The Way Up to Heaven


Roald Dahl

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Mrs. Foster lives with her domineering husband, Eugene Foster, in a sixth-floor apartment in New York City. She is supposed to be boarding a plane to Paris to visit her beloved daughter and grandchildren, but her husband is running late to accompany her to the airport. She has a pathological fear of being late for things, as her husband well knows, but he nonetheless always waits to get ready until the very last minute. While this might be an accident, the narrator suggests that it’s possible he is doing this on purpose, just to watch her suffer.

They leave just a few minutes late, but Mrs. Foster and the driver are convinced that she can still get to the airport on time. Unfortunately, fog is rolling in and the plane is delayed for an indeterminate amount of time. Mrs. Foster is happy to stay at the airport alone because it means she won’t miss the plane, but night falls and travelers are told to come back in the morning. Despite her fear that he will somehow keep her from boarding the flight, Mrs. Foster calls her husband. He insists that she stay at the house with him, even though the servants have already left for vacation. That night, he asks her to drop him off at the club on the way to the airport in the morning. She reluctantly assents, though she is beginning to suspect that he is going out of his way to keep her from going on her trip.

The next morning, they get in the car on time, but at the last minute, Mr. Foster remembers that he left a gift for their daughter in the house. Mrs. Foster begs him to leave it so she can make it to her flight, but he insists and goes back inside. In the meantime, Mrs. Foster finds the gift that he described wedged in between the seats “as though with the help of a pushing hand.” She tells the driver to go get her husband, but then realizes it’ll be faster if she does it herself.

As she starts to unlock the door, she hears some unexplained sound and stops. With an authoritative air and something changed about her, she turns around and tells the driver that they must leave immediately so as not to be late, and that her husband will simply get a cab to the club. She enjoys herself in Paris with her daughter and grandchildren, writing home once a week, and returns six weeks later. She finds the place deserted with a bad smell, but there is a “little glimmer of satisfaction on her face.” She calls the elevator repair company and asks them to come fix their elevator: the implication is that her husband has been stuck in the elevator the whole time she was gone, and she left him to die.