Published Humanitas, Volume IX, No. 2, 1996

At first, Jim thought he could go on as before. He got up at five-thirty each morning, loaded his tar-stained truck with industrial buckets containing extension cords, power saws, nails and hammers. He spent the entire week on a Pacific Heights rooftop, unrolling new roofing strips, nailing them down. Late Friday afternoon he finished tarring the nailheads around the rain gutters. When he leaned over the edge and lowered the tar buckets down the old climbing lines, he couldn’t help but see the three floor drop in terms of achievable velocity. It wouldn’t be enough.

He gazed beyond the neighborhood roofs to the Golden Gate. Speck-sized white sails dipped on the waves of the bay like flower petals tossed on the water. They reminded him of how cars used to look the higher he and Alex went on a climb in Yosemite. The vision brought back Alex, and those summers after he had saved Jim’s life. Jim hadn’t seen Alex in ten years. The last he’d heard was that Alex had gone to Death Valley.


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