Sunday, February 10, 2008

His Fear of Heights

"So the reason why Housing Department Secretary Fred Carson..."

He was on the ground floor for three hours, waiting for McNeil to show up. McNeil arrived, surrounded by lackeys, and entered the elevator. A sidekick pressed '15'. McNeil, fittingly, had an office right on top of what was the city’s tallest building.

Mr. Fred squeezed in as the doors closed. McNeil paid no attention. Fred knew this was his only chance. He thrust himself in front of McNeil. The lackeys moved in with menace. But McNeil called the hounds off.

Encouraged, Fred wasted no time. ‘I have a script’, he explained. As Studio Head, McNeil was always being accosted by wannabes, and usually dismissed them remorselessly. But he was amused by this little middling man in grey. 'Really?' The flunkeys sniggered. Displeased by their boorishness, McNeil told old man Fred: 'you have until the top floor'.

Twelve floors remained. Fred launched into his story about Cowboy Jim whose New York aunt leaves him an urban fortune. Fred knew his story both by heart and by soul. That it had a slow beginning, under the open skies and plains. But eventually, it would pick up wings and soar. It was Fred’s ticket out.

Mr. Fred wanted McNeil to show a flicker of reaction. But McNeil had weathered thirty years in the business and had a face of the finest oak. The lackeys were quiet too.

The elevator halted. Fred still had the last one-third left. The best third. McNeil exited. ‘Thanks, but this isn’t what we’re looking for’.

"...never permits a new building in his jurisdiction to exceed fifteen floors was the fact that he had rejected the addition of five floors to that same building when it was being made."

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