Eastern Standard Tribe – Day 40 of 64


Once the blood coursing from my shins slows and clots, I take an opportunity to inspect the damage more closely. The cuts are relatively shallow, certainly less serious than they were in my runamuck imagination, which had vivid slashes of white bone visible through the divided skin. I cautiously pick out the larger grit and gravel and turn my attention spinewards.

I have done a number on my back, that much is certain. My old friends, the sacroiliac joints, feel as tight as drumheads, and they creak ominously when I shift to a sitting position with my back propped up on the chimney’s upended butt, the aluminum skirting cool as a kiss on my skin. They’re only just starting to twinge, a hint of the agonies to come.

My jaw, though, is pretty bad. My whole face feels swollen, and if I open my mouth the blood starts anew.

You know, on sober reflection, I believe that coming up to the roof was a really bad idea.

I use the chimney to lever myself upright again, and circle it to see exactly what kind of damage I’ve done. There’s a neat circular hole in the roof where the chimney used to be, gusting warm air into my face as I peer into its depths. The hole is the mouth of a piece of shiny metal conduit about the circumference of a basketball hoop. When I put my head into it, I hear the white noise of a fan, somewhere below in the building’s attic. I toss some gravel down the conduit and listen to the report as it pings off the fan blades down below. That’s a good, loud sound, and one that is certain to echo through the building.

I rain gravel down the exhaust tube by the handful, getting into a mindless, shuffling rhythm, wearing the sides of my hands raw and red as I scrape the pebbles up into handy piles. Soon I am shuffling afield of the fallen chimney, one hand on my lumbar, crouched over like a chimp, knees splayed in an effort to shift stress away from my grooved calves.

I’m really beating the shit out of that poor fan, I can tell. The shooting-gallery rattle of the gravel ricocheting off the blades is dulling now, sometimes followed by secondary rattles as the pebbles bounce back into the blades. Not sure what I’ll do if the fan gives out before someone notices me up here.

It’s not an issue, as it turns out. The heavy fire door beyond the chimney swings open abruptly. A hospital maintenance gal in coveralls, roly-poly and draped with tool belts and bandoliers. She’s red-faced from the trek up the stairs, and it gives her the aspect of a fairy tale baker or candy-seller. She reinforces this impression by putting her plump hands to her enormous bosom and gasping when she catches sight of me.

It comes to me that I am quite a fucking sight. Bloody, sunburnt, wild-eyed, with my simian hunch and my scabby jaw set at a crazy angle to my face and reality both. Not to mention my near nudity, which I’m semipositive is not her idea of light entertainment. “Hey,” I say. “I, uh, I got stuck on the roof. The door shut.” Talking reopens the wound on my jaw and I feel more blood trickling down my neck. “Unfortunately, I only get one chance to make a first impression, huh? I’m not, you know, really crazy, I was just a little bored and so I went exploring and got stuck and tried to get someone’s attention, had a couple accidents… It’s a long story. Hey! My name’s Art. What’s yours?”

“Oh my Lord!” she said, and her hand jumps to the hammer in its bandolier holster on her round tummy. She claws at it frantically.

“Please,” I say, holding my hands in front of me. “Please. I’m hurt is all. I came up here to get some fresh air and the door swung shut behind me. I tripped when I knocked over the chimney to get someone’s attention. I’m not dangerous. Please. Just help me get back down to the twentieth floor—I think I might need a stretcher crew, my back is pretty bad.”

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