What Goes Up … Comes Down


“How high are we going, Dad?” Keith asked, skipping merrily along to keep up with his father’s long, quick strides.

“To the fourth floor,” said Dad with a smile when they approached the four-story bank building. Keith had been in the bank before but had never ridden its elevator.

“Elevators are magic,” Keith said.

“What do you mean?” asked Dad.

“Well, people go into them, and the doors close. Then when they come out, they are somewhere else.”

Father laughed. “I guess you’re right, son. An elevator is magic!”

Keith gripped his dad’s hand as they pushed through the big swinging double glass doors of the bank building. “How many elevators are there?” he asked.

“Only one,” Dad answered.

Keith was about to ask how people came back down if the elevator stopped working. But when he passed a door with the word STAIRS on it he decided he already knew the answer.

Dad stopped at some large shiny doors and pushed a little button that lighted up. The doors opened and some people stepped out. Keith wondered where they all came from.

Keith and his dad stepped quickly into the elevator. Dad pushed another little button stamped with a 4.

“What would happen if we didn’t stop at 4?” Keith asked, watching a row of numbers light up one at a time. Dad said that the fourth floor was as high as the elevator went. But Keith wondered if anyone had ever gone past there and had stopped on the roof or maybe even high above the clouds somewhere.

However, when the elevator slowed to a stop on the fourth floor, the door opened onto a long, narrow hallway. Then another thought came to Keith. “Dad, how far down does an elevator go?”

“It stops in the basement below the level of the ground,” Dad answered.

Keith wondered what would happen if the elevator didn’t stop when it got to the basement, but he didn’t say anything.

When his dad had finished with his business they returned to the elevator. Keith was still thinking about the basement when Dad pushed the button. Soon the elevator doors silently slid open. No one came out, so Keith stepped in.

Just then someone called to Dad and he stopped and turned to see who it was. Suddenly, the heavy doors closed, leaving Keith in the elevator all by himself. Keith yelled, “Dad!” and tried to open the doors, but they wouldn’t budge and he didn’t know about the special button that could be pushed to reopen them. Even if he had known, he was too short to reach it.

The elevator started moving, slowly at first, but then it picked up speed as down, down, down it went. Keith watched fearfully as the row of numbers lighted up again, one at a time—3, 2, 1. When the elevator didn’t slow down at 1, he was really afraid. But when the letter B lit up, the elevator finally came to a gentle stop.

Keith wondered what would happen next. He was so frightened that a big tear started to roll down his cheek. Slowly and quietly the doors slid open. Standing before him was a man in striped overalls, carrying a mop and a well-used bucket.

“Well, hello, there!” said the man, with a surprised look on his face.

“Hi,” Keith managed to say, stepping out of the elevator. “Who—who are you?”

The man’s surprised look slowly turned into a broad smile. “I’m Joe, the building custodian. Are you lost?”

“I guess I am, sort of. My dad’s up on the fourth floor and I’m down here. I want to get back to him.”

“Do you remember how your dad made the elevator take him to the fourth floor? I bet you could do the same thing,” Joe encouraged.

“But I can’t reach the buttons.”

“I see,” said Joe. “That is a problem.”

Then Joe held up the head of the mop. “Let me introduce you to this beauty. Her name is Liz, and she’s the queen of the basement.”

He put his head close to the head of his mop. “What did you say, Liz? That you want to visit the fourth floor, and that you’d like us to escort you?”

Joe bent down and whispered to Keith. “She means she wants us to go with her and help her punch elevator buttons. What do you think? Should we help her out?”

“You bet!” said Keith, grinning from ear to ear.

“OK, Your Highness. This way,” said Joe with a flourish and a bow to the mop. Joe picked up the bucket and, with Keith’s help, escorted Liz into the elevator. And up they went.

Dad was glad to see Keith. And after both of them thanked Joe for his help, Dad was introduced to Liz. He said he’d be honored to shake the queen’s hand, but since that didn’t seem possible, he’d just say, “Thanks.”

On the way down in the elevator, Dad asked, “Well, son, did you learn anything about elevators today?”

“Yep,” said Keith as he watched the numbers light up one at a time. “What goes up—comes down.”

[illustration] Illustrated by Doug Roy