The Way Up to Heaven

by Roald Dahl

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What does Mrs. Foster hear when she stands outside the front door?

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When Mrs. Foster finds the package for which her husband has ostensibly gone to search, she rushes out of the car and is about to open the front door when she stops and listens intently. She stands absolutely motionless for at least ten seconds. This is obviously surprising, since she has been in such a desperate hurry to reach the airport.

The way she was standing there, with her head in the air and the body so tense, it seemed as though she were listening for the repetition of some sound that she had heard a moment before from a place far away inside the house.

Mrs. Foster moves her ear closer and closer to the door and remains in this attitude, head against door, key in lock, apparently trying to analyze sounds coming from deep within the house. We are not told what the sounds are, but eventually, Mrs. Foster seems to be satisfied that they are the ones she wanted to hear, as she runs down the steps and heads for the airport. When she returns, six weeks later, she rings the bell and waits and listens again, but there is no answer.

The reader is lead to assume that the sounds for which Mrs. Foster listens so intently outside the door, and which she eventually hears, are those of her husband attempting to escape from the elevator. These may be cries for help or the noise he makes as he wrestles with the doors or rains blows upon them. When she returns to New York, his dead body is presumably still in the broken elevator, waiting to be found.

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