Up on the Roof, Out on a Limb

Part Six

(Part one) (Part two) (Part three) (Part four) (Part five)

I’ve learned over the years that, more often than not, the best way to get something is to ask. Taking the direct route cuts out ambiguity and saves everyone a lot of time. All the worst-case scenarios the mind conjures to convince you to take a step back and reconnoiter are little more than fear disguised as good judgment.

Audaces fortuna iuvat… fortune favors the bold, the saying goes. (Note to self… get Audaces fortuna iuvat printed on my next order of business cards.)

Besides, it worked with the sandwich, so I strode up the single step from the sidewalk and along the concrete path to the door underneath the numbers 1287 and rapped, with purpose, striking the solid, steel-encased door with my knuckles. Then I waited, listening for any sound that might indicate an imminent answer.

Nothing.

I pounded on the door with the side of my fist sending a dull thud echoing inside. Then I waited.

Nothing.

I tried the knob, but it was locked and so I decided to walk around the perimeter of the building to see if there were any windows I could peek through or other doors on which I might try my luck. The chain-link fence that outlined the parcel was only waist high along the walkway to the entry — a good sign that there were no guard dogs on the premises. I vaulted it with little trouble, pleased I hadn’t caught my trousers on the top and torn a hold in the leg, or worse. Then I made my way along a windowless wall toward the back. The ground sloped down sharply back toward the rear of the building where there was a back door to a lower level and a row of reinforced windows that ran about six feet off the ground.

The windows were the old kind with chicken wire pressed between two layers of thick glass. I pressed my face against the pane and cupped my hands around my eyes to give me shade enough that I might see something inside, but it was no use. Such windows allow light in, but little else apart from shadows and shapes. With no illumination from within there was nothing to see.

I rapped and waited, then pounded and waited to no avail once again, then made my way around the opposite wall and along the side back around to the front. The fence on that side was a full eight feet high, however, and so I doubled back, checking my watch to see how much time I had before the next bus. Forty-five minutes. Maybe enough time to grab a snack and a sweeps ticket at the corner bodega near the stop.

“Can I help you with something?”

The voice startled me as I rounded the corner, snapping my head up to see a short, brutish woman standing outside the door, now half open. Her hair was a dull brown, un-brushed, and had the appearance of having endured a weekend of hard neglect. Her pudgy face had all the right pieces: two eyes, a nose and a mouth; but they looked like spare parts affixed in the dark. Her shapeless, floral dress that hung halfway between her knees and the ground was poor camouflage for the surplus of body beneath.

“I’m sorry. I knocked but didn’t think anyone was here,” I offered in truthful response.

“We’re here,” she said, with a sinister inflection on the we’re.

Her fat, cracked lips drew back into something resembling a smile, revealing an incomplete set of teeth that would have had her dentist making plans for an early retirement. But I guessed it had been years since she’d rested her carcass in a dental chair, and that no such appointment was on her calendar.

“We’re here… and we ain’t too fond of strangers trespassing on our property.”

To be continued…