This morning a continuation of the wonderful weather everyone’s been enjoying the past few weeks; mid-October, early fall, Indian summer. Cool, mid-fifty degree mornings; warm, mid-70s afternoons, balmy breezes (even when it’s windy it feels great), sunny day after idyllic sunny day, the absolute best time of year in this state of extreme weather and rough attitudes.
This morning, as I look out my window across the vast rear-parking lot from where I work, they’re getting ready to put a new roof on the church, the church on the corner, the big corner; the church I attended a long time ago.
A flat-bed truck, backed up to the edge of the two-and-a-half to three story building, three guys unloading the bundles of shingles from the truck onto a conveyor, the angle close to forty-five degrees, but it looks almost straight up, and about a dozen guys on the roof, carrying the shingles in relay, and in early, cool morning hustle. In fifteen minutes, incredibly, they’re done with that job; the bundles are all up on the roof, stacked in their packages three-high, spread out in lines from one end of the roof to the other, also the two large gables in back and one in front; there are multiple roofs here, a multi-dimensional building to be sure, tall and brick and 50s and stately.
The shingles are stacked just below the roof’s peak, so that plenty of room is left to begin tearing off the old shingles, which is what the roofers are doing now, an hour later. I’ve done just enough of that to know: it’s one of the two hardest jobs there is, construction-wise (working concrete being another), and to also know I would never want to do it for a living; I never want to do it again. The other parts of shingle roofing are, actually, equally as hard: on your knees three-fourths of the time, lifting heavy bundles and, when it’s hot and the sun’s glare is bouncing off that roof, when, if the temperature’s 95 on the ground it has to be at least 115 on the roof, if not Dante’s Inferno revisited; it’s not for me. And, you have to learn to walk like you grew up on the side of a very steep mountain, forever dealing with the risk of tripping and falling over the edge, and stepping on the ladder each time, to descend, to get to terra firma, is tricky business too.
It just isn’t easy, working with shingles. And it must not be too easy for the people of this church; just three days ago they held a double memorial service for a married couple, members of this church since it was built in the early 50s, both of them in their nineties, and still vital, but somehow naive enough to pick up a young couple, boy and girl, nineteen and seventeen, from New Jersey, who had already started on a murderous crime spree. The boy, John Esposito, has confessed to the murders; he said he always picked older people for victims, because they were easy prey. His uncle, whom he worked for, is a convicted New Jersey mobster. The bodies of the elderly couple, Mr. and Mrs. Sinclair, were found near Adrian, Texas, in that state’s panhandle, and the criminals are still in Durango, Colorado, where they were captured, awaiting extradition to Georgia to face the music for their first murder, an elderly lady who I suppose was also naive, but the people of this church on the corner, where I’m watching the roofers, they have to have faith, and why? Because God is getting a new roof over his head, that’s why, and you can’t ask for any more than that, can you?
As I turn again and look out the window, and watch the dozen-and-a half men up on the roof of the church, walking and working, eighty to a hundred feet up in the air, the length of the roof maybe a good three hundred feet; as I watch these men work I can see -it’s a long trip, with small steps.
Richard Dixon is a retired high-school Special Education teacher and tennis coach living in Oklahoma City. He has had poems and essays published in Crosstimbers, Westview, Walt’s Corner of the Long Islander, Texas Poetry Calendar, Cybersoleil, Dragon Poet Review as well as numerous anthologies including the Woody Guthrie compilations in 2011 and 2012 and Clash by Night, an anthology of poems related to the 1979 breakthrough album by the Clash, London Calling.
He has been a featured reader at Full Circle Bookstore in Oklahoma City, Benedict Street Marketplace in Shawnee, Norman Depot as well as the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival in Ada and the Woody Guthrie poetry readings in Okemah.