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Short Story: "A Safety Test" - Benjamin Caro

Benjamin Caro

Short Story: “A Safety Test”

1. You’re cooking on the stove and a GREASE FIRE breaks out. What do you do?

a) Cover the pan with a lid, smothering the flames.

b) Try to eat the food, even though it’s clearly mostly burned. End up ordering pizza.

c) Take your family out to McDonald’s.

d) Take your family out to an especially nice restaurant. When your spouse asks you why you chose such a nice place, try to pretend it’s not to an apology for all the times you might’ve ruined dinner before, or any time she’s gone to bed disappointed with you, in want.

 

2. You head to The Cantina, your favorite college bar, with a couple of girlfriends. You’re talking to this cute guy Brett who you’ve been eyeing during 2nd Semester Spanish. After putting your margarita on the bar, you head to the bathroom. When you return and continue sipping, you feel suddenly lightheaded and drowsy. Hay carumba, you think. Something must be wrong. What do you do?

a) Better make that next one a vodka soda.

b) Better make that next one a vodka soda, and a water.

c) Grab your girlfriends. You’ve been drugged. While you can, tell them you think Brett was the one that drugged you. But please, don’t say anything to him. You don’t want to be that girl. I mean, you‘d totally lose your chances with him, whether it was true or not.

d) ….


3. You wake up in your bed at 4 a.m. after only two pathetic hours of sleep, and notice the thick, metal ceiling fan 10 feet above your forehead beginning to rattle. Dust drips down from the corners of your room. You are encased in overwhelming dread as you realize what is happening: there is an EARTHQUAKE. Your girlfriend next to you turns on her side and looks you in the eye. She asks, “Do you even care that I can‘t sleep right now?” What do you do?

a) Say, “How was I supposed to know that? I was asleep.”

b) Whisper, “Of course I do. I was so worried about you that I wasn’t able to sleep myself.”

c) Scream, “Jesus Christ. Is it always about you? We have to get out of here. There is an earthquake happening!”

d) Lean in, silently wrapping your arm over her side, and pull her in close.

 

4. 8th grade. Middle school. Do you remember it? A CHEMICAL FIRE breaks out from a freak explosion in the chemistry lab. Kids are running down the hallway dripping in bright blue flames, clutching their backpacks as if trying to catch the bus. You look down and some of the fire has been thrown onto your pant leg. Jessica is watching you, horrified. God, you remember Jessica. The flames creep up your pants, and as you look at her, her luscious, plump skin, her cleavage peeking rhythmically over the top of her shirt (as she tries to inhale the remaining oxygen from the room), your loins become enveloped in the chemical heat. Your heart feels like it is on fire. What do you do?

a) Take a deep breath. There’s nothing to worry about. Your body’s just going through changes you may not understand right now.

b) Make a joke about it. Girls like jokes, right? Have you heard the one about being burned alive.

c) Whatever you do, do not let her look down at your pants. She will run, screaming, and will never forgive you for expressing your true desires.

d) If the fire has not spread to any of your other clothing, strip off your pants. Make out with her right there on the hard, linoleum floor, writhing among the casualties.

 

5. You and three coworkers get stuck in an elevator. One of them is Brad, which is terrible, because you’ve been avoiding him ever since you slept together after the office Christmas party and he moved back with his ex-wife a week later. Between the four of you, all you have is two pieces of granola, a cigarette, a lighter, a travel mug. You have no idea how long the elevator will be out of order. You need to ensure your survival and get help. What do you do?

a) Hit the “emergency” button. After about an hour, it becomes clear that no one is coming to help. This stresses you out, so you smoke the cigarette. Brad gives you a look, because that asshole knows you’ve tried to stop smoking before.

b) Midway through the cigarette, Brad gets the idea to set off the smoke alarm with the lighter. You curse yourself for not thinking of such an obvious solution. You only started smoking again because of his ex-wife bullshit. Now he’ll certainly get the Account Manager job instead of you. Unfortunately for Brad—but you’re not sure you mind—he couldn’t get the lighter to set off any alarm. Serves him right.

c) Twenty-four hours pass. Two of the coworkers have urinated in the crack between the elevator and the door to your disgust. All four of you sit on the floor among the stink, and Brad is beginning to look sincerely fatigued. You know, relationships are tough, scary, all of them. As Brad sits against the wall, his knees facing skyward, his eyes closed to the fluorescent lights beating down from above, the sweat beads are undeniable. Surveying your inventory you begin to think, Wow, this travel mug is useless in this situation. Why was it even mentioned? Why are we locked in here? You begin to believe it is some sort of design. You, Brad, and the other two guys did something to deserve this. What did you do? You must all tell each other. You begin to spurt out everything you’ve ever done wrong, anytime you were confused and scared, anytime you felt unsafe in your own skin, looking into the eyes of a friend. The hours pass. Brad interrupts you. “I’m done listening to you.” “Screw you, Brad,” you say. He says, “Fine, but I want a turn to confess, too.” You say go ahead. This should be good. “The first mistake that comes to my mind is how I treated you,” he says. “I never should’ve gotten rid of you like that.” You immediately look at your feet, tucked barefoot under your skirt. “I didn’t know how I felt about you. It was scary. If I wasn’t so reckless with my actions, with my feelings, we would never be locked in this elevator like this.”

d) You begin to feel for him. “It’s okay,” you say. “I was reckless, too.” You reach out your hand to him because you notice his eyes begin to water. “Don’t cry,” you say, because you believe you know the answer to the question that keeps repeating, over and over. You get on your knees, and crawl to him. You gently rest your hand on his shoulder and with your other hand reach into his left pocket. Inside his pocket is a sheet of paper with a combination of numbers and letters lying upside-down at the bottom of the page. It’s the answer key. He had it all along. You just had to reach in and get it out of him. The elevator melts away, and for the first moment in a long time, you finally feel safe.

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