demon, and would disembowel
you. No one was safe back then, for the world was upheaved in madness.

Five hundred years later, people still believe that dark forces hide within
numbers. Do you honestly think a bogeyman will be hiding in the closet,
waiting to infect your very dreams, if you stay on the thirteenth floor? 

   In other words, it's okay to live on the 13th floor,
  if the elevator which takes you to that floor has a
    lighted panel that tells you it is the 14th floor?

No matter how you look at it, the only thing you're
  likely to find up there is hogwash and rhetoric!

                                                                   Pg 18

If you're going to be frightened of anything, consider the
ogres and phantoms that lurk in dark corners of your house.
They plan your demise while you're fast asleep, and sometimes
you can even hear them stirring. When something falls to the
floor at night don't blame the cat, he had nothing with it.
Instead, blame those who are responsible, if you dare!

In my opinion, folklore has no right in a businessman's world for it
is tenuous and unjust, and so I figure we can either revamp the whole
number system, whereby eliminating the *dreaded number 13* from
ever having to be written again, or we simply use it, and use it well. 

I looked down through the hollow spiral of a turn of the
century staircase with its winding banister that circled itself
round and round till my eyes found the first floor landing.

When I was fourteen years old, I was asked by my stepfather if I wanted to
help him at the building with certain chores that needed to be done, and I told
him I would. With a dust mop, broom and a makeshift dustpan from the Ella
Fitzgerald era, I would begin on the twelfth floor and gradually work my way
down to the main lobby. Ramon would mop the floors on the other side where
the freight elevator was, so we wouldn't actually see each other until we were
both done. “Be careful,” he would say to me. “You fuck up, I lose my job.”

If we were there really late, he would teach me how to operate the manually
controlled elevators. A back and forth brass controller with a black wooden
knob. There was a seat to sit down in, and alongside it was an ornate wall. On
a busy weekday, you could hear strange sounds coming from inside the wall if
you happened to be ascending or descending that particular staircase. No, it
wasn't a ghost shivering about in our time frame. Neither was it a rat scurrying
down its ravaged partition. It was simply an envelope tickling the old bronze
mail chute, as it fluttered rapidly in making its descent to the basement. 

Occasionally, toward the holidays one or two people from each floor would
come in and work until three and then leave, but on Sunday the building was
always barren. Every now and then, I would push open the mail slot on each
office door to get a glimpse of the inside. Upon doing so, a gentle whiff of
the strange air would often escape to greet my nostrils. Isn't it odd I thought,
the things we do out of boredom. In one room was the smell of fine leather
coats hanging. In yet another was the nauseating smell of cigarette smoke.
In one profoundly dim room, I breathed in slowly the most enchanting
perfume which had to it such an aesthetic charm, I sighed. While in one
of the end rooms the acrid smell of funeral flowers permeated the thin air.

This led me to believe there was someone dead in there, whereupon
I immediately took the white marble staircase down to the next level!

                                                                   Pg 19

Some rooms were dark and daunting as if way past evening, while others were
brightly lit. Cheerful in a sense that they told the true time of day with large
windows that welcomed in the sun. The Indian rug company would always
smell of curry and spice, while the small accounting firms reeked of cigar
smoke. Some rooms would have an eerie breeze coursing through them from
an old vent shaft perhaps or from a window left partially open, and no matter
how bright the sun was shining outside, it was always dark and desolate in the
adjacent dry well. . . When I say “dry well,” I am referring to the external full
enclosure between several tall office buildings, where the air conditioning units
run, and the ground resembles a roof lined with tar and gravel. Like a kind of
invisible barrier separating the day from the soon to be evening hours. It filled
me with a sense of inner peace and nostalgia to entangle myself in that world.

                                             To become lost in it.

As I gazed ever so serenely through the eye of time, I could begin to see those
wood framed windows surrounding the dry well enclosure from where I lay in my
bed. Covered in decades of soot from exhaust fumes and smoke from factories, I
really began to wonder if they had ever been cleaned at all. I then saw a tiny crack
in the lower left hand corner on the 9th floor where a Mr. Lewis Hind slammed
the window down hard after hearing the ill-fated news of the stock market crash.

Was it real?
Did it matter?

But It was fun to play the game, and I was beating boredom at the same time.
I heard some activity going on in my mother's room, and assumed she had just
finished getting dressed. She then went back into the bathroom as she always
did to put on her make up before going once again, back into the bedroom for her
purse. I listened rather intently to the sound of her footsteps as they made their
way down the creaky brown carpeted staircase and away into the kitchen area. 

On the eighth floor, you will find the oldest company still operating in that building.
The black and gold lettering which still embellishes the glass appears to be a true
antediluvian. One that echoes with sentiment from an earlier period of time, while
the door with a solid brass doorknob still opens and closes with the greatest of ease.
If you're waiting for room 802 folks, you had better look elsewhere. Mr. Schwartz
set up shop in 1906 and he never left. As of this year, he will be ninety four years
old, and is assisted by his second wife of eighty seven. She aids him in walking,
by keeping a hand on his back to keep him steady as he shuffles about slowly with
an old steel walker. In his office he still uses a 1943 black rotary dial telephone! 

One day in the not so distant future there'll be no one left from the previous century,
and I will find I myself have grown old. On the fifth floor, you will find a costume
company run by an old Italian man. I cannot remember his name, but whenever he
saw me, he always gave me a mask or a gag of some sort. I liked him, for he was a
really nice man. This floor could not be accessed for it was locked from the inside,
so I would have to look through the glass door and hoped he came out and saw me.

                                                                   Pg 20

On the twelfth floor was a tailor shop that always had a spare dress form wheeled out
into the hallway. When I first saw it, I was a bit baffled by the vintage relic. Aside from
never seeing one before, and having no idea why anyone could ever want one, there
was a certain eeriness about the way it just seemed to be waiting there! After awhile,
I wondered why no one ever took it; considering there were so many opportunities!

The business was run by two old men, Giuseppe and Irving. They were always on each
other's back like an Italian Oscar and a Jewish Felix! On occasion, I would see an unusual
piece of chalk in the form of a triangle that had made its way past the door jamb. Since they
came in so many different colors, I always thought it was some kind of foreign lozenge lying
there without a wrapper! Sometimes they were quiet, usually when they were very busy, but
most of the time they would simply throw miscellaneous words at one another and complain!

“Vere did you put the ladies' halters?”
“What ladies halters?”
“The ones in the crate that came yesterday!!!”

“They picked them up while you were out to lunch, you schmuck.”
“Nice of you to tell me, and don't call me a schmuck. . .
You are not Jewish! I am a Jew; I can call you a schmuck,
but you cannot call me a schmuck, understand?”
“Okay-okay, Cretino.”
“Vhat Cretino. Vhat are you calling me?”
“It's Italian for putz!”

Occasionally, the uneasy sound of a howling wind could be heard coming from way down
in the basement, and this I knew was the freight elevator. What I can tell you is that it's an
Otis piston elevator with a steel walkway grid design on both the ceiling and floor. Since
it is powered by water and not electricity it makes a very foreboding sound that raises an
eyebrow when one is alone. It is operated by pulling a steel cable hand over hand up, or
hand under hand down using thick leather gloves. As you descend past the second floor, a
steel ball connected to the cable comes up and barely makes it through this small housing
I call the O-ring. This special device it would appear has been mounted to run midway
down the cab, perpendicular from the ceiling inside the car to prevent or to dampen
any vibration caused by the cable or to merely keep the cable running straight. 

From there, the ball has just enough space to come out through a hole in the ceiling made of
hardened steel as well. This tells the operator that he is reaching the basement, and if you are
pulling a heavy load, you had better slow down! If you don't pay attention to the cable, or if your
thumb should accidentally be above the steel ball as it passes through the O-ring at this point.
A door slammed shut and my thoughts scattered. Mother was gone too and finally, I was alone.
                                                           Grapefruit - Elevator

                                                                   Pg 21

Bill Donelly - How come no one wrote anything for this chapter?

Charles Pendelton - Dude. . . You just did.

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PG 18) The living is easy-est with stainless steel - Sharon Steel, 1960 -

PG 18) Hammock
by Wade Harris -

PG 18) House of Mystery No. 13
by Esao Andrews -

PG 18) Ghosts
by Chet Zar -

PG 18) The second day of Genesis
by Jacek Yerka -

PG 19) Auschwitz by Anton Semenov -

PG 19) Fishing On 42nd Street
by Dennis Jacobsson -

PG 20) The pleasantries of a full enclosure

PG 21) Former figure
by Amos Sewell -

PG 21) More Courtesy poster
(circa 1930's) -

PG 21)
(a) Elisha Otis at the Crystal Palace in New York, 1853; (b) Otis piston-type hydraulic elevator