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Fred just knew it was going to be his lucky day. In a world filled with omens and portents, he knew how to tell the good from the bad. He awoke precisely on the hour without the aid of an alarm. The bedside digital clock said 8:00 exactly—a very good sign. On the bus to work, the big clock on the Weedmore building chimed nine times just as the bus turned onto 9th avenue. That was a rare occurrence that Fred took as something most propitious.
The next time Fred looked at the clock, the readout said 11:11. Four ones. What could be luckier than that? This was the strongest sign of all and it filled Fred with the urge to purchase a lottery ticket. This was going to be his lucky day, no doubt about it.
Fred kept his eyes off the office clock for the rest of the morning for fear of jinxing his lucky streak. At lunch he walked to the deli and bought a lotto ticket along with his regular egg salad sandwich. He ate it sitting on his regular bench in the tiny park near the office. When he finished the sandwich, he balled up the paper into a sphere and tossed it across the walk to the basket. It went right in. Most days he missed but not this day. He pressed the lotto ticket in his shirt pocket. Just for luck.
And why not? Everything depended on luck. Luck was the great driving force of the universe. Why shouldn’t it carry him along for once?
Fred’s good feeling stayed with him throughout the long afternoon of accounting tedium. His next encounter with a clock was a glance at the screen saver in the cubicle next to his. The cubicle belonged to Elton Finegold, a nervous, fidgety fellow who thought the world was out to get him. Elton had been called into Mr. Pearlmutter’s office earlier in the day and hadn’t returned. Fred saw him being escorted out of the building visibly upset. There, moving slowly across Elton’s computer screen, was the time, 4:44. Three fours. It didn’t get much luckier than that, or did it? Fred wasn’t too sure about the rules luck followed. He was just happy to have some for a change.
It was the end of the work day and the office was clearing out. Fred was thinking about packing up when he noticed Mr. Pearlmutter striding down the aisle heading directly toward him.
“Ah Smits, glad you’re still here. They want to see you in personnel.” Mr. Pearlmutter handed Fred a folder. “Bring this with you.”
Fred’s emotions surged from joy to panic finally settling on guarded optimism. A visit to personnel could only mean promotion or termination. Fred wasn’t sure he deserved either one. On the other hand, it also meant a chance to see Gladys. Gladys was Mrs. Dexter’s beguiling secretary. Fred had a secret crush on Gladys and, even though they had hardly spoken more than a dozen words in nine years, Fred felt confident that today would be different. That was the thing about luck, it made good things happen. Mrs. Dexter was the cold hearted director of personnel. People called her the dragon. Whatever the dragon wanted, it hardly mattered. It was all part of the universe’s plan and who was Fred to argue with cosmic forces?
The personnel department was ten floors below. It would normally be a long wait for a crowded elevator this time of day providing the cranky old lift was working at all. Fred was shocked and delighted when the elevator doors opened immediately when he touched the button. That had certainly never happened before in his long tenure at the firm. The car had a few other people in it but it wasn’t jammed. The elevator took him swiftly to the second floor.
And there was Gladys at her desk. She smiled her shining smile when she saw him. Fred blushed and handed over the file. “Frederick R Smits. That’s you, isn’t it?” Fred almost didn’t recognize his own name. No one ever called him Frederick. “What does the R stand for?” Gladys asked. “Let me guess. Richard? Ronald? Robert?” Fred blushed crimson and managed to stammer, “Reginald”.
“Well Reggie, have a seat. I’ll see if Mrs. Dexter can see you now.” Gladys stood and knocked on a door and slipped into an office. Fred’s mind was whirling. Promotion or termination. He hardly dared to hope. A promotion would mean so much and termination? He dreaded the thought of it. Most unsettling of all was that Gladys knew his name. She called him Reggie. She knew who he was. Talk about encouraging signs.
Gladys returned to her desk. She held her crossed fingers in front of her and said, “I hope it’s good news.”
Fred was just about to agree when the intercom buzzed and Gladys was saying, “Mrs. Dexter will see you now” in her most professional manner.
Fred found it hard to breathe. His heart was pounding. He felt like he was walking to his execution. The dragon filled the small office and motioned to a seat. Fred sat. Mrs. Dexter began a well rehearsed speech. “As you must know, Mr. Smits, Babbasch Services has been acquired by Harmon International. Harmon, of course, has it’s own accounting department thereby making our accounting department and its employees redundant. This in no way reflects on the quality of your work and blah blah blah...”
The remainder of Dexter’s speech fell on deaf ears. Fred’s head was swimming. They were letting him go. There was mention of a severance package but, no matter what, his familiar, comfortable life was over. What was he going to do with the rest of his life? How was this in any way a lucky thing?
He staggered out of Dexter’s office as if in shock. One look at his face and Gladys knew. “I’m so sorry,” she said in a whisper.
“This was supposed to be my lucky day,” Fred mumbled and walked to the elevator which opened at his touch as if it was waiting just for him. The car was empty. Fred stepped inside. When he turned to push the button for the 12th floor, Gladys was standing there. Fred was moved to blurt out, “would you like to get some dinner sometime?”
“Yes, I’d like that,” Gladys answered just as the doors closed.
The elevator started its journey up to twelve. The old mechanism hummed and clanked more than usual. Fred wasn’t listening, he had troubles of his own. Luck was obvious with his breakthrough with Gladys but how could he construe getting fired as lucky? He was almost 50 years old. Hardly a good time to looking for a job. Such were Fred’s thoughts on the way back up to accounting. He was called back to reality by a screech and a jolt. The old elevator had broken down yet again but this time Fred was in it, stuck between the 10th and 11th floors. He was so close to his destination. The overhead light flickered but stayed on much to his relief.
Fred assessed his situation. It was a Friday, and the end of the workday. There couldn’t be many employees left in the building. He was facing the prospect of a very long wait for rescue. The 10th floor was the executive floor. The big bosses had their little kingdom on 10. There was a good chance some of the big wigs would be working late. Fred began to bang on the elevator walls and holler for help. Timidly at first but louder and louder as his desperation grew. After 20 exhausting minutes he relaxed and sat on the floor of the car with his back to the wall. He could almost stretch out. At least he could sleep if he had too. He searched his pockets for something to eat but found nothing but his lottery ticket and a ball point pen. He looked at the lottery ticket and remembered his good feeling at lunch. Some lucky day this was turning out to be.
Fred wadded up his suit jacket and put it behind his head. He guessed he’d been trapped in the elevator for about 45 minutes when he heard a popping sound coming from the 10th floor. The popping grew louder and was mixed with shouts and screams. After a few minutes the popping resumed on 11. The sound was louder and clearer. After a while he heard it on 12, his floor. By then he thought he knew what it was. A few minutes later the elevator lurched and came to life depositing Fred on the 12th floor as if nothing had happened.
The door opened to a scene from a nightmare. Mr. Pearlmutter was sprawled across his desk, shot numerous times. Most horrifying of all was the body of Elton Finegold sitting in his desk chair in his blood spattered cubicle his gun still in his hand. Fred picked up his telephone and dialed 911. Then he walked down the steps and checked every floor. There were bodies on most of them. When Fred got to the second floor, he was afraid of what he might find. He didn’t want to see Gladys shot. He was relieved to see she wasn’t there but Mrs. Dexter, the dragon, was most certainly dead.
By the time Fred reached the lobby, the police swat team was charging in. He was detained and questioned and eventually released. The newspapers described him as the “luckiest man in the world”. The man who escaped the massacre by being stuck in an elevator.
In the midst of all the chaos, Fred’s termination was forgotten and Fred returned to his job. Gladys must have pulled some strings with the new personnel director because he was asked to take Mr. Pearlmutter’s place as head of the accounting section. With his promotion came a surge of confidence and he began courting Gladys in earnest. He was, after all, a lucky man. The universe had smacked him upside the head with luck. None of it quite what he expected.
Oh, and as for the lotto ticket. Fred forgot all about it and it was destroyed when his shirt was laundered. It would have won 16 million dollars if he’d remembered to remove it from his pocket before throwing in the washing machine. But that’s the thing about luck, it cuts both ways and you never know what form it will take. Fred figured he’d had enough luck for one lifetime. Who knows, maybe he’s right.
micheledutcher - So many people say that love drives the universe blah blah - I'm glad to read a story that may be closer to the truth: it's blind luck. As far as Fred in this story, if he HAD cashed in the lotto ticket, maybe his leer jet would have crashed while on route to the Bahamas or something. I've known people who had good luck all the time - and some people who had bad luck all the time. They just thought one extreme or another was normal. Interesting.
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