D is for Duke

James racked his brain for the other times he had gotten on elevators. His parents avoided them since he was prone to meltdowns in small spaces, but when he was younger, they had him push buttons. James looked at the buttons. Fourth floor. Fourth is four. So … push the four? After pressing the number, it lit with an orange glow and the lift started rising.

When the doors opened, he stepped out into an area with four sets of doors again, but a different carpet and an open space either side of the door area, both with glass walls and signs with arrows.

The uniform person had said “Pickin and Strummin.” James walked over to each set of signs and read all the words, then he walked back to the first side which had the recording studio name. After reading the words a second time just to be sure, he turned three steps in the direction of the arrow and walked down the hall. After seven paces, a metal post in the middle of the hall held up a paper with the studio’s name and a picture of a guitar and a fiddle. Plus another arrow pointing to a set of glass doors with the name of the company painted on them.

He made it. Even without instructions!

Looking at his screen, he read the instructions to the point where he had run into trouble. “Go through the doors.” Relief flooded him to be back on track.

There was a woman sitting behind the desk. “Hello, Mrs. Banko.” Handing the sour-faced receptionist the tablet wasn’t any easier than it had been with the uniform man, but he managed to do it the second time in a single day. He leaned forward a little, since the receptionist was sitting down and he still hadn’t taken out the earbuds. Three bell tones went off between songs, reminding him to pay attention and see if he had lost track of things. James was very pleased he didn’t need the reminder to pay attention to the world around him. He was doing it!

“Ah, Miles’ protegee. Go on back, the Duke is waiting to hear you play.” She slapped the tablet into his outstretched hand, startling James.

“Wh…where?” He looked around the room, fighting not to rock. Mr. Hammer said not to rock during the interview, except to music.

“Oh for goodness sakes.” Mrs. Banko huffed. “You better be worth it.” The woman stood, and plowed around several chairs, dodged some boxes, and went down a barely lit hallway.

Inhaling deeply, James whispered his magic words and followed.

“Jim Cohn is here,” the receptionist yelled as she opened the door to the very large black man in front of an incredibly large bank of buttons, levers, and lights. The man was not brown like James or his father or Mr. Krick or Mr. Hammer where light reflected back a warm yellow or orange. He was a black so deep James only saw blue where light from the bare bulbs hit. Turning back to the young man behind her, Mrs. Banko ordered, “Next time you come back here on your own, look over the door before coming in. If it is red, you wait. Maybe press the button. If it is green, you can go in.”

“I…I.” James froze under her hostility and unclear instructions.

“Marge, that is enough. Get.” The resounding bass filled the space and rolled over James, tightening his fears with its firmness.

“Well I never!” The woman stomped to the door and slammed it shut.

The black man, Mr. Hartgrove, waved James to come over. “Don’t mind Marge. She is always like that.”

“I…” James quivered, pulling his tablet to his chest.

“Ah.” The owner stilled and rearranged his face. When he spoke again, the voice was just as deep, but kind and slow. “We will need to work with her if we hire you. Can you come over here and sit in this chair beside me?”

“Yes.” James walked carefully around the cables, instruments, and parts of instruments to sit on the ripped vinyl top of the stool.


A to Z Short Story List Breakdown

Rainbow Spectrum (A to F)

4/1/2019 – A is for Adapt
4/2/2019 – B is for Bus
4/3/2019 – C is for Courage
4/4/2019 – D is for Duke
4/5/2019 – E is for Eclectic
4/6/2019 – F is for Finish