It’s Friday night and prison life goes on as usual. Some of the men play backgammon while others drink strong tea and chat . The former elevator operator reads the latest issue of Marriage Magazine. He is the laughing stock of the prison because he is stupid and believes anything.
“ There are no more personal ads from that blond, ” he says.
“ Blonds are in demand, ” comments a distant voice from a dark corner.
“ I wrote her a letter and never heard back from her. ”
“You haven’t heard back from any of the women you wrote to,” the corner voice says. “If you want to find a wife, you have to fill out the questionnaire and mail it to the magazine. Then the women will come running. You can pick any one you want from the bunch.”
The idea of picking from a crowd of eager women delights him. He scratches his head and thinks. Long ago someone had written a letter of introduction for him. He had mailed the same long, boring letter to all the women.
“I don’t know how to fill out a questionnaire ,” he says. “There are so many questions. I’m not a wordy person. What can I do?”
He turns the last page of Marriage Magazine and sees the questionnaire. “Ha! How can I answer this question about what I see myself doing three years from now? And what about this question asking what kind of pets I have?”
The corner voice responds, “Say you own a couple of tame cockroaches for a pets.”
He is not a man without imagination and entrepreneurial spirit. He had hit upon a magnificent plan. He entered apartment buildings at night and stole the elevator motors. Then he waited a few days for the occupants to tire of the stairs. Like a knight in shining armor, he came to their rescue. The renters collected money for a new motor and he sold them their very own motor back. There was a special beauty in it for him. The harsh reaction of the police and court system to his venture baffles him, even now as he stares at the Marriage Magazine questionnaire.
He stands, takes a breath, seals an envelope , and flips through more pages of personal ads. He looks at the photo of a smiling brunette and decides to write to her , as well. Then it occurs to him he had already written to her once.
Near him sits a tall, slim , middle - aged man named Vlad . Vlad smokes and looks at him, then at the men playing backgammon, then at a spider on ceiling . Vlad feels that if he sat here for a thousand years , and if he didn’t break the silence by speaking , the spider would eventually fall from the ceiling, dead, a casualty of the room’s perfect boredom . Vlad finishes his cigarette and throws the butt in a corner.
Vlad says, “Hey, are you writing to that model - looking girl again? ”
“ Yes, I think . I wrote her already, but I ’m going to try again .”
“You need to take reality into consideration. You need to look for some widow or old spinster . What you need is a lady who is more miserable than yourself. How old are you? ”
“ So, you’re 46 , and you’ll still be in jail when you turn 50,” Vlad said, beginning a monologue. “Tell me, what can you propose to a pretty 19 year old girl? Those girls, want to see the world . They have no time to wait, not even a week . They want it all and they want it now . And you expect them to wait years for you to get out of prison?
“ You wonder where is the blond whose personal ad you saw last week. I’ll tell you where she is . She is on the Mediterranean Sea, hanging out with her new boy friend . She was scooped up by a handsome, prosperous man who has a good education and a smart head on his shoulders. She is with a man who has a career , a good job , and plenty of money . What do you have?
“ Your career ended when you sold the same elevator motor to the same people for a third time . Now you live in slippers and overalls, and tame cockroaches . You and your silly dreams!”
Vlad stands, lights another cigarette , and shuffles off to his plank bed.
Alone again with his Marriage Magazine, a strange feeling comes over him.
He sits with a blank piece of paper on the table in front of him. He stares
at it and cannot understand why everything is different. He sinks into a
thick sadness born of complete loss. He looks around as though searching
for something. Then he stares at the blank page. Something very important
was taken from him.