Chapter 37 – The Big Man Takes a Tumble
Before gutter season 2020, the last time I’d spoken with my old college roommate Tommy’d been sometime back in August when I reached out and asked if I could put him as a reference for some of the suburban fire departments I’d been applying to at the time. He said yeah and sent me his address and job title and whatever else the departments wanted me to list. I said “Thanks guy” in one text and “I O U buttsex” in a subsequent one. He responded that he’ll definitely be cashing in on that. I then proceeded to ask him how his buddy Zeedis was doing.
Zeedis is a guy our age that Tommy grew up with who came up to party with us a couple times during our freshman and sophomore year at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We actually rented out a bar and threw a big party for him in honor of his second visit. At that party, we’d even hired a stripper to show young Zeedis the time of his life. He loved every minute of that lady’s ass and tits bein wiggled right in front of his eyes and ground against his lap. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen Zeedis in person since we threw that party for him back in late 2007 or early 2008. And I think the last Zeedis update I’d gotten from Tommy’d been a couple summers ago when I was still in the military and he sent me a video of the guy down on the field at Wrigley singin the national anthem before the start of a Cubs game. I figured that that feat’d be hard to top, but since he’s such a wild dude that’s always doin somethin new and exciting, I was still interested in hearin what the Zeed-Man’s up to these days. And oh – by the way, almost forgot to mention – Zeedis has an extra 21st chromosome. Wait…what? Whattaya mean you don’t know what that means? I swear, you fuckers can be so dense sometimes. What I meant to say by that is that Zeedis has the condition most commonly known by the general population as Down Syndrome.
“He’s been playin a lotta tennis lately,” Tommy said. “He actually had a match not that long ago.”
“Oh yeah?” I asked. “He smoke his opponent or what?”
“Nice,” I replied. “You guys get wasted after to celebrate?”
“Oh yeah. He gets wasted off one beer.”
“Awesome. He get to see some boobs too? Or some feet at the very least?”
Zeedis has a major foot fetish in case you were wondering.
“Nah,” Tommy said. “I’m afraid his last set of boobs (not on the internet) may have been up in Milwaukee.”
I was thinkin of how I was gonna respond to this sad piece of news when he followed that up with…
“Oh actually, he 69’d his girlfriend like seven or eight years ago but they broke up shortly after.”
“Oh man…what?! He 69’d a chick? Where’d he get the idea to 69 someone?”
“I think it was her idea,” Tommy said. “The way he explained it was, ‘She peed on my face while I peed in her mouth.’”
“Yeah,” he said. “In the middle of the woods too. Outdoorsman.”
“Couldn’t have been a truly secluded place, I imagine. I’m guessin some passers-by had to have stumbled upon this steamy hot action.”
“Yeah I’m sure some people got a peek.”
“I’m picturing his girlfriend bein like a Sport Illustrated swimsuit model.”
“Haha,” Tommy said to close out the exchange, “let’s keep it that way.”
If you care to read more about Zeedis’s drunken antics and erotic adventures, be sure to check out “Chapter 6 – The Morality of Hiring Strippers for the Mentally Handicapped” in my second book, Life of a Manchild.
So anyway, the next time me and Tommy talked’d been a few months after that convo. It was probably about two weeks before November 15th. The fifteenth of the eleventh month is always slated as the official start date of our gutter cleaning season, though the actual date may vary because sometimes we get lucky and the leaves drop early, and sometimes the leaves are stubborn and hold on for another week or two after that date. As it happens, in the fall of 2020, the leaves got tired of holdin on and decided to let go much earlier than they normally do. And the text I got from Tommy early last November was basically him sayin that the leaves on his trees would be done droppin within about a week and that he was just wonderin if he could get on my gutter list that fall.
Now, Tommy lives up on the North Shore, right? And as it happens, over the past couple years, I convinced my dad to drop all the jobs we had up on the North Shore as well as those located in the Roger’s Park, Uptown and Lakeview areas of the city. At first, Pops wasn’t with the idea, but eventually agreed that it actually did make sense and’d make our lives considerably less stressful to take the 420 or so jobs we had and cut out the bullshit, and then focus all our attention on the 350 jobs we had in the neighborhoods closest to our house where the majority of our work is already concentrated. In these neighborhoods, since all our customers live so close together – often as many as five on the same block – we can regularly get 10 to 15 jobs done a day, as opposed to up on the North Shore where we get only like 6 to 8 done a day as we spend almost a whole week first drivin all the way up there each day, then wasting even more time drivin from one to the other of the handful of odd jobs we got scattered here and there across the suburbs of Wilmette, Winnetka, Glencoe, Evanston, Northbrook, and Kenilworth. It’s just not a good use of time.
On top of that – on top of these logistical concerns – are climactic factors beyond our control that must be taken into consideration. Like, at that point, at the time when Tommy reached out to me, during the day I was runnin myself ragged tryin to finish off all my window washing jobs for the season and then at night – on nights when I wasn’t at EMT school, that is – I’d go home and listen to messages and call people back and then try to make another fifteen to twenty more phone calls on top of that to all our annual gutter customers seein if they wanted to be on the list that year. I hadn’t yet done an exact count of how many jobs I was gonna have that season, but it was lookin like it was gonna be somewhere around 350 just like the year before. Now, if you don’t have a lot of experience cleanin gutters, you might not understand why cleanin the gutters on 350 houses in little over a month’s time is an insane amount of work, so lemme fill ya in…
Doin that many jobs requires you to work from somewhere between 8 and 9 in the morning until sunset every day that the weather permits, seven days a week until every last job is done. Sometimes though, you can’t even start until between 10 and 11am if the temps’d dipped considerably below freezing the night before because, if the shit in the gutters is frozen, it don’t come out. And then since the sun sets by 4:30pm every day this time of year, that doesn’t really leave us with that many hours each day to take care of all we need to take care of. And the biggest concern we face is that ya never know when we’re gonna get hit with the first deep freeze and/or big snowstorm of the year that’ll shut us down indefinitely. Every time that shit happens, a lotta customers like to call our house and leave a buncha angry messages, cussin us out for not having gotten to ‘em before the snow came. Funny thing is, more often than not, these people who call and bitch like that are the same customers that told us to hold off until late in the season to clean their gutters, wanting us to wait until every last leaf has fallen from every tree within a two-block radius of their property. So, to try and avoid that headache – even though with some people, ya just can’t win – gettin as many of our jobs done as quickly as possible before the inevitability of winter weather occurs is of the essence.
So, all that said, Tommy’s asking me to come and clean the gutters on his house up in Wilmette put me in a difficult position. On the one hand, I always like to be able to give everyone everything they ask of me, especially someone who – even though we’re not real close anymore – at one point in my life I considered to be my best friend. But on the other hand, I just had way too much on my plate to drive out to those shitty fuckin suburbs that I hate so much just to do one job for a buddy. So, regrettably – even though not doin so made me feel really guilty, especially since he’d been kind enough to let me use him as a reference on my fire department apps – I wasn’t able to get out there to help Tommy out with his gutters last year.
One other major concern not mentioned above that I’d been super stressed about goin into gutter season 2020 was not havin enough reliable help to be able to complete all those 350 jobs in a timely manner – i.e. before the snow comes. I mean, my brother was gonna take two full weeks off his job to help me out at the beginning of the season, but beyond that I didn’t have any help. I figured with Danny’s assistance during those first couple weeks, if the weather were to comply, we could get done somewhere between 200 and 250 of those jobs if we really busted ass. And then after that…like, I had a decent amount of experience cleanin gutters by myself and was willing to finish off the rest of the season alone once my brother’d gone back to work if I really had to, but honestly would’ve preferred not to, ya know what I mean? The idea of havin to do over a hundred jobs by myself seemed really exhausting and kinda depressing. Beyond that, solo gutter cleaning can be downright dangerous in some cases. Like, it’s just so fuckin nerve-wracking sometimes when steppin on and off the top of the 28-foot ladder to and from steep-ass roofs without anyone down below to heel the ladder for ya. While transferring my weight in as cautious and deliberate a manner as possible from one surface to the other, chances are I’m gonna be alright, but at the same time there’s always that thought in the back of my head goin, “I sure as fuck hope this ladder doesn’t slip out on me or fall to one of the sides right now.” So, I dunno. Like I said, I could do it by myself if I wanted, but I just didn’t fuckin want to. So, during this time I was shoppin around for another guy that’d be willing to help me get all this shit done safely and efficiently.
While I was thinkin about people I knew who had jobs with schedules that would allow ‘em time to help me out with this work, a few of my fireman buddies came to mind. So I texted ‘em up and asked, but they said they weren’t interested. Well, they didn’t say so directly, but I kinda figured that that was the true meaning behind one guy sayin, “Sorry man. I really would like to work with you this year, but asked my girlfriend and she said we got too much stuff goin on around the house, so count me out.” Like, seriously? Of all the lame excuses… But anyway, while I still had firemen on my mind, after I’d tried the friends that I’d grown up with, I thought of this one fireman acquaintance of mine named Collin. Lemme take a second to explain to ya how I know this guy…
So, back when I was plannin to take a month offa work to go travelin in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan during the summer of 2019, I wanted my dad to take that month offa work as well so I wouldn’t hafta worry about him while I was away. Ya see, the summer beforehand when I was in the Air Force and wasn’t there to look after him, my dad – who hadn’t been as mentally or physically sharp as he once was – fucked up and fell offa one of our customer’s roofs and ended up in the hospital pretty seriously injured. In spite of my efforts, and unlike the success I had in convincing him to drop the North Shore clients from our gutter roster, the old man wasn’t havin it – he refused to take a month offa work. So, whereas I didn’t feel comfortable leavin him alone in Chicago to run his business by himself, I at the same time felt just as uncomfortable givin up my dream of travelin the world to stick around in my hometown for the rest of my life just to babysit my aging father who had no intention of givin up this risky-ass line of work until the day he died. So, although what I really wanted was for someone as controlling and overprotective as myself to be there to do all the more dangerous shit and to keep a close eye on my dad to make sure he doesn’t do anything dumb and suffer another brutal accident while I was away, I figured the least I could do – the least I had to do – was find someone to help him out.
So, I called up my one fireman buddy Mike to see what was goin on. I knew there was no way Mike himself coulda helped me out because he’s a social worker on the side and – on days when he’s not at the firehouse – he’s always so god damn busy doin all that shit that there’s no way he’d have the time to help my dad out with the windows and the gutters. That said, Mike’s the typa guy that knows a lotta people. So, I hit him up to ask if he knew any other relatively young firemen who might be interested in tryin that stuff out for a month while I was away. He gave me the phone number of this dude named Collin who was originally from Wisconsin. He said that that guy’s always lookin for work on the side. I didn’t ask too many questions about the guy, figuring the fact that I’d at least gotten one phone number was enough to appease the guilt I felt for bailin on my dad. So I passed the digits along to my old man and left on my trip not knowin whether or not he’d reach out to the guy. Turns out, he did end up usin Collin for that month, but then I came back and resumed my position, and – gettin all the help he needed outta me – my dad stopped callin the guy, so I never had the chance to meet him.
The next spring – so, March of 2020 when covid was first hittin the US – Mike called me up and told me that one of his social work clients and her family were movin from one property to another and, for whatever the reason, he told these people that he’d rent a truck and move ‘em himself instead of hiring a moving company to do the job. He told me that he could really use my help and that there’d be a couple hundred bucks in it for me if I were to join. He also said that we wouldn’t be alone. We’d also have that guy Collin with us to help us out, and that he’d be great for movin heavy stuff because he’s huge. He’s like six-foot-four, two-hundred-and-eighty pounds, Mike said. Okay, yeah, fine, sure, whatever, I said. I mean, I wasn’t washin windows yet at the time because the new truck my dad bought to replace the old one that got destroyed back on Christmas Day didn’t yet have a ladder rack on it, so I figured why not, ya know?
So we go and do this job or whatever, and I talk to this dude Collin a bit while we’re there. He asks how my dad’s doin and I tell him not bad. I mean, he definitely was bad in my opinion, but why bore this guy I barely know with any of that shit? I ask him how he liked the window washing. He said he hated it. He said it was the most boring shit he’d ever done. I asked him how he liked the gutter cleaning. That, he said, was more fun. “There’s more action. It’s less tedious. I’m more focused on what I’m doing when climbing on the roofs than I am just stuck in my head all day while washing the windows.” I told him I know exactly what he means. While doin that moving job, he and I seemed to get along pretty well, and I noticed he’s a pretty good worker and all that shit. So anyway, we finish that job, Mike pays us our couple hundred bucks apiece, me and Collin go our separate ways, my dad dies less than two months later, one childhood buddy who was between jobs at the time helps me out with my dad’s business during the first month or so after Dad’s death, and then I spend most of the rest of the year washin windows by myself. And then here we are – we’ve come full circle. Like I said in the beginning, fall’s now come around and I’m gettin my panties in a bunch tryna think of who might wanna clean gutters with me this year when I suddenly remember this dude Collin. But before I call Collin up and ask him, however, I feel a bit hesitant about workin with someone I don’t know all that well and decide to reach out to Mike for a little reassurance.
“We went to the fire academy together,” Mike said. “He’s a really good guy. He’s reliable and he’s smart too which I know you’ll appreciate – cuz knowin you, Timmy, you wouldn’t wanna be stuck workin all day alongside some dumbass guy you can’t relate to. And I think you both have a similar sense of humor. You’re two of the most disgusting people I know. And like, I mean, you met him while we were doin that moving job earlier in the year, so you saw that the guy knows how to work.”
“Yeah,” I said. “He is a good worker. But he’s so fuckin big though. I’m worried he might not be too stable and agile on the ladders and roofs. I need a guy who’s gonna be willing to get up there every now and then to take a bit of the burden offa me, ya know – not just a ground guy for cleanin up and checkin the downspouts the whole time, ya know what I mean? Like, I didn’t get to see him in action when he was helpin my dad out last summer. How was he in the academy? Did he seem alright?”
“Yeah dude, he was alright. He did what he was supposed to do and wasn’t a pussy about it like some of the guys who’d freeze up on the aerial tower and shit like that.”
“I see. But that’s the aerial tower – how’s he do on regular-ass extension ladders? Can he throw ‘em around alright? Can he run up and down ‘em all day, and safely step onto and offa roofs without losin his balance and gettin seriously fuckin hurt? How’s his balance up on the roofs? You think he can handle the steep shit?”
“I dunno man. Cuz at the academy we didn’t do the same sorta shit that I know you guys normally do, so I can’t say for sure. But like I said, he’s a good dude and a good worker and he catches on to shit pretty quick, so if he’s not the best on ladders at the beginning, I’m sure he’ll be able to learn after a few days out there with ya.”
I thanked Mike for his input and decided that Collin probably was my best bet for a third man that year, so I shot the guy a text and he said that he was indeed interested. In fact, he said that he’d be on furlough – so I think that that’s like seventeen days without work – starting November 13th and that he hadn’t made any travel plans or anything during that break because of covid, so he said that this would actually work out quite well for him. Great, I said then proceeded to fill him in on all the details. I told him about how many jobs I thought we’d have for the year, the basic rundown of how we do the job and what his responsibilities would be, what time of day we normally start and work until, approximately how much he’d be making, what boots I recommend he buy, how he should pack enough snacks he could eat in the car between jobs to keep him satisfied throughout the day because time is of the essence and we don’t stop for lunch and…ya know, all that typa shit. He said all that stuff was cool with him and told me to sign him up.
So, I’d just like to take a second here to say that I’m glad Collin was willing and able to come out and clean the gutters with me last fall not only during his furlough, but then also during his off-days once his vacation was over and he’d gone back to the firehouse. For those of you that don’t know, firemen in Chicago work 24 hours and then are off for 48. So, essentially I’d have Collin out there with me 2 outta every 3 days which was huge especially since by that time in the season my brother’d already gone back to work full-time. His presence significantly reduced the amount of days I was stuck out there workin alone. Collin was a good worker that didn’t need much bossin around, always took initiative, and learned pretty quickly how to handle his big frame while workin on all these ladders and roofs. Not only that, but he’d also always respond to all my work-related texts right away which might not seem like a big deal, but is immensely helpful when I’m back at home at night and tryin to get all the secretary boy work taken care of so I can maybe have an hour or two to rest and recover before goin to sleep then gettin up and doin it all again. Like, chances are I already knew whether or not he was available to work the following day because he’d already given me that information earlier in the day when we were out workin together, so I’d always tell him I’d text him later that night with details after I’d had a chance to look at the weather report and base the next day’s starting time on that. So when I’d text him in the evenings, what I wanted to know was whether or not he’d received the electronic payment I’d just sent him for that day’s work so I could mark him off as paid-up in my books, and whether or not he’d be at my house at the set starting time I’d just given him. It’s a simple courtesy that some guys don’t understand – they don’t understand that my day’s not over until this shit is settled – but Collin did and it was much appreciated. That said – casting all this borderline gay, ass-kissing praise aside – after the first day, I was honestly thinkin that maybe things weren’t gonna work out with Collin on the gutter crew. Of course, I ended up givin him another chance and he went on to prove just how good he was, but after that first day, boy…I dunno. Lemme tell ya what happened…
So, I actually ended up doin a couple full days of gutter cleanin out by myself earlier in the week. I finished my window jobs up for the season and saw that most of the leaves everywhere were already down, so I said fuck it and got to work. So, as it happens, the first day I had Collin out with me was – Ahhhh! So scary! – Friday the 13th. My brother wasn’t with us that day because his two-week vacation didn’t start until the following day. And so, on that first day we worked together, Collin showed up at my house around 8:30 whereupon he climbed in the passenger seat of the truck and we were over at our first job around quarter to nine. I decided to start off with a few of the less intimidating ones to ease my man into the job before hammering him with some of the harder ones in the afternoon. I started him off on some garage roofs and the lower sections of people’s houses like back additions and front porches. He seemed to be doin alright with those, so by the fourth or so job I got him up on a relatively flat second-floor roof to see how he did with the height. Although he was a bit slow steppin from the ladder onto the roof – better slow and steady than hasty and lookin like you’re about to fall and bust your shit – he did alright up there. Overall, I’d say things were goin pretty well.
We finished up a job around noon and I said, “Let’s have a quick snack here in the car before drivin to the next job because it’s gonna be a tough one and we’ll probably need the energy.” So, I took five minutes to stuff a PB&J into my mouth and wash it down with the daily 16 ounces of whole milk I keep in my cooler, then drove a couple blocks over to the next house. There on the part of the lawn closest to the street in front of the property had been a crew of Hispanic landscapers takin their siesta. I pulled up next to the guys, stuck my head out the window and said, “Hey, excuse me – are you here to do the final fall clean-up at this house right here?” One guy – perhaps the only guy that spoke some English – said that yes, they were. I asked, “Would you mind if we cleaned out the gutters real quick while you guys are eatin lunch here? A lot of our customers don’t like it when we come to blow all the leaves out after you guys’ve already done your final clean-up.” The guy said sure, go ahead. He said they just started their break and would still be resting for another twenty or thirty minutes before they got back to work. I thanked him, parked the truck, and got out with a sense of urgency.
“Alright dude,” I said to Collin. “These guys said we only have twenty or thirty minutes to get this fucker done. This is actually one of the most difficult jobs we have – usually takes over an hour. The high roof in back is dangerously steep, but I gotta walk it. There’re too many trees and bushes and other obstacles on the ground to be able to reach all the gutters workin offa the ladder around the perimeter, so – as much as I hate gettin up there every year – it’s just gotta get done. And so, since I’ll need you to heel the ladder for me gettin on and off that roof back there, let’s start there. You can clean up a bit and check the downspouts for me, and once that’s done and I’m back on the ground, we’ll take it from there.”
So I get up there and, as per usual, it’s fuckin miserable. The roof is so steep that, mere seconds after gettin myself positioned, my thighs are already burning as I stand in that crouched down, leaning back position with my feet staggered – one about six inches in front of the other – to keep my balance up there. Usin the arm on the side of my body closest to the edge of the roof, I reach as far forward toward the gutter as necessary with a handheld gas-powered leaf blower in hand and I pull the trigger, startin to blow six months’ worth of sticks, leaves and acorns outta these people’s gutters. With each step I take, I can feel my toes jamming harder and harder into the front of my Cougar Paw roof-walking boots which thankfully continue to stick firmly to the asphalt tiles and hold me in place. Even though those boots are made specifically for walkin on steep roofs, however, I still hafta be super careful while walkin on areas of this particular roof – the north side, specifically – where a lot of the tiles are covered in moss. Moss can be slippery and/or crumble (depending on how thick it is) when walkin on it, so it’s crucial to remain vigilant and pay close attention to how much my feet might be skidding down, and to reposition ‘em if I feel like they’re movin so much that they might actually slip out from under me. God forbid, if that were to happen, there’s a good chance I’d fall onto my back then go sliding off the side of this high-ass, steeply-pitched roof and end up in a wheelchair.
So, as I’m goin along blowin all the shit outta the gutters themselves, every time I come across a downspout, I position the tube of the leaf blower so it’s aligned with the top of the downspout and I blow directly down that rain drain and look out for Collin on the ground to signal me as to whether or not the air is blowin straight through to the bottom at full-blast. If it is, that means there’re no obstructions in the tube along the way that we’d need to deal with which is always good news because takin those things apart with screwdrivers to clean ‘em out is a huge time-consuming pain in the ass. Down on the ground, Collin gives me a thumbs-up as I instructed him to, signaling that the air is blasting out at the bottom of the downspout. We do the same thing at the other couple downspouts, and once all the gutters and downspouts I’m capable of reachin offa that roof have been taken care of, I tell him to heel me so I can get back on the ladder. He goes and steps on the bottom rung of the thing, usin his bodyweight to pin it in place. With the leaf blower still in one hand, I grab on to the top of the ladder with the other, turn my body halfway around and slowly place one of my feet onto the closest reachable rung. With that foot in place, I begin shiftin my bodyweight onto the ladder. Once I feel comfortable enough, I carefully move my other foot from the roof onto a different rung of the ladder and make my way back down to safety.
“Alright, so…” I began, “that had to’ve taken about fifteen minutes to get done and we still got at least thirty minutes of work left on this house even if we go hard as fuck. We’re gonna hafta split up and work separately to get this shit done as fast as we can so we’re not holdin up those Mexican dudes from doin their jobs. I was thinkin of takin this big 28-foot ladder to keep doin the rest of the second-floor gutters all around the whole front of the house where the roof ain’t walkable. What I was thinkin I’d have you do is take the little 20-foot ladder and get all this first-floor shit right here in back,” I pointed to what I was talkin about. “As you can see, these little roofs are too steep to walk on, so you’re gonna hafta go through the whole rigmarole of settin the ladder up, goin up there, blowin out all the shit as far as you can reach, comin back down, movin the ladder, and keep goin like that til these sections are all done. Then when ya get to the other side of the house, there’s an attached garage. It’s completely flat up there. That, you will be able to walk. Meanwhile, as you’re takin care of that shit, I should be able to knock out the rest of the house. Ideally it should take about half-an-hour. So, you cool with that?” I asked. “Any questions?”
“Nope,” he shook his head.
“Okay,” I said. “But there’s one thing I gotta warn you about. When you’re workin on this back deck here, you gotta be careful how ya set the ladder. I know you’ll only be workin like ten or twelve feet off the ground and it doesn’t seem too scary, but like – you gotta be careful, okay? Like, ladders set up on wooden or even those synthetic decks are probably the most slippery surfaces you’ll work on aside from blacktop driveways. And like, if you set the ladder at too big of an angle, that fucker’ll come slippin right out from under ya, especially if you lean forward and shift any of your weight onto the part of the ladder above the gutter line. The gutter line is like the fulcrum and the ladder a lever – you know what I’m talkin about? So when the feet of the ladder aren’t dug into the grass or the dirt, or aren’t bein heeled by another guy, and are instead set on a non-gripping surface, avoid putting your weight above the gutter line at all costs. Set the ladder as straight-up as possible when workin on slippery surfaces – as straight up as you feel comfortable climbin up, I mean – cuz like, the majority of the force of your weight on the feet of the ladder will be goin straight down into the ground as opposed to outward, away from the house the way it is with the ladder set at big angles. I mean, I’m not a physicist, so I can’t explain it perfectly, but I think you get what I’m sayin here. Cuz like, dude…I swear to god I’ve seen some brutal wipeouts in my day and even had one or two of my own back when I was first startin out over fifteen years ago and – believe me – it ain’t fun. So…just be careful, okay?”
“Yep,” was all that came out his mouth, but the look he gave me after my monologue said, “Hey man, just shut the fuck up, okay? I’m a fuckin fireman and don’t need some jagoff like you tellin me how to work on ladders. Just fuck off and go do whatever you gotta do. Leave me alone and let me do my job.”
“Alright, cool,” I said. “Let’s get goin.”
So, I finish workin on the side of the house with the 28-footer where I had to fight all sorts of branches both when setting the ladder and when climbin up it, and then eventually get to the front where there were no trees in the way. Although there were no trees to wrestle with, it still took a while to get done because I had to climb back down and move the ladder over every seven-to-ten feet after goin to the top and blowin all the shit out as far as I could reach. At this point, all the Latino dudes were packin their coolers into the truck and startin to pull out all the yard equipment. And so I’m about three-quarters of the way done with my part of the job when Collin comes out front and is waitin for me at the bottom of the ladder. I finish blowin out whatever I’m blowin out at the top of the 28-footer, then come back down to ground level.
“What’s up?” I ask him while steppin down the final few rungs.
“Well,” he said. “I got some good news and some bad news. Which do you wanna hear first?”
“Uhh, I dunno,” I said.
“Okay, well, the good news is I’m not hurt. The bad news is I killed the ladder.”
“You killed the ladder? Whattaya mean?”
“Well, ya know how you told me the ladder might slip out on me while workin offa that deck?”
“Yeah, well, it did. And I uhh…I came crashin down directly on top of it.”
“What the fuck?!” I said. “And you’re not hurt?”
“No. Well…I’m a little bit hurt, but not seriously though.”
“Where did you land?”
“On my side. My arm broke the fall,” he said, rollin up his sleeve to show me a bloody and rapidly swelling forearm.
“Uhhh, dude…are you sure that’s not broken?”
“Yeah. Well…no,” he said, “actually I’m not. But I’ll deal with that later. You wanna come take a look at the ladder?”
“Yeah,” I said. “Let’s go have a look.”
So we walk around to the back and the ladder’s just layin there in a mangled heap. Like, as soon as I looked at it, it was blatantly obvious exactly what part of it he’d fallen onto.
“Holy shit,” I said. “The aluminum’s completely crushed.”
“Yeah, I guess that’s what happens when a 270-pound guy lands on top of a ladder from ten feet up.”
“Yeah, guess so,” I said. “Fuck…I’ve never seen anything like that in my life. You sure you’re okay? You wanna go to the hospital?”
“Yeah, no, really – I’m fine.”
“Okay, well, how bout the house? Did any windows get broken as you fell down? How bout the leaf blower? Is that broken too?”
“Uh, no, the house is fine. And I actually held on to the leaf blower when I fell, so that’s pretty much okay except for a little piece of plastic broken off of it. But yeah, the ladder’s fucked. You can’t slide it up or down, and there’s no way anyone’s gonna be able to bang that thing back into shape.”
“Yeah, I wouldn’t think so,” I said and kept starin at the thing in disbelief.
“So…” he asked after a moment of silence, “whattaya wanna do?”
“Well, are you one-hundred percent sure you’re okay to keep workin the rest of the day?”
“Yes, I’m sure.”
“Okay, well, as long as you’re okay like you say you are, go throw this busted-ass thing on top of the truck and let’s finish this fuckin shit up so we can let those Mexican guys do what they gotta do here.”