The UPS and DOWNS Affair
Partnerships are like elevators; they have their ups and downs
"Well, here's a novel idea: perhaps You should shimmy up the shaft for a change, and I'll remain here and entertain the young lady," the blond snapped.
"Ahem," the dark one plucked at his white silk suit. "At least the cable grease won't be visible on your perpetual black.."
"Exactly. You have a closetful of designer suits, I have only this. You can afford to get mussed."
I waved diffidently, needing but fearful of catching their attention. "Uh, Fellas...remember me? Elevator? Stuck?"
ACT 1 Friday the 13th
It had been a perfect day for a Romantic adventure--a frolic--an escapade. The world almanac will inform you that Toledo has merely 65 (out of a possible 365) days of sunshine per year. This is a fact we do not quote in our civic brochure "Terrific Toledo."
But on this glorious Friday, September 13, we hosted a clear azure sky, a warm breeze rippling the river, sun glistening off the glass and sandstone towers downtown.
The Boss laid eight inches of documents, files, transcripts, and correspondence across my outstretched arms and said, "It's a gorgeous day, Margo. Walk slow."
I stuffed my courier pouch and heaved it over my shoulder and headed out on deliveries. Our Chamber of Commerce is very... cost conscious. Thrifty. OK, cheap. And why waste postage when the Deputy Director (my impressive, inconsequential title) was within 15 minutes' walking distance of any downtown facility?
As always, I followed The Boss's instructions, strolling the shady sidewalks and savoring this precious day. I dropped off the last of the reports and the elevator stopped for me on the 15th floor. I hesitated to step on; there were two men in the car which made the 4 x 5-foot space already crowded. My Mother always taught "never get into an elevator alone with strange men." But my Mother said a lot of things. These men looked respectable; suited and solemn, and the dark one had a non-threatening twinkle in his eyes.
I converted my own expression to the polished professional visage, nodded to my new companions, then turned my back to them, facing the door, observing proper elevator etiquette. We watched the floor numbers light up as we descended past 14..13...
Suddenly a series of chugs threw me off-balance, backwards into the dark one's arms. Metal screeched against metal, grinding, and with one ominous clank our motion abruptly halted.
I turned to my companions, deferring to the male species to provide prompt rescue.
That was a mistake.
ACT 2 Never Fear
The blond man gave a muffled groan, but the dark one turned a disarming smile on me and suddenly I wished I had been facing him for our entire short ride. He reached confidently for the emergency phone. The smile disappeared when he came away with empty hands.
"Don't these things receive regular safety inspections?" he fumed.
"It's an older building," I found my voice defending it as if the city's entire image rested on this ancient appliance.
He began to pound vigorously on the door."Hey! We're stuck in here! Little help.."
"It's after 3, on a Friday," I reminded him. " Most folks have sneaked out by now."
"No security? No maintenance staff?"
I shook my head, feeling miserably inadequate for my whole city.
He started stabbing every button. Every floor number, every call button, every emergency button, even the firefighter operation button.
"I don't think you're suppose to touch that one," I volunteered meekly.
He hammered the heels of his hands against the control panel.
His colleague just slumped against the wall, resigned.
"He-lp--" it was a whisper, a plea. It was me.
"Never fear," said the light one with a ghost of a smile. "We are frequently confined in less comfortable circumstances."
That was supposed to encourage me?
"I'm supposed to be on that plane at 5:15 and at Darlene's apartment at 7:30 and in--" the dark one glanced at me--" nevermind."
"Pity the Fates have altered your schedule," the blond tweaked the dark one and was rewarded with a scowl I had not believed the handsome face capable of.
"Maybe if you had your own lovelife you wouldn't be so preoccupied with mine."
"If I had your lovelife I'd be dead in a week."
"So. Jealousy rears its ugly head at last."
"Jealous? of your decadent, materialistic American--"
"Decadent? You've been here six years and your apartment is still furnished in Early Siberian. Buy a couch, for God's sake!"
And then the lights went out.
ACT 3 I was a Girl Scout
I swallowed a squeal. Not that I was afraid of the dark, but the suddenness, the totality of it. The walls crept closer; my breathing shallower and more rapid. "Just a sec--" I gasped and dug through my pouch, triumphantly pulling out a keychain flashlight. "Taa--Daahh.."
"Ah, better to light one little candle than to curse the darkness," with that quote, the dark one's confidence returned and it was enough to calm me until the sickly yellow emergency lights powered on.
Even in the diminished shadows I noticed his partner crinkling his eyes shut.
"Are you OK?"
He tried to shake it off. "Stuffy in here. Headache."
"Here," I pawed through the bag again, produced two capsules and a small bottle of water. He scrutinized the pills with a chemist's eye.
"Midol." I blushed.
The dark one chortled. "There you go, Partner. Banish your headache AND improve your lousy disposition."
"My lousy disposition?"
"Y'know--sullen, moody, somber, pouting, taciturn, melancholy.."
"Well," replied the Miffed One. "Perhaps if I'd had lunch.."
"It's always food with you."
"And with you it's always--" he noticed I was still there and edited his speech pointedly. "--other appetites."
"Lunch! I've still got my lunch." Maybe if their mouths and stomachs were full, maybe we could call a verbal truce. They were undeniably cute, but this bickering was grating on my nerves.
I carefully tore the bread into thirds, solemnly intoning in high-school Latin "Tuna is divided into three parts.." It showcased my erudition, and got them both to grin. I rationed the small bag of potato chips and the squares of Hershey in the finest manner of stranded explorers everywhere.
We nibbled in blessed silence.
"What else have you got in there?" asked the curious blond.
"My survival kit? Oh, just the usual: lipstick and hairbrush, screwdriver, 9-volt battery, one.. two..no, three lint-covered cherry cough drops; needle and thread, Band-Aids, my ID, pen, Reader's Digest, transistor radio, three dollars and ..uh...sixty...seven cents, half a roll of butterum Lifesavers... white hanky.."
He smiled at my inventory.
"Hey, I was a Girl Scout for ten years. We're always prepared."
"I think I'll be her partner from now on."
"And who left his exploding socks in the wash where they are doing us absolutely no good?"
"So who packs exploding socks to make a simple drop-off?"
"Please, guys, please," I implored," we may be here awhile. Can't we try to get along?"
ACT 4 Shall We Dance?
"You're right," the dark one sighed. "Let's establish a civilization. I am Napoleon Solo." He held his hand forward.
I handed him my card. "Margo Spencer, deputy director, Toledo Chamber of Commerce."
"Miss Margo Spencer," he gestured, "my colleague, Illya Kuryakin." We nodded cordially.
"Not so painful, hmm?"
His charming smile returned. "Shall we dance? What kind of music can you get on your little radio?"
I shook my head. "Just static. Reception's impossible in here."
"Like our communicators," the Russian grumbled.
"OK. Alternative plan." He reached for my hand and pulled me down to the floor beside him. He settled cross-legged. "C'mon, we've all got chips--and..." he produced a poker deck from his pocket. "I was a Boy Scout. Always prepared." He gave me the Scout salute. "Nothing wild," he winked and dealt.
I arranged my cards, and smoothed my skirt, grateful I had worn a granny dress today.
Time passed more pleasantly, Solo winning several hands of our chips to the dismay of the hungry blond. Kuryakin played half-heartedly, and whenever I glanced over to him, he was always concentrating on my face, which was rather disconcerting, if flattering.
"Miss Spencer, may I borrow your screwdriver?"
He rose and stood behind me at the control panel. Aha--that was the attraction that had captured his fascination. I was simultaneously relieved and piqued.
Solo deftly switched cards with his partner's pile before squeezing by me to offer his assistance.
"And now by the authority of all John Wayne movies, I believe I am entitled to shoot you for that, " the blond murmured, never taking his eyes off his work. He handed the faceplate to the dark one who set it carefully on edge in the corner. "We may be able to override the short circuit--" a whiff of acrid blue smoke and a tiny shower of sparks testified to his theory.
The car lurched and shuddered down half a floor. Solo pried open the door and we were within one giant step up of a solid office floor. He squeezed through and blocked it open with his body, pulling me through, and offering a hand out to his partner.
When Solo yanked himself out from between the doors, they snapped shut like an angry turtle.
Epilogue: Terrific Toledo
Solo assumed the rail; his arm was always ready when I needed steadying. Kuryakin fell into step behind, serving as rear guard. It is a dizzying experience to trek down 12 flights of stairs, winding past dim and deserted
"Oh, no," I thought, "we're still trapped. It's nearly 8, the main doors will be locked--"
But that proved to be a mere detail to Kuryakin, who dispatched us into freedom with such easy skill, I entertained disturbing speculations about the team's occupation. Maybe I should ask for a business card?
Once outside in the cool night air, we all breathed deeply and luxuriated in the sheer available space. I outstretched my arms toward the heavy gold harvest moon and twirled unselfconsciously.
"Well.." Solo said
"Well..." Illya echoed.
"Well..." I joined the team. "Let me show you the rest of my city."
I had already slid two brochures from the ready stack secured in my pouch.
"Did you know Toledo is the glass capital of the world? And the birthplace of Jeep? the factories have very educational tours. Our art museum and zoo are world famous. For music, there's the Toledo Symphony and the Light Opera Company, and the Jazz Society, all with performances this weekend. The sunset-citylights cruise down the Maumee is very evocative, and the metroparks host a bicycle tour and wilderness trail hike. The Mudhens are playing at home tomorrow, and Crosby Gardens are gorgeous, bloomed for autumn. There's the Toledo Repertory Theatre, Francis Farms has orchard hayrides, we have fine dining, and ethnic festivals—of course, the Polish was last week but I believe it's Greek today—"
Solo was gazing at me like I was a deep fresh spring well and he was very, very thirsty.
He telegraphed a look to his partner. "Sounds like it might take more than a weekend to explore the wonders of Toledo adequately."
"Indeed," his partner said with equanimity." I believe that is the senior partner's responsibility to confirm that with Waverly."
"Fine." Solo accepted the challenge agreeably.
The blond turned to me and pierced me through with his laser-blue eyes. "What exactly are Mudhens?"