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Mack Williams: Taking it to another level

Mack Williams

Just the other morning, I heard voices from outside, overhead, and to the right. I’m used to the sound of muffled voices to my left from the other half of the duplex; but these were to my right and skyward, and there’s no apartment there.
Since it was morning, and there were skyward voices, I started to wonder if it were “That great gettin’ up morning,” and the Rapture had occurred, with me left behind (as I have sometimes feared.). I began to ponder the difficulty I would have navigating my car around all those “abandoned” (as the bumper sticker had promised) cars on the road. I then imagined the last thing those “travelers” having done in this life being the slapping on of an amendment to the original bumper sticker, saying: “See, I told you.”
But when I looked out my glass sliding doors, all I saw were (in a paraphrase of the name of the old Elizabeth Taylor movie): “Men on a cold shingled roof.”
I guess the record-setting rainfall from the recent tropical storms had “revealed a weakness” (“Star Wars” lingo) in the neighbor’s roof.
There were 4 or 5 men spread out fairly evenly on that roof. We are all used to seeing shirtless, muscular and sinewy roofers sweltering as they labor in the Summer heat; but this was a cold morning, and they were fully clothed. Though their muscles were covered, there seemed to be not an ounce of fat among them (you never see a corpulent man working “Up on the roof,” for too much of his work energy would have to be applied to his ascent, overcoming gravity, and all). I chose the word “corpulent” as it sounds less offensive, and because its wonderful Latin-ness would please my long-departed East Rowan Latin teacher, Mrs. Thayer Puckett.

In Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” Caesar speaks of “Fat, sleek-headed men and such as sleep a-nights.” Well, these roofing men are neither fat nor sleek-headed (as far as I can tell with their caps on); and they also “sleep a-nights,” but it’s due to having put forth a truly hard day’s work ! (it just now occurs to me that Mrs. Puckett would be glad that I also brought up Caesar).

But I will not hesitate to use that “other word” in regards to myself — there have been times in my life when I have been fat (more or less, or less or more).
The men had a portable radio there blaring the music of a Southern Rock station (perhaps “John Boy &Billy”); but the decibels were nothing for the neighborhood to get huffy about, for this was not “party music,” but instead “work music.”
The work sounds of hammering and scraping continued through the radio station’s music, news, and advertisements, the roofers own particular form of “percussion” being “No. 1” on their “Billboard” (although one older man did venture into the vocal world with his rendition of “The Duke of Earl.”).
Later on, driving by the front of the house, I saw where these roofers had mounted a sign in the front yard bearing the name of their company, in a sense, asking the passerby public to look up and behold their work.
This, and their nice, labeled trucks proved they were professionals, with company name out in the open for all to see. The “jack-leg,” on the other hand, desires only the advertisement of the plackard-less “budget grapevine.”
Shortly after 5 p.m. the music stopped, the men came down from the roof, and their workday was done. I thought about office workers going from the building where they work, to the building where they make their home. In my mind, I contrasted this with the roofers basically, “going in.”

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