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Before looking over the back of the sofa, I see the woman at the screen door watching me. She’s smoking a cigarette and has one hip out as if she’s impatient with me. Her attitude somehow suggests that if I don’t get on with it she’s going to come out here and do it herself, find Wayne’s head. She smokes like Lauren Bacall.

I look and Wayne’s not on the sofa. I am as relieved as if I have found him alive. I cut a glance at the woman that has a kind of See there? taunt to it. She can’t bully me around in my search. She can come out here herself if she’s so smart, my next long glance at her says. I’ve half a mind to walk in past her and get that beer and say, “Can’t find his head. Have you got a dog? Please go get some good beer, none of this Coors shit, and stop interfering with the search effort.” I am getting irrationally pissed off at this woman and her problem, which was a pissant wind-only leak in her half-million-dollar Texas-fake-ranch shit house, which had to be fixed, which cost me Wayne and Wayne his head. And Wayne’s dead, and she said it.

“Goddamn, lady,” I say to her, but not loud enough for her to hear it. Because — things are clear now that ordinarily are not, painful things are clear—I am afraid of her. I suddenly see that I am afraid of everybody in the world who has any balls. This woman could be indicted for her undeserved wealth and asshole lassitude and I’m an honest roofer and I am afraid of her.

Wayne’s head — I suddenly know where it is. I have known all along. It is in an open bucket of mastic, concealed in the stack of closed buckets, it will be there and I hope not facedown, and I know I’ll never know how the body got clear over there. Maybe Wayne ran over there. Hell, he probably walked over there intending to climb back up and find the bitch’s leak. He could have walked all around, for all I know; I was quivering on the ladder with white knuckles and closed eyes.

Wayne’s head is in profile in its bed of high-quality, low-asbestos asphalt pookie. As he would be, he is grinning. He looks alive. He looks like he is whispering. I look at the woman, still smoking. Is it the same cigarette or is she smoking a carton of cigarettes watching me?

I can’t hear Wayne. I kneel down.


He says something again I still can’t hear. I push the back of his head slightly into the pookie to turn his mouth up toward me.

“Tell that broad to come out here and give me a knobber,” Wayne says. I start laughing.

“I will,” I say. “Relax.”

Never in my life have I been so complete. I feel like Achilles, or whoever. The shit stops here, I vow. I have a bunch of pookie on my hand from handling Wayne and I Go-jo it off. I put some fresh Varsol on the hand tools — there are none on the roof I know of — close the compressor, take down the ladder, put it on the truck, look in the cooler, wash the Go-jo off in the ice water, dry my hands with a clean rag, put the rag through a belt loop, and walk into the house. My hands are chilled still from the ice water and I warm them by rubbing them together. It is as though I’ve come in from the cold. My hands feel strong and good.

The woman has backed away as if surprised or scared.

“Have you called anyone?” I ask.

“Called anyone?”

“I think it’s time. Let me have a beer.”

She just stands there. What is this? Lauren Bacall suffers sudden loss of composure.

The refrigerator is packed with every kind of packaged food there is. Wine in the door, exotic mustards, a lot of them. Hebrew National weenies, and nobody’s Jewish. The beer, when I find it, I know will be in whole, unbroken six-packs, or it will be in deli twos. I have a very good feeling about this particular fridge, though. These people are not far from Nolan Ryan, and I’ll bet they know him, and if Nolan drops in, Nolan will want more than two beers, two Löwenbräus. I dig through a bushel of produce, noting the absence of iceberg lettuce. If it weren’t for McDonald’s, iceberg lettuce wouldn’t have no luck at all. I sit down to take a longer look. Look at things from the underside. Pickle jars have a ring of little glass nibs around their lower rim, maybe for gripping? Silver-canned light Coors beer in tallboy, yes two six-packs. The woman is on the phone.

On the barstool I regard her. Not so bad.

“Who’s your husband with?” I ask.

“With?” she says, smiling, I think, rather too broadly.

“Work with.”

“The police are coming.”

“May I ask you what the roof leak damaged?”

“It wet the floor. Awful bleachy kind of stains.”

“I see.”

Something of Achilles has been lost, but not much.

“My friend Wayne wants you to give him a knobber.”



Some friend I am. Some friend I am. Some friend I am.

She bursts into tears. Violent sobbing that scares me. I get off the stool as if to run.

“What did you have to say that for?” she asks.

“Say what?”

“I see. In that way.”

“I take it back. I don’t see.”

“My husband—” she starts, and then is overcome with hard crying. She really is not bad at all. I have a vision of eating a meal with her, steaks handsomely char-broiled on the Jenn-Air, and later holding hands strolling the cattleless ranch with her. I have a vision of almost everything. My mind is spongy. “What the hell’s wrong with you?” I think to say to her, but it seems silly.

“There aren’t warts on character,” I tell her. “Character is nothing but warts. Character, ma’am, is plate tectonics. The mind is all buckle and shear, buckle and shear.” She pays no attention.

“Ma’am, I hope they get here soon. And I know you do, too. Your husband might be the sort people would kidnap for money, it occurred to me, but this is not probably the sort of thing rational people can afford to worry about.”

Wayne would not hurt a fly, but we had another worker once who had shot and killed a boy after a bar fight. At once I want to see him in this situation, and I do not. He would know what to do.

“Would you mind waiting outside?” I ask the woman.


“You go outside awhile. This is my house.”

She does! Just goes out.

The kid reappears, same kid with as near as I can tell same Popsicle, trotting in the same line. “No, you don’t,” I tell her, but she goes on in stride right out the door.

I wish Nolan Ryan would drop in.

The police arrive, arrest me for trespass, you figure that one. They’ve moved Wayne — I don’t see him as I go out, but since I’d taken down the ladder it’s possible I didn’t look exactly in the right place, had lost the bearing.