Eyes at the Elevator

by

Their eyes caught and held me, all four pairs of those eyes, big, round, searching, and scared. Maybe I was reading into them, maybe not.  The four children stood with their parents at the elevator in the nursing home, waiting for the doors to open.  As I met their gazes, each of the children looked down, as did their mother. The father didn’t. He glared, stern-faced, like he was daring me to continue eye contact.

I put on my best smile and gave a cheerful, “Hello, how are you today?”

“Fine,” he said, and looked away, dismissing me to frown up at the numbers above the elevator door.

Each of the children carried a package.  The boy, older and taller than the girls, held a bucket of fried chicken, the oldest girl, a sheet cake with “Happy Birthday Dad” written in grocery store script across it.  One of the girls clutched a Kroger bag, and the smallest one, about four, carried a plastic bag with plates, plastic utensils, napkins and cups. The mother carried a large black purse. The father gripped a French bread baguette.

I beamed, and clasped my hands together. “Wow, a traveling party,” I said, looking at the birthday cake.

The smallest girl looked up at me and said, “It’s Grandpa’s birthday. We brought Hazard.” She pointed at her mother’s purse.

“Hazard?” I asked.  

“Our dog,” she whispered, barely smiling .

“We called to make sure he could visit,” the father interjected. “We follow rules.”

“We love dogs here,” I said, smiling at the little girl. “Dogs and children.” I winked at her.

The mother unzipped the end of her purse and a small, black nose stuck out. “He’s a miniature Doberman Pinscher,” she said.

“He’s beautiful,” I said, reaching out to pet his head.

“Push the button,” the man barked at his wife.

“I did,” she said, pushing the button repeatedly and staring at it, like she was wishing her touch could make it work.

“Are there steps in this place?” The husband snapped.  

“Sure, right around the corner here,” I said leading the way, the man following me.

He stood over my shoulder as I punched the code into the alarm and opened the door for the family to pass through.  They descended the stairs one at a time as the man stood over the group, wielding his baguette.

I followed them downstairs, and when I passed Mr. Eldridge’s room, the smallest girl looked up from where she stood in a corner of the room. She smiled at me and gave a small wave before the door clicked shut.

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