The String

Riding in the elevator Martin noticed the string hanging out of Carrie’s skirt. It was about six inches in length, clean and white, dangle lazy from her waistband, hanging cool against the black fabric. It led down into her skirt… and then where?

And then where...?

He was going to ask her, but before his lips could form the words he found his hand already outstretched, the kind white string between his thumb and forefinger. He pulled gently.

“Yiiiiiiii,” giggled Carrie, as the elevator rode higher and higher. She was smiling in spite of herself.

“What is that string for?”

“It’s connected to something,” she said, annoyed but still smiling, “so please don’t pull on it.”

The floor numbers light up the dial, and Martin tried to be cool as he listen to the motor jive, tried to think about politics, and that one Italian opera he had always meant to see. What was it called…? The name was on the tip of his tongue but his left hand had already closed fingers round Carrie's mystery string and he tugged, this time with a bit of force.

“Zwaaaaaaay!” squealed Carrie, standing on her tip toes. She hit him with her magazine.

“I thought I asked you!” Her smile was unstoppable. Then, “Go away, Martin!”

Her teeth looked great. Brighter than usual.

It was just a white cotton string, thicker than thread, thinner than rope, delicate and vulnerable, innocent but powerful, and it was disappearing into her skirt just in front of her hip. Leading beneath… leading down... leading God-knows-where. Martin’s head was spinning.

What is that rule? Two times is funny, three is too much. Or wait! Maybe it was three times funny, four times too much? Three times too much, two times too many? He knew he should quit while he was ahead. Two times funny, three times seven... twenty-one?

He gave the string a strong yank- Carrie’s spine liquified, her eyelids fluttering, her eyeballs going slack and rolling to the back of her head. Her tongue hung lame out the side of her mouth. She shivered, then staggered, and then came the familiar grin and giggle, like she had just come into a great secret.

“Hymeeeeeeee!!!” she howled, and Martin took a step back, afraid. But she looked at him with such affection that his fear fell away.

“You’re going to get it,” she said, smiling wide and laughing music.

“Please. Please tell me what that string is for… what is it connected to?” Martin asked.

She gave him a look that seemed a warning: ‘Martin….’

“Please, Carrie. I have to know. Please tell me what that string is for.”

Carrie’s smile was crooked now, devious, and she looked around the empty elevator as if someone else might hear. She licked her lips and took a short breath.

“Okay, I’ll tell you,” she said, “but you have to promise to never tell anyone else. Ever.”

“I promise,” swore Martin.

The elevator leveled to a stop. The bell chimed and the doors opened.

“Sorry, Martin,” Carrie said, slipping off, “this is my floor.”

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