Chapel of Optimal Life

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FICTION: Return To The Roof, Part One Of Three

Some people go gathering nuts in May. Not me. I have better things to do. I can't recall that I have ever gathered a single nut in my life, and if I ever do, I'll make darn sure that I gather it in the winter months. Anytime but May.

Come that glorious month, I begin my yearly pilgrimages to the roof. The strangest things keep happening to me on Boston rooftops, but still I go.

Last year on my first trip up, I ran into Mrs. Stonewall Jackson, you may recall. That poor soul was last seen being carted off to a caretaking environment, however, and the rest of last year's sun sessions were reasonably uneventful.

Since his patio had as yet no railing, and the roof was only a few feet wide, and Ted had almost skidded to his doom, I was somewhat wary. In fact, I went out through the window backwards, and once out there, clung frantically to the back wall.

Now it is May again, and we've had a couple of months of sunny Saturdays. Last weekend in particular. I went over to a friend's house to watch him build his new patio. Patio! Ha! He had a muddy roof outside his kitchen windows, well spattered with pigeon droppings, and unbelievably ugly to look at. But he wanted a patio out there, by gum, and who knows but what he'll have one yet.

"Hi!" he greeted me as I arrived. "Come on out. I'm just about to start." He stepped through the window and onto the roof. He was clad in overalls but even they didn't have enough pockets for all the paraphernalia he was toting with him. Hammers, screw drivers, awls, nails; all these make sense.

But the rest of the things protruding from his pockets looked slightly unnecessary to me. I'm still darned if I know what he intended to do with those rags and safety pins. I could tell that he thought he was completely prepared for his afternoon of carpentry, so I asked, "Aren't you forgetting something rather important?"

He didn't quite hear me, though. As I said before, the roof was muddy. Slimy mud. Ted put one foot onto it, and zeep! he flew across the rooftop and stopped inches short of a five-story drop.

Sympathetic soul that I am I laughed like a fool.

"What?" he asked finally.

"Boards," I said. "You have all sorts of tools with which to work, but nothing with which to create this patio of yours."

He eased himself away from the edge of eternity. "Good point," he said.

The next step in The Creation was the obvious one. Ted supplied himself with a pile of rotting old timbers he had found in the cellar, and again set foot on the roof. This time more than gingerly. "Come on out," he said.

I was no fool. "Make me a floor first," I said. In short order, he had made a brace for his floor and laid three planks.

"How's that?" he asked in what I considered completely unjustifiable pride.

"Fine if I happened to be an ant," I answered, "but I am not,"

Ted was crushed. In defeated silence, he proceeded to lay a few more boards, enough to set a chair on, Still martyred and speechless, be dragged out a chair, set it up on the wobbly, new-set floor, and indicated that I should sit. Not wanting to further crush his vanity, I stepped timidly through the window and onto the roof.

Since his patio had as yet no railing, and the roof was only a few feet wide, and Ted had almost skidded to his doom, I was somewhat wary. In fact, I went out through the window backwards, and once out there, clung frantically to the back wall. Ted snorted. "Sit down," he said in a tone that, I considered unnecessarily magnanimous. There was nothing I could do under the circumstances but feign bravado.

But, boy, was I ever feigning! Trying to look casual, I eased myself into the chair. It was none too comfortable. The rotten planks crumbled beneath the full weight of my trim hundred and thirty, and down I went into the slime. It was Ted's turn to laugh.

Return To The Roof
by Richard Freeman Miller
Part One Of Three



Dis Is The Vay It Is


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Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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