September 5, 2016, part B
A brief history of a ladder and a driveway
That driveway. It didn’t used to be lumpy and gravelly. It was, and then it wasn’t, and then it was again. At first, it was gravelly and losing pieces of blacktop. In retrospect, I like it that way. Never fix anything!
Here’s what happens. It’s a lovely September day. We’ve been out running errands, nothing of huge importance, but just enjoying the time together. John, me, and all that good feeling. Wasn’t life grand!
We arrive home, and John says, “I’ll get the ladder and blow leaves off the roof before coming in.”
You know what’s coming. The dusk before the dawn. The pride before the fall. The innocence before the disaster. Maybe all at once.
It’s a flat roof, ten feet from the ground. John’s done this dozens of times. Sometime I stay to hold the ladder, sometimes I don’t. It’s never necessary. Mostly, I’m the cheering section. Nine parts that, one part the nervous lady who says, “You be careful.”
People don’t listen.
You say and you say, and people don’t listen.
Dad fell off a ladder once while trying to exterminate a nest of hornets high in a tree. But that was Dad. A long time before. Dad. My mom watched him fall, heard him say goodbye to her on the way down. She screamed. Bang!
Broken wrist, broken leg, compressed fracture of the vertebrae. He had to get all his pants altered, but at least he survived. Two inches he lost in that instant.
I’m not much thinking of that. John and I have had such a good afternoon. There’s no reason that can’t continue. Whipped cream. That’s our life. Whipped cream and strawberries.
I go inside to check phone messages—nothing urgent, just the next reasonable thing to do after you’ve been out. And that’s what I’m doing when—
The aluminum ladder.
John’s dropped it, that’s all. It’s okay. Just a ladder hitting the driveway before the set-up, and I can certainly continue listening to messages.
Except that was a loud clang!
Is that John’s voice?
I feel: run!
But I’ve so often been given the business when I’ve sprinted to a wrong sound, I don’t run. Cool it, Sue. There’s nothing wrong. Don’t run and look foolish. He just dropped the ladder before propping it against the house.
I exit the front door. I’m not on the run, but I do exit, and there’s John standing in a half-crouch beside the ladder which is flat on the ground. The leaf-blower is down, too. I run.
Blood streams from the bridge of John’s nose. It’s where his glasses cut him, where the ladder hit him when it landed on him. I circle back into the house and grab the phone, punch in 9-1-1 as I u-turn and come out during the ring.
“You aren’t calling 9-1-1,” says John.
“I certainly am.”
The man can’t move. Can’t straighten up. I certainly am.
The lady on the other end says, “Can he sit down?”
“I don’t know.”
“It’s okay if he can’t.”
And she tells me to get a cloth and dab his face. I bring out the cloth. John grabs it from me and wipes his face.
“No!” That’s me.
Because he’s so cut, there are pieces of scraped flesh sticking out, and he does that. I take away the cloth, and a policewoman arrives.
“What year is it?” she asks him.
“You ask the hard questions,” he says.
“John! Don’t make jokes.”
Maybe it doesn’t matter.
John—he fell off the ladder and hurt himself so badly. He got to his feet, sort of, somehow, but now he can’t move at all. Just stands in that half-crouch until the ambulance arrives.
The ambulance crew takes him away, and I push the ladder to the side so I can follow in the car. Afterwards, I pull the ladder to the curb. Take that!
Almost laughable that later, our neighbor across the street asks if he can have it to build a scaffolding so he can do work on his house. Sure! Why shouldn’t everybody fall?
John loses almost two inches with a compressed fracture of the vertebrae. He can’t walk for a week, and misses several for work.
All because we’ve recently repaved the driveway. Smooth, now, and no longer rutted, so when John climbs the ladder and is just stepping off onto the roof with a leaf-blower in his hand, the ladder, which no longer meets any resistance, slips right out from under him.
The driveway needs repaving again.