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Wet Cement

The protagonist finds himself trapped in an elevator with Siddhartha, a Buddhist monk. But he is not looking for ‘moksha’ (salvation). What happens is something ‘out’ of the world. An interesting short story by Pete Prokesch

The last thing I needed on the morning of my electrical inspection was to get trapped in an elevator with a Buddhist Monk. His name was Siddhartha, he told me. How convenient. He wore a black adidas track suit, a bucket hat, and apple ear buds dangled from his neck.

“What’s with the earbuds?” I asked.

I had to divorce my mind from my pre-conceived notions of monks, he told me. I pressed the emergency button for the five hundredth time.

“At least the lights are working,” I told Siddhartha. Then they flickered and the elevator went black.

 

“I need to get back to my jobsite,” I said in the dark. “I’m meeting the electrical inspector at noon. If he thinks I blew him off, he won’t sign the rough inspection.” Every day that drywall didn’t go up, I was losing money. The lightless air felt thick.

The key is to not want, Siddhartha told me.

 

I heard his fingers snap and the lights flickered on. I looked at him quizzically. He had a long goatee of scraggly hair that twisted into a braided knot that hung down to his waist. I wanted to yank it off his chin.

“What about you Siddhartha?” I asked. “You must want to get off this elevator, right?”

It would please me if I did, but I understand that might not be so, he said with a solemn face.

Now this made me sweat. The light flickered again, and I heard a team of husky voices.

“Get the axe,” one man said.

 

Goodbye now, Siddhartha said. Suddenly it was black again, and the floor fell out from under me. I closed my eyes and couldn’t find my breath to scream.

 

I opened them and was free-falling from my commercial building—the bricks whizzed by and blended together in a maroon blur. I could make out the electrical inspector on the sidewalk below with his yellow hard hat, tapping a pencil against a clipboard. He looked pissed. Then I crossed paths with a soaring bird. For a second, we flew side-by-side.

 

I didn’t scream—even as my broken body wrecked the freshly poured concrete steps. As I drifted towards the sky, I passed the bird again. I looked down at my crumpled body, wet with cement, until it was a tiny dot. The mason would have to fix his work tomorrow.

Writing

Pete Prokesch is a writer and lives in Watertown, Massachusetts. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Four Way Review, Hare’s Paw Literary Journal, BlazeVOX Journal, The Westchester Review, White Wall Review, and The Bookends Review, and he is a reader for Epiphany. He also works in education and designs green-building construction courses.