The piece I wrote over at Thinking Ten a couple of weeks ago. As it was inspired by my own recent efforts to put a new roof over my head, it sort of ties in with the home improvemnet mode I find myself hard into. Anyway it was based on the prompt - "What else should I be?"
“What else should I be? Or better yet, what else could I be? I’ve been pounding nails for……….”
“Don’t give me that crap Ben, You love building. You also love to whine. Now hand me that lead flashing and let’s finish this bitch.”
Ben and Rene had grown up on the same street in the same factory owned houses in the same mill town many years ago. Just as they hit high school, the woolen mills shut down and moved south. With no jobs to go to, they decided they would become builders. At eighteen years old, they were sure it would be easy.
Those first years were rough. Between them they barely had a clue of which end of the hammer to hold. They fed off the crumbs and bones tossed them by other builders more established and experienced. Rip and tear jobs, rehab projects for shady slum lords looking for the cheapest possible fixes, roofing too high for the regular crews in town. They built their business doing what no one else wanted.
All this ran through Rene’s mind as he scrambled up the 10 pitch roof to grab the lead flashing. He reached down to pick it up and realized something. They were back where they started. Over the previous 40 years they had built a strong business. They had owned lots of equipment, ran lots of crews, and pissed through millions of dollars. And what had it gotten them? Both of them alone again at 60 years old on some roof low ball bidding just to put food on the table again. **
Handing the lead flashing to Ben, Rene started in again. “Ben we are back where we started. 40 years of hard work and what do we have? Yeah, we both own our homes, and we both managed to save the best trucks and some tools after the bank was through with us. But…………” Rene looked off into the distance over the town they had lived and would likely die in.
“But what?” Ben was not the philosopher of the duo. He was a simple man. Give him a job to do, he did it. Anything else was a waste of time.
“Well, I was just thinking about how we always seem to end up where we began. Ashes to ashes and all that shit. Ever think about that?”
Ben sighed hard. Rene was not in the working groove today. He stopped tapping the lead into shape around the corner of the brick work of the chimney and stood up. He put a hand on Rene’s shoulder and looked at him. “Bottom line guy, are you happy?”
Rene looked at Ben. Then they both looked out over the community that had fed and clothed them for so many years.
“Yeah Ben, I guess I am. Standing here on a roof with you makes me happy.......... Now let’s finish this bitch.”