The Lost Key Incident

Out of Order

Dad, the man, the myth, the legend.


My parents lived in an apartment complex in Queens N.Y. It was a six story building built around 1930. They had a three room apartment on the fifth floor. My wife and I went there every Monday for dinner. On this particular Monday the elevator wasn’t working so we had to walk up the five flights of stairs to reach my parents floor. Going there wasn't a very joyous occasion for us because it usually led to arguments, so having to walk up five flights in the summer heat wasn't very encouraging for either of us.

The apartment was at the end of the hall and by the time we got there we weren't speaking to each other. My mother opened the door and invited us in. Your father is down in the basement dumping the garbage she said, he’ll be right back. We went in and sat down while my mother began to set the table for dinner. The door bell rang and my mother said, who can that be? She went to the door and put her eye against what they called the peep hole. It gave a panoramic view of the entire outer hallway. Open up said a familiar voice from the other side of the door. My mother did as she was told and my father entered. Why didn’t you use your key my mother asked? I can’t find it my father said as he rummaged through his pockets. It must be in my other pants he suggested as he went off in the direction of the bedroom. He’s always loosing stuff my mother whispered in my wife’s ear.

We sat for a while waiting for my father to join us for dinner, when my mother called out “what are you doing in there”? I can’t find the key my father answered as he entered the kitchen where we were seated. Don’t you have more than one key I asked? My mother looked at my father shaking her head and said, this is the third key he’s lost this year. He’s ashamed to ask the super for another one. I said why don’t you just have a key made yourself? My father looked at me like I had three heads. I pay rent for this dump he said, it’s up to the landlord to provide me with the key to the apartment. I’m not putting another red cent into this place. So now you have no keys to the front door I said. How are you ever going to leave the apartment without locking it? We’ll just have to find the key he said staring directly at my wife and I. We I said? Yes all of us he said,

I think I know what happened to it. I must have dropped the key down in the basement when I dumped the garbage. We can backtrack over my steps from here all the way down to where I dumped the garbage and I’m sure between the four of us we’ll find it. You mean we have to walk up and down those stairs again my wife asked in disbelief? No my father replied, we’ll take the elevator. The elevator wasn’t working when we came up I said. Oh said my father, that’s because I shut it off when I was in the basement so I wouldn’t have to wait for it when I was ready to go back up. It’s a little trick I learned from watching the super stick a paper clip in a key hole next to the elevator buttons. How clever of you exclaimed my wife while staring at me, sarcasm dripping from her lips.

We left the apartment and took the elevator down into the bowels of the building making sure to keep our eyes open for the key along the way. The door of the elevator opened and the stench of garbage filled every hair and crevice in my nose. Just to the right of the elevator was a large room overflowing with all the foulest smelling evil refuse that god could discard from hell. Well said my father, it looks like we’ll have to get a little dirty. Grab a broom from that sink closet over there and let’s get busy separating some of this mess.

My father went in the room and started rummaging through the filth and slime seemingly enjoying every gooey broomful. Come on in he said, it’s not so bad. My mother and I grabbed our brooms and as I took my first step into the smelly abyss my wife grabbed my arm and pulled me aside. I don’t want to do this she said, and you’re insane if you do it. No sooner had my wife finished calling me insane than my mother yelled that she had found the key. Thank god my wife exclaimed. My mother held it up triumphantly by a red piece of yarn that was tied to it. My father glanced over at it and proclaimed, that’s not the right one, it didn’t have a red string on it. Keep looking. I handed my wife a broom and said c’mon, let’s get this over with and the two of us began sweeping the trash in my father’s direction.

The four of us poked around in the garbage for almost half an hour before we unanimously decided to abandon the search. We rode back up in the elevator in silence totally drained and stinking of the devil himself. As we arrived at my parent’s apartment my father reached into his shirt pocket, pulled out a key, opened the door and walked in. We all looked at each other and followed him in. I inquired “where did you get that key”? What key he asked? The one you opened the door with I said. He stared at me for a good ten seconds. Are you going crazy he asked? We left the door unlocked so we didn’t need a key. At this point every one started talking at once and pointing at my father’s shirt pocket. He put his hand in the pocket and yanked out the elusive key. Huh he said. Where did that come from? Must have forgotten to look in that pocket. You should have reminded me to look in my shirt. I knew I couldn’t have lost it.

Comments greatly appreciated.

©2012 Lee Zett

3 comments

Barbara Striegel 5 years ago

What I like about the story, is the question of whether he really forgot about the key, whether he was expressing some signs of dementia combined with his unruly personality upon losing the key, or whether he wanted to be the center of attention and manipulated the situation to create havoc.. therefore getting negative attention. Or all three.

Great story and the picture of the man, the legend, the dad makes you want to laugh and cringe all at the same time.


Teri 3 years ago

I think its a great story, makes you want to laugh (and it did) however it is really sad because this is so true of someone with dementia. I just went through that with my Mom.


Leesleez profile image

Leesleez 3 years ago from New York Author

My father didn't have Dementia, he was like that his entire life. Just a very stubborn man. Thanks Teri, sorry about your mom.

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