My eyes narrow to slits. My lips press into a tight line. I bring my arms up from their neutral place at my sides and fold them across my chest, puffing up and hardening my features like some long extinct ape displaying dominance. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“I most certainly am not,” Papa Chub says with unflinching calm. “You should apologize.”
“You know, you–”
“No, you’re not listening to me” he says, and there’s a gentleness to his voice, a soft smile to his face. He brings his hand up to the level of his eyes, lifts his sunglasses, winks, lets them fall. “You should apologize.”
It clicks. I take a deep, exaggerated breath, make a show of calming and collecting myself. “You’re right. Yeah, you’re right.” As best as I’m able within the crowded confines of the elevator, I spread my arms in a gesture of openness and good will. “Sir. Ma’am. Kids. I’m sorry for my behavior. It’s just that society’s done my nerves up wretched and I’ve been on edge all day. But let me make it up to you. Give your name and room number to one of my associates, and I’ll make sure that your dinner this evening is fully compensated.”
The man and the woman glance at each other nervously, and I smile and hold up my hands, fingers outstretched as if to say, “No, really, I’m harmless, unarmed and everything.”
“I understand,” I tell them. “Some nut acts like an ass in an elevator then claims he can make it all better. Why you should trust him? And, Hell, this is the Meadows. That probably makes me even less trustworthy, right? There must be a thousand guys like me, all telling tales and making big promises.”
“You’re an asshole!” the woman says. Her hands tear free from her sons’ heads. I guess it’s okay for her to swear in front of them, but not for them to listen to a half-hearted rant about the horrors of aging. Go figure.
“You have me there, ma’am. I am. Or at least, I can be. But the offer is genuine. You don’t have to take me up on it, and if my behavior has soured you that much on the possibility, I sincerely apologize.”
The woman snorts in derision. In a moment of perfect, impeccable timing, the elevator rings and comes to a halt. The doors slide open. The woman’s eyes dart up towards the digital readout and she leaves without saying another word, her children dragged by their hands, her husband following with his head held low. The door closes with a whispering noise behind them.
I turn to the girls and grin. “Wow, thank God those downers are gone, huh? Hey, have you girls ever seen a penthouse suite before?”