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Stories For Fears & Phobias

Cleaning Up You Act - Part 6

The Man On The Stairs

You remember me telling you about that terrible caretaker who thank God eventually left before he was fired? Well a couple of days ago the Manager tells me we’ve got a new man starting that night. So when I went in to start the evening’s cleaning, of course I’m interested to meet him, and hoping he’s not like the other one!

Anyway, I’ve just finished the first floor reception, and I’m on my way to the lift to go up to Accounts, when I see this man walking up the stairs: he smiles at me, so I smile at him, and he stops and says

“You must be Minnie. I’m Bob, the new Caretaker.”

“It’s nice to meet you Bob”, I say, as I press the button for the lift. When it arrives, I push my cleaning trolley in, and I hold the lift door open for him - but he says

“ Thanks…..but no, I’ll walk up”

So I think nothing more about it……until after I’ve finished the seventh floor boardroom, and I’m about to get back in the lift on my way to the ground floor, where I’ll finish my work for the night, when there Bob is again, on the landing of the seventh floor.

“Did you walk all the way up here?”, I teased him. But he looked a bit embarrassed, and said “Well, yes, I did”

He must have seen the surprised look on my face, and he went on.

“I don’t like lifts, you see…..”

“Neither do I much….but I’d rather use them than walk up and down all those stairs”, I replied.

“Actually, it’s more than just not liking them”, Bob went on. “I’ve really got a thing about them, about being closed in, in small spaces” And he looked away from me, as if he was seeing something, remembering something.

“It’s been like this for so long, I’ve just learned to live with it”

Well you know me……I couldn’t bear to see anyone so upset and not at least try to help!

“How long is that then? I mean, what started it?”

“Oh, it was when I was eight”, he said, looking a bit sheepish, but at the same time like it was maybe a relief to tell someone.

“Me and my cousin were playing in the old empty house down our road, larking about like kids do, and I opened a cupboard door to see if there was anything inside, and he suddenly pushed me from behind, and slammed the door, and left me in the dark. And I yelled for him to let me out, and I tried pushing at the door, but it had got wedged. I started to panic, then I felt as if I couldn’t breathe, and I screamed, and screamed……………….”

He was very upset again even now, all these years later.

“What happened then?”

“Oh, I pushed at the door as hard as I could, ‘til it opened enough for me to get out, and I ran crying all the way home, to where I felt safe again.

As I was listening to him, I was watching Bob’s face…..and the strangest thing was, his eyes were moving almost the same way as if he was watching a film that was making him really sad!

This gave me an idea……

“Bob…were you seeing all that just now?”

“Yes, I was. And it all seemed so close again.”

“So look…… in that case maybe move it much further away”, I suggested. “What would it be like if it was really so far away, like you were in the top balcony at the old Regal in Edmonton, and it was one of those black and white Saturday morning films?”

“Funny that, Minnie…….I can watch it that way much easier”

“So what would it be like if you could run it backwards?” I asked hum. Though where that came from I have no idea…! But it just seemed to me that if he always remembered it the way it had been that first time, maybe by changing what he was seeing would change what he was feeling?

What do I know? But it was worth a try, wasn’t it?

So I went on

“Do you remember those cartoons they used to show, Bob? What was your favourite?”

“Tom and jerry” he said with a grin. “All bright colour, and whatever the cat did to him, the mouse always came out on top!”

“So maybe, when you run your old film backwards, you could make it all colourful like that? And you could be Jerry, and as you push that old door open, it squashes Tom flat as a pancake….?”

“And I dance off to that cheerful music they always played….!” Bob was really getting enthusiastic now!

“Let me do it!”

And I watched him, watching a ttotally different film inside his mind; and he was laughing. I waited, and then he opened his eyes, andsaid

“That was so much fun, I did it five times! I jumped into the film and ran it backwards, the Tom & Jerry version, five times!”

And he was getting so carried away, telling me about it, he got into the lift with me, and we went down to the ground floor. As we walked across the entrance hall, he said

“Minnie, thank you so much… did you know what to do?”

“Me!?” I said, surprised."I didn’t know! It just seemed that if you kept watching a film that made you unhappy, the obvious thing to do was change the film! Goodnight Bob - lovely to have met you”, I said. . “See you tomorrow”, Bob answered. “Do you fancy going to the pictures one night?”

And we both grinned at each other, as I left the offices.

to be continued.............




The Ten Commandments obviously did NOT originate from God. Because an all-knowing God, who had created Mankind, would have known that the minds of his created creatures cannot compute the negative. So He’d NEVER have come up with a whole catalogue of “Thou shalt not’s”!



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