The Saturday after Kate was let go, she and Riley climbed to the roof to clean the gutters. The building Riley supered was seven stories tall, a one-hundred-year-old apartment building overlooking the freeway, and the roof was where it really showed its age. The brick edges crumbled away, dark with mold and the rusty weepings of the gutters. The traffic noise from the Interstate was so rumblingly loud as to be a physical presence: a river or a storm sheering against a coastline.
“You’re sure you don’t want me to do it, hon?” Riley asked her.
Kate pulled the safety harness up around her waist. “I’m learning a new skill for my resume,” she said. She meant the words to be reassuring, but they tasted bitter, and Riley looked away. “I’ll never learn if I don’t do.”
She tied herself in, picked up her trowel and rubber gloves, kissed Riley, and stepped to the rim of the roof.
Any idiot could muck a gutter—any idiot could learn to do any job, Kate figured, with enough practice. She wasn’t doing it to learn a new skill. She was doing it for the way the moldy black leaves dropped until they disappeared, for the cinch of the nylon harness around her hips, for the gravitron pull in her stomach and the knowledge that she would not come to harm. Up here, at least, she could fall and the world would catch her.
Ian Denning’s work has appeared in Five Chapters, Washington Square Review, New Ohio Review, and elsewhere. He edits prose for Lettered Streets Press and fiction for Pacifica Literary Review. He lives in Seattle.