There’s a Man on the Roof

                                              “There’s a man on the roof,” I said to my Duke University roommate. “How did he get there?” “You won’t believe this. He climbed up the bricks of the Chemistry building from the bottom using his fingers, shoes, and balance all the way to the roof.” “I’ve never seen anything like it. How long did it take him?” “I’ve been watching him since I first saw him half of the way up.” “Do you know him?” “Yeah. That’s Dave Craven.” “Hey, I know him!” “He’s the psychology major who wants to study ESP. Remember when he hypnotized you?” “That was when I met him two weeks ago. Look, he’s starting to come down now.” “Notice how he slides his fingers to the next point to find the lower line of bricks to come down.” “I’d never do it. I’m afraid of heights. What balance! Is he a gymnast?” “No. He goes rock climbing.”He carefully grabbed the top of a window to the third floor, swung to the window ledge, and placed one foot on the bottom of the ledge. “What agility.” “Foolishness if he falls.” “Hope he finishes soon.” Our classmates were gathering at the entrance to the Drama building to witness live drama from the Duke Players doing T. S. Eliot’s "Murder in the Cathedral." I thought from Dave’s angle the freshman class of eight hundred must have looked like a herd of blue ducks in formal clothing with their required Duke-blue dinks on their heads oblivious to Dave’s climbing, just a misstep from his death. “We still have plenty of time. The ushers have to seat every freshman before they begin.” “He’s walking along the second floor ledge about to drop down one level. Let’s go.” “We have to critique T. S. Eliot’s play, so get us two seats up front.” “OK. Hurry, so the ushers don’t close the doors.” Dave reached the top of the first floor window ledge and began to drop as I beckoned, “The ushers will shut the doors soon. Hurry, Dave.” “Relax. I’ll make it. A few more feet and a jump.”The last of the line had reached the concrete steps and were about to enter the doors manned by ushers wearing dark suits, white shirts, and ties. Unbelievably, Dave had climbed the entire height up and down a four-story brick building in a grey sports coat, slacks, blue pinstriped shirt, and maroon tie, but he wisely wore tennis shoes. I raced up the steps yelling, “Keep the doors open; another student’s coming. My roommate saved seats for us.” The skinny usher said. “We have instructions to close the doors at 7. The play begins in a minute. Your friend can’t make it.” “Please let him in.”Dave jumped to the ground; his class of 1962 blue dink fell. He retrieved the cap; and put it on as all freshmen were required to the first month of freshmen orientation. A white “62” embroidered on the front above the short bill made the freshmen resemble Donald Duck. I raced to the door, showed my I.D., and shoved my foot against the door. Dave ran behind me, sweat dripping from his face shouting, “Hold the door open.” “You’re late,” said the skinny usher. He began to close the door, but my foot blocked it, as did the muscular usher’s body. Dave leaped at the door, swung it open, and knocked down the muscular usher. He helped that usher onto his feet, brushed him off, and said, “Thanks for holding the door open for me.” That usher smiled, “Enjoy the play. You earned it by your balancing act, agility, and strength. I’m the captain of Duke’s rock-climbing team. You’re going to enjoy the steep mountain rocks we climb. Oh. Dean Jones, what’s the matter?” “I’ve heard a report,” the Dean of the freshmen said, with a worried expression. He gazed up, and looked around. The lights went down, and the play started. He said in the dark, “There’s a man on the roof?”

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This entry was posted in Fiction, Humor, Miscellaneous, Short Story and tagged , , by Daniel C. Lavery. Bookmark the permalink.

About Daniel C. Lavery

Dan’s writing shows his transformation from a child to an athlete and a Duke pre-ministerial student where he began to question ancient and arbitrary dogma. He graduated from Annapolis, navigated a Navy jet, and a ship to Vietnam, fell in love, turned peace activist and a civil rights lawyer for Cesar Chavez's UFW. His memoir, "All the Difference," describes the experiences, some humorous and others deadly, that changed his consciousness from a pawn to an advocate crusading for justice against some of the most powerful forces in America.

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