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“Look at that car!!” George McHenry, waxing the hood, looks around. He recognizes the voice, piercing through the cold clear air, but not whence it comes. “Up here!” He smiles at the naked girl up on the roof across the street.


“Like it?” McHenry, age 40, got a promotion and decided to celebrate with a new Hyundai.


“Wait till the birds poop on it!” Patty says. They both laugh.


Patty is sitting her bare butt on the remains of the old shingles, expertly pounding in the stack of new ones she bought at Roger’s hardware store. Left-handed whacks with the hammer onto the broad-headed roofing nails are perfectly timed as she places each new shingle, two whacks per nail, two nails per shingle. These are galvanized, not like the old ones. With a tough bare heel she kicks away the old shingles as they fall to the side of the house.


Mrs. Turner, the tenant downstairs, sticks her head out the window. “Patty I didn’t think you’d be doing this so early!” It’s 8:15 a.m. on a Sunday.

“I’m sorry . . . I can do this later.” She has to get the kids ready for Mass anyway. And clean herself up too. “Thanks for the soup yesterday.” Mrs. Turner waves and her head disappears. Patty stands up and her hands riffle through her pubic hair, freeing all those specks of disintegrated asphalt. To get up here she had to shimmy up the brickface over the dormer, so there are scratches on her breasts and tummy and thighs.

Now she ascends with careful toe-grips up to the peak. Patty “respects” heights but is not afraid of them. She stands up atop the old house and breathes deeply, looking up at the blue sky. From here she can see all the way to downtown. She counts the steeples; there are twelve churches that she can see, including St. Joseph’s, where she will be in about two hours, in their favorite pew near the back. She smiles, hammer still in hand. Things have been turning out o.k. and she feels like there is nothing she can’t do.

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