“How much longer are we gonna be stuck here, Batson?” asked the bulldog, leaning up against the elevator wall and staring at the buttons.

Batson opened his eyes to look up at his friend. The bulldog had taken off his leather jacket, draping it over one shoulder. “I’m not sure, Murray, but someone will come and get us out of here.” He patted the floor. “Why not sit next to me and meditate?”

The bulldog scowled, a trait Batson disliked. Murray looked more handsome when he was smiling and laughing. “I’m surprised you can focus on that stuff. Aren’t you volunteering at the soup kitchen in an hour?”

“I already called them and explained I was stuck, don’t you remember?”

Murray snapped his fingers. “That’s right, I remember now.”

Silence filled the air, so Batson took it as a sign he could resume his meditation, with or without his friend joining him.

It lasted for five seconds. “I’m bored,” Murray growled.

The hyena opened his eyes, unperturbed by the interruption. “So meditate with me.”

“Don’t feel like it.”

“So what do you feel like?”

The bulldog’s muzzle split into a grin. “Pestering you, I guess. Nothing else better to do.”

Batson smiled in return. “You can try, but you never bother me.”

“I didn’t say bother. I said pester.”

Batson tilted his head up at Murray “I didn’t know there was a difference.”

“There is, trust me.”

Batson shook his head. “You sound like Raffe.”

“Raffe?” Murray’s brow furrowed as he tried to recall the name. “He’s that big-ass giant giraffe, right? Does yoga with you?”

“Tries to do yoga with me, but he’s making progress.”

Murray folded his arms. “How come you’re not with him today, anyway?”

“Because I wanted to spend time with you. Raffe’s not my only friend, you know.”

“If you’d hung out with him, you wouldn’t be stuck in an elevator.”

“He wouldn’t have been able to fit. He’s eighteen feet tall and weighs a few tons.”

Murray shook his head. “Thanks for deigning to lower yourself to my level.”

Batson blinked at the sudden venom in the bulldog’s voice. “You sound jealous.”

“I am, I admit. What do I have that your giant buddy doesn’t?”

“Canine traits, for one.”

“How very literal of you.”

“Plus you can fit inside an elevator.”

“Yeah, so I’m perfectly average.”

“You make it sound like it’s a bad thing to be average.”

Murray shrugged. “I wouldn’t mind experiencing how some folks live. It must be pretty wild, towering over folks like a giraffe or being fast like a cheetah.

“I wouldn’t know. I’m not a giraffe or a cheetah. I’m just me.”

“Yeah, yeah, a hyena who just so happens to be perfect.”

There was the venom again. “I’m not perfect.”

Murray snorted. “Nothing gets to you. Nothing phases you at all. Being your friend can sometimes be a Catch-22.”

“What do you mean?”

“All right, maybe you’re not a Catch-22. I mean, it’s not like you’re a problem. You can just be so damned frustrating. Like right now, you’re meditating while we’re stuck here in the elevator.”

“Then why are you friends with me?”

“Because you’re one of the good ones, even if you’re always a goody two shoes.”

Batson didn’t like the feeling in his gut. It was something he hadn’t felt in quite some time: disappointment. “I don’t mean to frustrate you.”

Murray waved his hand in dismissal. “You can’t help being who you are, just like I can’t help being who I am. Someone who’s been in love with a hyena since he met him.”

“I like who you…wait, you’re in love with me?”

“Yup.”

Batson now felt waylaid. His head felt as if it were filled with helium. Was his friend really in love with him? “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I figured you don’t feel the same way I feel about you.”

“How…how do you figure?”

“Because it wouldn’t have time to fit in your busy schedule. I mean, when was the last time you did something that wasn’t charitable or work related?”

“Are you saying you wouldn’t tell me because I’m too active?”

“Too busy, you mean.”

“There’s a difference?”

“Plenty.”

Frustration boiled up in Batson’s head now. It was alien to him, and he didn’t like it. “You’re just trying to pick a fight.”

“I’m sorry I had to tell you how I feel in this situation, but it’s almost perfect. Neither of us can storm off, now can we?”

“You think I was going to storm off?”

Murray shook his head. “No,” he said, “I thought I might have stormed off.”

“You’re confusing me.”

“I wouldn’t have been able to handle your answer if it was indifferent.”

“Murray, I’m your friend, right?”

The bulldog nodded his head.

“You’re not acting like my friend right now. Do you really have that low of an opinion of me?”

Murray smirked. “I said you were perfect, Batson. Since when is that a low opinion of someone?”

“You make it sound like a flaw.”

“Is it?”

Batson frowned. “Don’t turn this conversation against me.”

“Well, at least I’m getting under your skin. That’s a first.” Murray shook his head. “Look, I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but I had to let you know how I feel. I don’t want my love for you to turn bitter.”

“I don’t want it to turn bitter either,” Batson said, rising to his feet. “Not until I can…”

Murray arched a brow. “Can what?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never had to deal with this before.”

“Oh, come on. Raffe hits on you like, all the time. What’s it like, having a guy his size do that?”

“It’s flattering, to be honest. He can have anyone he wants, and he focuses on me.” Batson looked down at the floor. “But I don’t want to be just another conquest for anyone.”

“I’m not trying to conquer you.”

Batson looked at Murray. “I know. That’s why I want to figure out how to deal with this.”

“The best way to figure it out is just do it.”

Batson tilted his head a bit. “Do what?”

Murray folded his arms and shook his head. “Go out with me. Best way to figure it out.”

“I don’t know, Murray…”

“Oh, for God’s sake, why not?”

Batson flinched at the frustration in Murray’s voice. “I don’t want to hurt our friendship.”

Murray took a deep breath and closed his eyes. When he spoke again, he sounded calmer. “It’s just dinner, maybe even a movie if I can find anything you actually like.” Murray gave Batson a crooked grin. “It’s not like I’m going to make out with you.”

“Not at first, but what happens if we get together for a while, and it doesn’t work out?”

“Maybe we shouldn’t plan too far ahead, and get together if it does work out.”

“How can you be so sure of things?”

Murray shrugged. “I dunno. You don’t sound so sure right now.” He arched an eyebrow. “Come to think of it, I kind of like that. You being uncertain.”

Batson chuckled, the tension in his neck and shoulders fading, which surprised him. He hadn’t realized how tense he was getting. “I’m not always certain of things.”

“You act so zen, it comes off as certain.”

“Maybe so.”

“No maybe about it, Batson. You are the most confident being on the planet, or at least in this elevator.”

Batson smiled. “Thank you.”

Murray waved a hand. “I’m not sure it was a compliment.”

“I’ll take it as one.”

“Whatever you say.” Murray looked at the row of buttons, then at the ceiling. “I wish they’d hurry up and get us out of here. I hate having uncomfortable conversations like this.”

“Afraid you’ll have to revoke your manliness card?”

Murray nodded. “Not to mention having to pay the fines. They’re pretty steep.”

“I won’t tell anyone that we talked about our feelings if you don’t tell people I wasn’t zen throughout this ordeal.”

“You got yourself a deal, Batson.”

“So what kind of movie would you take me to watch?”

“Something indy. You’re not one to watch the blockbusters, which is a damn shame.”

“I’m not a follower of the top ten, sad to say.”

“I’ll teach you the error of your ways. Just give me a chance.”

The elevator then started to move, and Murray looked at the floor number going down. “Guess they fixed the elevator.”

“Looks like it.”

“Guess you won’t be that late for the soup kitchen now.”

“Yes.”

The silence enveloped them. A wall had somehow formed between the two. The open dialogue they had was now shut down.
When they finally reached the lobby floor Murray exited first, followed by Batson.

“I guess I’ll see you later,” Murray said, his back to the hyena.

“You could come with me. To the soup kitchen, I mean.”

Murray paused, then his shoulders went up and down in a shrug. “Nah, I got errands to run.”

“Oh. Okay.”

Murray went out onto the sidewalk and was gone.

Batson had a hard time focusing at the soup kitchen, and it continued even after he went home. Raffe wasn’t home, so there was no one to talk to.
Might as well go to bed, Batson thought as he went into his bedroom. A good night’s sleep will clear everything up. Then I can try to talk to Murray.

The next day, though, Murray came to him.

“There’s a door inside a bigger door?” Murray said, looking up at the two story door.

“Raffe’s a giraffe, remember?”

“I am feeling like a kid again,” Murray said as he entered. “I’m not sure if I ever want to be friends with a giraffe if they live like this.” He saw a pair of enormous steel toed work boots next to the door. “Are those his boots?”

“They are, yes.”

“Good lord, you could hide a grown man in one of them.”

“Murray…”

Murray looked back at Batson. “Right. You’re wondering why I’m here.”

“I think I know why.”

“Can we talk about this in your room? I want to feel normal sized again.”

After they had entered Batson’s room, Murray looked down at his shoes. “I want to apologize for giving you a hard time in the elevator.”

“All right.”

“I also want to ask you out on a date.”

“All right.”

Murray looked over at Batson, frustration filling his eyes. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to, you know.”

“What makes you think I don’t want to?”

“Because you don’t sound happy I’m asking you out. You don’t sound unhappy I’m asking you out. You’re treating this like we’re talking about the weather.”

“I have quirks. You’ll just have to accept the fact I’m very easygoing.” Batson then realized something. “Why haven’t you accepted that yet? We’ve been friends for a while.”

“I dunno. Maybe I find it hard to believe someone would want to go out with an ugly old dog like myself.”

“So that’s what the problem is. You don’t think you’re worth my time? But you asked me out anyway.”

“What can I say? I’m stubborn that way.”

“Pick me up at six. Take me to your favorite place to eat, and pick a movie you think you’ll like.”

“No indy movie?”

“I don’t think so,” Batson smiled broadly. “I want to get out of my elevator every so often.”

“You’re confusing sometimes, you know that?”

“I know.”

~fin