by John Gordon

Family man stands on third rung of his ladder and pounds a nail into his house.  With his left

hand he pinches the stalk of another purposefully grey nail.  In his right hand he clutches the

countoured wood handle of a hammer and swings it's potential energy  onto the flat head of

the nail.
  

The sweat rolls of his forehead and into his eyes, the dirt and salt burning them.  He wipes

his brow with the back of his callused hand and snaps the moisture toward a pile of leaves

and twigs.  He wears the December heat like the gift of an ugly sweater from grandma when 

you really wanted money.  Time is not on his side, the fat man will be here tonight.  


He feels the seconds tick through his Timex and into his blood stream, matching heartbeats 

with the pendulum pulse of tiny gears and levers.  The last nail splinters through the chipped 

brown paint on the overhang of the roof and family man retreats down the ladder.  He grabs 

the vein of mulitcolored bulbs and wraps them several times under his shoulder and around 

his neck.  As he drags himself back up the ladder, the remaining string of bulbs and green wire 

bounce and twist against the drive way below.  He looks down from his perch in time to see a 

series of explosions that leave the concrete littered in a colorful glass confetti.   The haze of

gas from the mini blasts now hovers around the base of the ladder. 


"Shit-goddamn-mother-son-of-a-bitch," he grumbles under his heavily beared breath.    


Family man turns away from the gas and moves up one rung higher on the ladder.  The 

forbidden steps.  The yellow sticker on the side wood frame of the ladder warns not to use

the last two steps.  He ascends higher.  Family man now stands on the top step and sees all

of the crap that has accumulated on his wood shake roof since a year ago:  three tennis balls, 

a yellowed newspaper, one child's shoe (left foot), and a frisbee.  He reaches out to retrieve 

the faded orange frisbee with the offical Whamo label.  It is just beyond his reach.  


He stretches out further on the tips of his loafers then screams as the ladder tilts forward.  

His shoes sprout hands and he grasps the edge of the top step with all the grip his panicked 

brain can send to his toes.  The ladder slips and crashes against the garage door.  Family man 

clutches onto a shingle and digs his fingers into the recesses of the wood.  His hand slips and 

his torso slides over the rain gutter, "which should be called a leaf gutter," as the tips of his 

fingers drag across the splintered wood.  The green wire of lights snags on the nails and 

cinches tight around his neck snapping it like the branches of a Christmas tree the third week 

in February.  Family man dangles and turns, his fingers and toes limp, pulled down by gravity.  

His body works out the last of the momentum from the fall then settles still in the December 

dusk, two feat above the ground.  


"Honey, are you done out there?  I'm going to turn on the lights now so Santa can find our 

house."



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