In the Book

Ellis awoke to a gunmetal morning. A fog-shrouded sunrise that begs you to stay in bed. He didn’t. That was his first mistake.

Driving to work, he noticed the charcoal skies and wet streets hadn’t dampened the entrepreneurial spirit of the pre-rush hour hookers, the ones who saw opportunity in early rising. Pun intended. They worked both sides of the street he always took to his office, but different blocks of course. There’s something to be said for professional courtesy.

Ahead, to his right, he noticed a short red Ford engaged in conversation with a tall black stop sign. As he rolled by, the chocolate temptress cut her eyes his way to make sure the merger she was negotiating wasn’t about to be interrupted. Once they stop they’re easy money, and she didn’t want anything interfering with a quick fifty bucks. Who does? Ellis didn’t recognize this particular businesswoman. She wasn’t one of the two or three regulars he always noticed but never did business with, like the stringy-haired, strawberry blonde with a pierced navel and sad eyes, or the plump Latina with shorts that ended mid-cheek and a chest that put him in mind of the Grand Tetons, or the beehive brunette with the crooked teeth. Guess competition never really lets up, he mused.

Dank days have a way of making you focus on the negative. At least that’s how they effected Ellis. So the more he drove, the more he pondered that wives who gave a damn about cheating husbands were becoming endangered species. Couples were taking longer to panic over teenagers who hadn’t come home overnight. Even executives who were convinced their partners were skimming didn’t care enough to hire someone to prove it. Apathy was becoming the national pastime, or so it seemed. Maybe it was just the lousy weather.

Ellis pulled into the basement garage and found a space close to the elevator. It was easy this time of day. The sedans and SUVs and mini-vans didn’t get in until much later. They had papers to read, eggs to fry, and kids to drop off before making their way to this particular cement cavern. It wasn’t that Ellis was a workaholic. He didn’t have anyone to brown nose by getting in early. He just never slept very well. And he didn’t have the predisposition or the patience to simply lie in bed staring at the back of his eyelids.
Turning off the engine, he looked around and muttered Christ, as he thought about what kind of skills it obviously didn’t take to design parking lots. Gray walls, gray ceiling, concrete floor, which just happens to be gray. People didn’t ask much of parking lots, he assumed, or the people who design them. Function over form. Substance over style. Be adequate but don’t be noticeable. It didn’t slip past him that he could have been talking about himself.

The elevator was small and the ride up interminable, even though it was only a few floors. He didn’t like cramped spaces. Never had. And today this one put him in mind of a casket on a hydraulic lift being slowly raised to heaven. No, he thought, with him inside it would surely be going in the other direction. Then, oddly enough, after climbing a couple of floors, the damned thing dropped like a stone.