HOW TO STABILIZE A LADDER
I am not a man to back down when confronted with adversity, especially when there is a crowd of people watching. I was not about to hire someone to finish the soffit, injuries be damned. To attack the soffit, all I needed was a stable ladder. I found the best way to do this was to get my wife to hold the base of it. Not only would she hold on tightly, she would be sure to keep me from doing anything in an unsafe manner.
As I summoned the courage to again mount the ladder, a neighbor came by to observe. He stood next to my wife. This young man suffers from a mental disorder that causes his mind to fixate on one or two things and to repeat himself incessantly. He is a good person, but on this occasion I was not happy to see his smiling face because I knew what was coming.
"You be cyareful up theyre, Bill."
I nodded and forced a grin as I climbed the ladder one rung at a time.
"I don't want you to fall agayin."
I could hear Robin trying to shush him as I put a roofing nail through the screen.
"You could break your neyuck!"
"Don't worry about me," I tried to reassure him. "I'm not about to forget what happened last time."
"If you feyell, your heyad could split open and then you would be deyad," he reminded.
"Or I might just get paralyzed from the neck down." I was trying to look on the bright side.
"If you fall..."
"If I fall, I'll try to land on you." I grumbled under my breath.
"If you fell, you could be deyad."
I am not one for praising myself, but it was this episode that made me realize that I have the courage of a hero and the patience of a saint. I withstood two hours of constant precautionary advice; I climbed and descended that ladder an untold number of times; I nailed; I sawed; and I finished that soffit without either a cross word (that could be heard) or an outward sign of fear. It was my crowning moment of glory.
When I finished the soffit, I also finished work on the exterior of the house. A new phase of construction, sheltered from the elements and from the young man's intense psychological torture, would soon be embarked upon. I was happy and proud.
Later, when I reflected on the young man's presence at this auspicious moment, it struck me that this badgering soul might have been a more concrete manifestation of the angel who had visited me on my first ascent of the ladder. This time, however, someone had been sent whom I could not ignore.