Thursday, November 19, 2015
(shedding a little light on a dreary week ... )
“Ain’t you done up there yet?”
For answer, Gil trowled a mass of damp leaves out of the house’s gutter and dumped them on where he hoped Louie’s head was. A ripe oath signified a near-miss. “Hold it steady. I’m coming down.”
Half the house finished; the other half to go. Louie and Gil repositioned the ladder, and Gil trudged up the steps again. The trees around his house were already bare. Where the hell were all these leaves coming from?
“Y’know,” Louie said, “this’d go a lot faster if you’d get on the roof.”
“Yes, it would,” Gil said through gritted teeth. “If I could get on the roof. But the windows are too small for me to crawl through, and all we’ve got is an eight-foot folding ladder for a twelve-foot house. Neither it nor I am tall enough to safely get me onto the roof. Note the word ‘safely.’ Chloe said if I break my neck, she’ll come out and break my ass.” His higher vantage, while not enough to get him past gutter level, did give him a fine view of the street, and the pre-adult audience gathered there. “What are all those kids doing here?”
“Watching you risk your neck. Must be a slow day in town.”
Gil shaded his eyes. “Are they selling popcorn?”
“And peanuts. Y’want some?”
“Eat me with hot sauce. Hey, you kids! Get out’a here!” His audience jeered and treated him to various imaginative hand gestures.
“Izzat fat kid—yeah, he’s takin’ bets. Hey, you! Yeah, you in the yellah shirt. What species are you?”
“Rat!” the plump kid yelled back with a pumpkin grin.
“That’s what I figured. What odds you got on a broken leg?”
“Hey, the kid’s an enterprenooer. He should be encouraged.”
“I ought’a encourage this trowel right up your ass. Why don’t you get on the roof? You’re a rat. Shimmy up the drainpipe.”
“With this gut? Are you nuts? My shimmying days are behind me. You’re a squirrel. You shimmy.”
“I’m only a squirrel during a full moon.” Gil jabbed the trowel at the cool November sun. “Does that look like a full moon to you?”
“No.” Louie dropped his drawers and wagged his ample butt at the man above him. The kids along the sidewalk applauded. “Does this?”
Gil shot him the finger, and earned a cheer from his audience. “Ha ha friggin’ ha.”
A puff of breeze came up, and swirled dead leaves through the air and onto the roof. They tumbled into the gutter like they were drawn by magnets. Gil swore heartily.
Wait a minute. Those big brown things weren’t clumps of leaves. Not with those whiskers and tails.
The twin rodents glided expertly down from the branches of a nearby tree, borne aloft on stretched membranes of skin between their fore- and hind paws. They landed lightly on the roof and shifted into a pair of 13-year-olds, a boy and a girl. Naked, naturally. Gil hastily averted his eyes from the girl’s budding tits. Down below, Louie did the same.
Out on the sidewalk, the crowd went wild, at least until the girl shouted, “Knock it off, ya idjits.” She pointed at her incisors. “We’re rodents. We gnaw. And we go right for the giblets.” She turned to her brother. “Feel like filling your cheek pouches, Ricky?”
The audience dispersed post-haste. This pair must be known in the neighborhood.
Gil suddenly realized he knew them too. “Ricky?” he said, with his hand over his eyes. “June? Bertram’s kids?”
“Yeah,” June said. “Aunt Chloe called, said you needed help. Dad sent us over.”
“Aunt Chloe said you’d pay us twenty-five dollars to clean out the gutters,” Ricky added. “Apiece.”
“Are you kidding me?” Gil dropped his hand, spotted June’s grinning face, and slapped his palm over his eyes again before his gaze could accidentally drop lower. “Tell me you brought clothes with you.”
“Under the tree, on the other side of the house.”
“I’m on it.” Louie took off at a waddle.
Gil studiously stared out over the nearly-bare trees and listened to June and Ricky get to work. When Louie returned he passed the twins’ clothes up to Gil, who left them on the roof along with the trowel. He eased his way down the ladder.
“It’s okay,” Louie said. “The girl’s got a dress on now. You can’t see nothing unless you look—” Louie caught Gil’s glare and turned, setting his back to the house. “You can’t see nothing. You know those two?”
“They’re relatives of Chloe’s. Flying squirrels. Wish I’d thought of them sooner.” He brushed bits of leaf off his sweater.
“There you are.” Chloe came around the house to kiss her husband on the cheek, and pat Louie on the arm. “I see the kids made it. Hope you’re in the mood for walnut cookies. And for baby-changing.”
“And that’s my cue.” Louie said. “I’m out’a here.”