Well Goodnight, Agnes

An elevator is normally a quiet place, all the occupants on a mission to discover something interesting on the ceiling while keeping an eye on the blinking red light registering the floor number as they ascend or descend. Las Vegas is different, a conjunction of happy vacationers bent on having a good time – cheery, hopeful, and friendly.

It was just such a car we occupied with five others, eight total, well under the 3000 pound capacity, on our final night in Las Vegas. Let me see, were we going up or going down, returning from the latest round of the chess tournament, or on our way there. I don’t recall. I do remember I was standing near the wall on one side, my sons Tim and Chris on the other. The woman was standing in the middle.

I recognized her immediately. She had mid-western written all over her and child of the twenties tattooed on her glasses with rhinestones. She was probably one of those moms, like mine, who did the ironing while I listened to the Lone Ranger on the radio – hi ho Silver, away. Today she was in Las Vegas, and sharing the elevator with us. She was a look-a-like for Pauline, my father-in-law’s second wife. Her hair was white and the whiff of grey was the frosting on the look-a-like cake.

I caught Tim’s eye pointing her out with a nod of my head while mouthing her name. He immediately nudged his brother, glanced at her, and repeated my message. They were both smiling now. The woman was talking to her husband. It was Pauline’s voice reincarnated in this stranger in Vegas having a good time.

Memories of the times in Yuma visiting Pauline and Earl flooded back, and Pauline’s catch phrase, an exclamation, one she often repeated on the golf course flooded back. Sink a long putt and Pauline would say, “well, goodnight Agnes” or during an evening game of Shanghai rummy, Pauline’s game, a surprising play was guaranteed to generate the phrase.

The boys had heard her say it often, so when Pauline’s double told her husband that she felt a jackpot in her future, I couldn’t resist. “Well, goodnight Agnes,” I said. The boys would have spit up their drinks if they’d had any. They showed remarkable restraint by not laughing out loud, but best of all was the woman. It was as if she had known Pauline, as if she’d been in on our private communications from the beginning, she laughed and said, “Yep, that’s right.”


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