The Waiting Game
By: TG Browning

One moment you're alive and the next, you're not. It's that simple. That quick. No fade to black, no blinding light, to mosey–off into. Probably is for most people, just like that. Me, I get to stand around and wait.

My name's Harper and that's all I'm going to say about that particular aspect of my life. I was Harper, nice to most people and something of an expert on the history and minutia of model electric trains between 1900 and 1950 in North America. Never could get into the Brit ones.

Forty–three years old, I was. Never married. Never engaged though I did come close to it once back when I was in college and more inclined to snap–judgments and thrills like being in love or broke. I got that out of my system quickly, I can tell you. The worst decisions a body can make are the ones you make without planning and mapping things out.

I died. At least, I'm pretty sure I did. I mean, when you're in an elevator that decides to go for the Otis Land Speed record, down, you can count on two things: First, taking the stairs would not only have been better a idea and much more healthy; second, you're going to get a lot shorter, soon.

Rats! I just wish I hadn't gone out with a elevator version of My Love playing as background music accompanied by five woman and three guys screaming in my ears.


I found myself on a gray and tan landing of some sort with two women from the elevator next to me, still screaming though I will admit the screams trailed off after a couple of seconds.

Pop pop. A guy and another woman from the elevator come out of nowhere and for a moment, lady number four put in a brief appearance and then bip, she's gone.

She did that a couple of times with a delay of a few seconds in–between arrivals but finally settled for a bip.

The six of us looked at each other. We all looked about the same as when we boarded the elevator – same clothes, no mangling of extremities, same five o'clock shadow on guy number two, and the same creepy jacket on one of the women. Looked like a squirrel fur that moths would call the Promised Land.

Nobody said anything.

That lasted about thirty seconds and then ting, ladies one and three were gone, leaving empty spots on the landing, quickly followed by Mr. Five O'clock Shadow. Ting!

The remaining guy snorted and said the only words I was to hear for a long time while I was, I suppose you could say, in–transit. He said, and this is a direct quote: "Great. Take another number and wa— "

You know that sound you get on those audience participation TV shows like Let's Make a Deal or The Price Is Right!? The one that pretty much says you blew it? That one?


Well, that's the sound he made when he went. The lady in the squirrels looked a tiny bit worried and blatt!, she went the way of the guy with the things about lines.

That left just the other guy and me looking around and at that point I got the feeling that it would be a good idea to keep my mouth shut. I mean, if I have to chose from a selection of ting, bip and blatt, which one do I want, really? The last two sounds were bad news personified and the first, well, might have been better but there was no guarantee. Still, probably the best long term deal.

I thought about it for a couple of minutes.

The remaining guy looked nervous. He kept glancing around, his gaze sweeping over me every couple of seconds and then he started to take a deep breath, looked surprised as all get–out and then bip he was gone as well.

Here I stand.

I've been here a long time.

I mean, I've been here a really, really, really … really long time. Once in great while, some joker will pop in and then after a few moments or minutes, I'll hear bip or blatt, rarely, ting and I'm back to my lonesome again. They never stay long enough to even try to introduce themselves. Maybe they can't, I don't know.

No, I do. They can, they just never stick around long enough to do it. About every fourth or fifth one is a screamer.

The fact that this is a landing keeps me nervous as all get out. Up or down. Heaven or Hell? Women's lingerie up and fragrances and jewelry down? I'm not sure I want to know.

It also occurs to me, that the old Catholic ideas of what was sandwiched in–between Heaven and Hell, could be accurate as well. Oh, only one now that I think about it. If I recall, Limbo was only for unbaptized babies until some pope canceled it. That leaves Purgatory which might be where I am. Not a comforting thought.

My maternal grandmother's observations unsettled my thinking. The first was there's a special place in Hell for those who have no opinions. The second was God has no patience with people who won't make a decision. She accused me of both, numerous times.

Sometimes I sit on the landing.

I just wish I knew if I was supposed to.



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