The lift, gurgling with early morning indigestion rumbled and grumbled down to the garage level. The man got into the empty lift and pressed the button for floor 10. The lift, straining at the effort, heaved itself up to the first floor and stopped again, resting. The girl got in. The doors clanged shut and folded them both into its austere innards. There was a long silence as the lift shuffled up to the second floor, then the third floor. And the fourth.
The man, avuncular, shining from his morning shave, dapper in a beautifully cut suit, greying at the temples said, “That’s an extraordinarily attractive cat you have there, if I may so.” And the girl said, “Well, you most certainly can’t say any such thing. Pixie is a dog. Anyone can see that and anyway, he has just farted. So that proves it.” “Cats can’t,” she added, hesitating as she said it, being not totally in command of her veterinarian facts.
Pixie, sitting on a pile of files, looked astonishingly like a Pekinese, who has just broken wind.
The lift juddered and moaned and finally came to a complete halt, halfway between the fourth and fifth floors.
“Bloody lift’s stuck.” said the man, “If you’ll pardon my French.”
“Don’t be daft,” said the girl, quarrelsome and defensive, “that’s not French, that’s bloody English. Even I know that.”
“Too right, my dear, too, too right,” said the man and then again, “how very right you are.”
The girl had noticed the “Dear” too and tightened all the appropriate muscles.
The silence became intolerably deep till the man returned to the subject. “Pixie is now, I can absolutely assure you, a cat, so we might as well at least agree on that one. Otherwise our stay in this horrid lift is going to become even more unpleasant than it already is.”
The girl, who was young and pretty, thought that one way out of one part of this deeply unpleasant, getting worse by the minute, situation would be to humour the old man.
“Yes,” she said, “you are, of course, totally right. Silly of me not to have noticed before. Pixie has most definitely become a cat. At least that means no more smells.”
She looked up at the man, wondering whether humouring a madman included cracking bad jokes at him. But the man’s mind had wandered onto other things. “And where do you work, my dear?” he asked digging away at the hole. “How long have you been here, I mean, er, I don’t think I’ve seen you before.”
The girl snatched at the pause and said acidly, “not surprising really, they keep us Registry Clerks well and truly under lock and key. Down in the basement. Except when someone needs a file like on the fifteenth, where the secretariat hides out. When they’re not down the pub, that is. Then they usually send old Mavis up, only she’s ill today, or so she says, so there’s only me, so they’re letting me out. On trial, like. Gotta behave myself, sort of.
But the man’s mind was off again, composing a memo to Personnel, along the lines of “it was all very well hiring these girls with lumps and bumps all over but what about morale.” “Or is it Morals.” And as an unscripted rider “It isn’t good for one’s heart, getting stuck in a lift with one and anyway, what would the Board say if the story got out.”
The lift, for its own private and personal reasons decided to resume its grumpy progress to the tenth floor. The Managing Director got out and looking back, smiled a blissful smile at the girl and said “Staff Regulations, chapter fifteen, sub-section 2, brackets (d) expressly forbids the importation of dogs into this building.” The doors closed as the girl distinctly heard the M.D. add, “Doesn’t say anything about cats though.”