Wednesday, November 30, 2005


In Which My Life Is Flashing Before My Eyes...

A few weeks ago:

The weather was really starting to turn cold and blustery. I love falling asleep to the sound of tree branches scraping erratically against the house.

And so it was late one November night--er, morning--that I got up to relieve myself. It was about 3:15--the hour in most horror movies when demons and suchlike attack unsuspecting families. But there were no demons about. Just the utter, peaceful dark and the growing wind outside. I could already hear the delicate brushing of the tree outside my window, making an almost oceanic whooshing sound that soon had me drowsing.






And then I heard a strange metal grinding sound, like a window being pried open.

When I heard that sound, three things happened at once:

1. I sat bolt upright.

2. Heavy, fast footsteps sounded in the dark hallway.

3. Through my bedroom wall, I heard Thomas scream. "DAD! HE'S IN MY ROOM!"

I was out of bed like a shot, my hand reaching instinctively for the cricket bat I keep under my bed (I've told you before: don't ask why I have a cricket bat under the bed. I just do). Unfortunately, the bat was way under the bed and my hand grasped the first handle-like object it could find which, alas, turned out to be the remote control of the television, something I didn't realize til much later, when every light in the house was ablaze. What, I wonder, could I have done to an intruder in my son's room with such a weapon? Mute him? Place him in rewind?

Well, in the event, it didn't matter what I was wielding. Once again, at it so often is in matters of home security, I was rendered surplus to requirements. In the seconds it took me to grab my Kung Fu Remote and sprint the seven steps to my son's room, Blaze had already raced from his kennel, and came up the stairs (his were the footsteps I heard in the hallway), clearing a distance easily four times what I had to cover in seconds. By the time I arrived in Thomas' room, the dog was up on the bed, straddling my son protectively and barking like a, well, like a mad dog at the window nearest Thomas' headboard. Thomas, who is as afraid of the dark as I was at 7, was hiding under his comforter and two pillows, screaming for help.

I looked out the window, the shades of which Thomas likes to open so he can see the stars at night. And I'll be damned if there wasn't something--in the dim glow of the streetlight it looked like a swinging arm--reaching down from the roof and scraping against the window. What the hell? Is somebody up on the roof, trying to pry the window open? I wondered.

Well, the dog certainly thought so. As the scraping continued, he grew more and more frenzied and began hurling himself at the window. He's a 50-pound dog and more than strong enough to break the glass. I grabbed his collar and pulled him back, only to be rewarded by a look of utter canine disdain. He yapped at me several times in a way that seemed to say, "Arm! Arm! Don't you see that arm, you stupid monkey?!?"

Now that I was closer to the window, in fact, I could see it. But it was no arm. It was a flapping piece of metal, blowing in the breeze, smacking my son's window at regular intervals. I ran to the hall closet and returned with the 875,000 candle-power flashlight my dad saw fit to leave with me on his last visit. If we had a base on the moon, this thing would be bright enough to signal lunar colonists by Morse code, so it was more than sufficient to shine through the window and show both dog and boy that the flap of metal was nothing more than a loose piece of flashing, the metal that was supposed to sit secure under the edge of the roof of the Magazine Mansion, and conduct rainwater to the gutter just below it. Obviously, the wind had been strong enough to blow it loose.

Neither of my companions was convinced. "It looks like a robot arm coming to get me," my son said. "And the noise is freaking me out." The dog sat next to him on the bed, thinking his dog thoughts, and glowering at the flapping metal in the window.

I have to admit, it WAS awfully loud. There was good gust of wind blowing outside and when it caught the loose piece of flashing, it really whanged it up against the house.

While Thomas burrowed back under his blankets and the dog stood by, I cranked open the window, took out the screen and made a grab for the edge of the flashing. But at that second the wind blew it the other way and I leaned much too far out the window. Suddenly I was in an Alfred Hitchcock movie and my view of the ground below me elongated to a dizzying length. Suddenly, I was shivering, and not just from the frigid November air. Twenty feet below, far below, I could clearly see the front walk, the square of concrete that people would one day step over and say, "Yep, right here is where he fell and broke his neck."

Arms windmilling for balance (you'd think a hero dog might try to assist a man in distress, but no), I got back in and closed the window again while the flashing continued whacking--now almost triumphantly--against the house.

Thomas ended up sleeping between me and Her Lovely Self (who had not so much as stirred during the ruckus. Neither had the Brownie). Blaze spent the entire night in Thomas' room, staring suspiciously at the window, waiting for the flashing to try something funny.

Although she was completely oblivious to it the night before, Her Lovely Self spent the next day--all day--listening to that damn piece of flashing. By evening, it was like fingernails on the chalkboard of her mind.

"You have got to get out there and fix that," she said after a few nights of this.

"How?" I asked. "It's 26 feet to the top of the roof and I have a 16-foot extension ladder. You do the math."

"You're just under 6 feet..." she started, apparently doing her own kind of math.

I had visions of me standing at the very top rung of my extension ladder--the rung they tell you in black and yellow labeling NOT to step on, and there I'd be, still four feet shy of the roof. Just how in the hell did she expect me to fix the problem like that? Telekinetically? Give the dog a hammer and a mouthful of nails and hoist him up on my shoulders?

"I don't know," she answered. "But you better fix it soon. Before the baby comes."

And I thought: Baby?

(Yeah, this is about where you'd expect me to do the ... thing, wouldn't you?)

(Well, believe me, I considered it.)

(But honestly, the complaints I get about serializing my entries. Do you all honestly want to read one 5,000 or 6,000-word entry once a week, or several 1,500 word installments over several days?)

(No, it's a rhetorical question, since I'm going to do whatever the hell I want. Like dragging this digression out to the very point of annoyance.)

Where was I?

Right...well before anyone jumps to any conclusions, let me clarify that Her Lovely Self was referring to our youngest nephew, who was coming to spend Thanksgiving with us (oh yeah, along with his parents--my younger brother- and sister-in-law, not to be confused with the ones who just adopted the lovely Grace).

Seeing as the kiddo is 18 months old and hell on wheels, I hardly think of him as a baby anymore, so much as a really small version of the crazier guys I went to college with. He likes to climb on tables and jump off for the hell of it. He will wear a lampshade if he can get his hands on one. He'll also eat anything: dog food, Play-Doh, wet paper napkins. Sometimes all in the same 60-second period. But you forgive his excesses because he's adorable.

He's also a talker; his verbal skills are off the chart. For example, within moments of his arrival the day before Thanksgiving, he could say everyone's name. Well, except mine. Whenever he saw me, he'd crack a big smile and point and yell "Doggie!"

Bear in mind, he can say our actual dog's name just fine.

But he's a fitful sleeper and I knew my wife was right: the banging of that damn piece of flashing was loud enough to be heard in the guest room and was already keeping Thomas awake. What would it do to the baby?

And so, the very day our guests arrived (I think the whole idea of waiting til the last minute to tackle an unpleasant task is vastly underrated and so I try to procrastinate as long as possible) with the resignation of a seasick man who has just been given tickets to a Carnival cruise, I began calling around the neighbors and, despite my best efforts, found someone who knew someone who had a 25-foot extension ladder with a special support brace at the top for extra stability. Like so.


After promising the reciprocal loan of my gas-powered chain saw (the envy of the men in my neighborhood of electric lawnmowers and leaf blowers), I carted the ladder to the house and gazed up...way way up to the roof at the top of the Magazine Mansion, and at that piece of flashing, which seemed now to be waving at me in a jeering, come-and-get-me-if-ya-gots-da-balls manner.

As I positioned and extended the ladder til it sat just under the eaves nearly 30 feet above me, I began talking to myself. People did this all the time. All the time. Hell, my own dad--in his 60s and not exactly possessed of the agility of Spider-Man--had just last year scurried up my 16-foot ladder, carrying a 40-pound air compressor in one hand and the air-powered nail-gun in the other in order to secure a broken shutter on our house. He did the work in about two minutes--Paf! Paf! Paf! Paf! with the nail-gun--then trotted down the ladder like it was a flight of stairs. Heck, I reminded myself, I didn't even have to worry about the compressor. All I had was a toolbelt, my hammer, some roofing nails and a little bit of caulking to help cement the flashing to the roof a bit better. AND I had the benefit of this ladder with the ultra-secure support feet. I could do this. I could.

And with that, I climbed straight up the ladder, passing as I did the windows to Thomas' room, on the other side of which I could see Thomas and the Brownie and the dog, watching the show with rapt attention. I stopped, took one hand off the ladder--the hand that was holding the caulking gun--and waved jauntily at them.

Right then, the base of the ladder suddenly slipped and those ultra-secure support feet slid down the wall of my house like they'd been coated with Vaseline and, 25 feet up in the air, while my children watched, I lost my balance...


This whole cliffhanger thing is awful. *beats on desk*
Good lord, you really could have a television show as you have such an innate sense of where commercials should be inserted and also when the "to be continued" flashes before our eyes. I want the next installment!
One of these days, one of these posts about your "adventures" will most certainly end thusly:

"... and this is being typed by HLS, as I am now in traction for the next six weeks..."


Now I'm going to *worry* until we have the next installment.

And I don't mind the serialization. Kind of fun actually.

Reading this reminded me of the time when my sisters and I had just seen Mary Poppins. We were about 9 and 7 (they are twins). We somehow got the idea that if Mary Poppins could float around aided by her umbrella, well by golly, so could we. So we got a ladder from the garage and proceeded to climb up onto the roof with our umbrellas. And with all of the bravery and idiocy that comes with being young and brainwashed by Disney, we opened our umbrellas and jumped off of the roof. No gentle floating here. More like 3 dead weights with inverted umbrellas rocketing towards the ground. How we all walked away from it, I'll never know, but walk away we did, albeit with a deep sense of betrayal and confusion directed towards Mary Poppins.
You are Clark Wilhelm Griswold Jr. incarnate.

How'd ya get your ass outta this one Sparky?
Ya know, I had a rather hideous night. And you managed to cheer me right up, "Doggie"! (regardless of the hanging of the cliff) ::applause::
Sharfa beat me to it. This IS rather reminiscent of "Christmas Vacation." Can't wait to hear about how you got out of this... :)
You should change your name from Magazine Man to Evil Cliffhanger Writer

But my god, if it were me in HLS's shoes, I would have done the same thing to Hubby.....
Okay, that baby teaser was just evil!

I sincerely hope you weren't climbing up the ladder in the angle shown in the picture. If you were, you deserve whatever you got.

Laughed out loud! Loved the ellipses and the cliffhanger wanna be, only to have an actual cliffhanger in the end.

Love it love it.Much as I protest against the ..., I secretly sit on the edge of my seat and cannot wait to tune in tomorrow.

Wish I had half the talent for spinning a yarn that you do.

I'll be back tomorrow.
"Doggie" - I like it. My niece called me "Elbow" until she was two, and has now moved on to "Silly Aunt Sandra". Never just the name...
OMG... how dare you.... hang us in suspense

can't wait until the next installment
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