Burning Off

Chuck Taylor

We're redoing the roof together, Courtney and I, the happy couple that works together stays together, and I ask her to help me bring up a 5x8 sheet of the wafer board that we are putting down as decking because under the cedar shingles we're pulling off there are only slats six inches apart, and she says no, and I realize I have not asked with the proper tone of politeness that I, as at least a semi-modern male, should ask. I have slipped back into the more authoritarian tone of the male in his realm of house repairs similar to the tone women use at times when you are helping them in the kitchen, but it's too late now, I need that decking, it's hard to keep from falling down into the very attic of the house, now open to the sky, so I ask again in a nicer way, but receive the same response, so I heave a big sigh, set down my shovel, and make my way to the edge and drop down on the scaffolding I've built to work on the eaves, and from there I drop to the ground.

I go to where the wafer board is stacked inside the garage. It looks much like plywood board. I drag one sheet on its edge to the scaffolding, I'm not sure' what Courtney's doing up there, probably still scraping away and pulling up shingles. But, by the time I've hauled the wafer board to the scaffolding here in the August heat I am beginning to boil in the inside as well as on the out.

She's still not offering any help, so I stand the wafer board against the scaffolding, and then I grab it on both sides and slide it up and up till it rides along the edge of the roof and I can rest on the back end of the wafer board up on the scaffolding. That'll show her. I'm not so dumb. I can figure a way to get these water resistant rather expensive bulky and heavy wafer sheets up on the roof without her help. I climb up on the scaffolding, and then grab the sides of the board and slide it up onto the roof. Viola! Independence! Freedom! To hell with my co-worker!

I get back up on the roof in the killing sun, slide the board into place, and nail it solidly down, and then I pick up the shovel and start prying off more of the old asphalt shingles. Before, I let her putter along with the hand trowel at her own slow pace in her own small space, but the way I do it is ten times faster, and she's in the way, so I come up behind her and start slamming the shingles loose and off the roof into the boxes we have lined up to catch them on the grass, and she gets worried and says, "You're going to push me off the roof, are you?"

And although I am mad and it's true our relationship has reached the point of hate in the last few months, the idea of killing her had never occurred to me. But now that she has mentioned it, it seems like a pretty good idea, and I have to stop moving my shovel a bit, to consider the rights and wrongs of such an action, the possible momentary gratification against the negative consequences, seeing we're up high on the roof, and we have neighbors who could be watching, and the truth is the fall on the grass might break some bones but probably would not kill her.

By now Courtney's moved to the edge of roof where the scaffolding is and she's climbing down. I continue working on the roof until itís almost dark, coming in every now and then to get a cold beer from the fridge. The beers loosen me up, give me a little more confidence, and the work actually moves alone more smoothly and becomes kind of fun. Fortunately, I have not swallowed enough brew to fall off the roof.

The next day she asks me if I'd like her to work with me again, but I give her a curt no. Iíll do the roof by myself no matter how long it takes. I don't say, you donít want to put me back in a place of temptation. I try to hold in my mind back to five years ago when we liked and loved each other. I keep waiting and trying to make the liking and loving come back, but nothingís working and everything it seems is my fault. Iíve got a list in my head. Sheís done four of the five. The hate and hurt has just about burned off all the love.



Chuck Taylor is a writer, photographer and children's magician who lives in the Texas hill country. He has a new book of poetry coming out from Hercules Press in late June called Being Beat. He last book was a memoir, The One True Cat. Other books are available at online bookstores.


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