A Fear Of Ladders

By Lisa Fransson

The step ladder Amy carries tucked under her arm is as light as step ladders come. Of aluminium and one rung taller than her. She carries it everywhere, including up the stairs to her desk on the seventh floor. Whenever Health and Safety prowls past Amy and her ladder he scowls, but in this matter he is powerless. Because once, when the biscuit jar needed refilling, Amy told her boss that new packets were easily within her reach. She propped up her ladder and climbed to the highest rung, all the while enjoying the prospect of being up and coming. But her boss, always the opportunist, took a moment to swipe some business on his phone. When Amy brought the biscuits down safely, she gifted her boss with her most confident above-and-beyond-duty-smile.

She does get funny looks on the platform, but if you were to interfere with Amy and her ladder you’d be called straight to the station master’s office for a stern talking to. Because once, when a toddler toddled over the edge and onto the track, Amy swiftly lowered her ladder and whisked the child back into its mother’s arms. The station master has proof. He lay down on the platform and recorded the episode on his phone: Amy climbing down, Amy leaning over, Amy’s blouse hitching and slipping as she reached her arm to save a life.

“But where’s the toddler?” you might ask.

“Out of shot,” the station master would reply. “My position was perilous, to say the least.”

Sometimes Amy goes out, to a bar, to a club, to a do, with friends. All of whom agree what a stuck-up-rung-above-the-rest-slut Amy is. But only behind her back.

Amy would like to meet somebody with whom to share her days, but the ladder’s a hindrance. “Why do you lug that thing around with you?” they ask and turn frown-ugly. But from time to time, she does meet a man with kind eyes, who smiles and says, “What the heck. You’ve got to put that thing down sooner or later.” On the way back to Amy’s flat they stop and kiss, but Amy never lets go of her ladder and the man holding her strokes her hair, presses his lips against hers and whispers that it’s cute. Only when they enter her bedroom does he recoil, tilt his head backwards and says, “What the…! You expect me to climb all the way up there?”

Amy leans her ladder against the bed and says that the view from the mattress is magnificent. But the kindness has already left his eyes and Amy adds another door slam to the sequence inside her head.

Amy is single. Amy is singled out. Amy is singularly viewed: her cleavage as her blouse hitches and slips, her Tuesday undies as she climbs to reach the biscuit-cupboard have been shared by ladder-fearing people across the land.

Lisa Fransson was born and bred in the forests of Sweden. These days she lives on the south coast of England where she steals time in between translation projects to write fiction in both her native Swedish and her adopted English. Her first Swedish children’s book, Älgpappan, was published in 2019 and her short fiction has been published in The Dawntreader, The Forgotten and The Fantastical 4, The Best of British Fantasy 2018 and The Dark Mountain Project.

Find out more at: www.lisafransson.com