May 18, 2013

Around Gray Publishes Presents - Lisa Dugaro - The Tragical History of Charlie Porter

Elevators don’t have to simply go up and down.

It was Charlie Porter’s dream to liberate the elevator from the meaninglessness of simple up and down movement. He’d just been fired from his elevator-repair job when he came up with the plan. Perhaps he’d felt a kinship with the machine’s scripted responses and powerlessness of direction, or maybe he was just cracking up. That night, he spent a good chunk of his savings on a liquidated antique lift.

A year later, Porter was living on ramen and A & W ketchup packets, but he’d managed to establish a track for his lift that allowed it to move diagonally and right and left as well as up and down.

In another six months, homeless and scrounging for paper to further his plans, he’d done away with the track. The antique lift was long gone, replaced by a theoretical lift which existed only on used napkins and discarded business cards. Of course he was collecting other things, too. A board here, some electrical circuitry there. Porter was building a new elevator from scratch.

In the end, it wasn’t much to look at. The cage was completed with duct tape spun around a tarp, several feel of mis-matched vinyl fencing, and an assortment of beams and bars. The floor was a mosaic of carpet samples and there was no roof. But porter knew his invention would work because of his “secret weapon”--the one item he’d actually stolen.

Knowing he needed an electrical board to program the lift, Charlie Porter did something he’d never thought he’d do: he broke into City University and stole one. Or, at least, the nearest approximation. It was perfect--the panel already had readouts and tuning switches designated “Location” and “Time”.

It was New Year’s Eve for everyone else when Porter decided to take his maiden voyage. He was particularly oblivious to the goings-on around him as he was making the final adjustments to his machine. Even when well-meaning passers-by dropped change into his tool box, he was more annoyed than grateful.

Finally the street quieted down and Charlie Porter was alone with his obsession. He calibrated the elevator to move both up and left, intending to land atop the building on one side of his alley. His directions to the machine were precise: the panel required latitude and longitude as well as planet and solar system information. Chalking it up to interference from whatever the university students had planned it for, Porter dutifully entered all the specifics. The “Time” setting, though, he left on the default 0.0.

Charlie Porter entered his lift and pressed his jury-rigged “Close Door” button. Then he and his machine disappeared.

Thirteen and a half billion years ago, the big bang occurred. If anyone had actually been there, though, they would have described it as “a big bang and also a kinda human scream.”

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