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Papa Joe  ~  Biographical Stories

From: Papa Joe

To: Storytell

Subject: Re: When you think your number is up...

Date: May 11, 1997 1:24 AM



To: Storytell@VENUS.TWU.EDU

Subject: When you think your number is up..

Date: Sunday, May 11, 1997 1:24 AM

Chuck Larkin and I have been trading a few real life stories. He suggested that I post this to the list to see if it generates any similar stories.

<their stories snipped, my own follows>


I was building a barn back in the0's. It was a strange job as the old barn was being torn down while the new barn was put up. The plan was to do the job, section by section, starting from the back and working to the front. That way there would always be some place to store the collection of (to be polite) things. The back section of the new barn was almost finished - with one side of it roofed, when the first winter storm of the season approached.

Armed with a roll of thick plastic sheeting and a staple gun, I covered the openings of the old and new barns. You might imagine a large barn in three sections. Front third, old - middle third, missing - last third, new. If you stood in the middle, you'd be standing on a pile of broken stone and rubble - looking at the tall clear plastic walls closing off the other two sections. All that was left to be done, was to cover the unfinished half of the new section's roof and the job would be safe until Spring.

I climbed to the roof and crawled up the edge heading for the peak, letting the plastic sheeting open behind me. Just a few more minutes and I would have the job done and those ominous gray clouds could drop all the snow they wanted.

As I reached the peak, the sheeting slipped beneath me. I'll tell you - there is nothing more slippery than new plastic sheeting on new plastic sheeting. I felt myself propelled sidewards about four feet off the roof - into the gap between the barns.

Time stopped. I hung over thirty feet in the air. Stretched out prone and facing down. The roof on my left too far away to grab - the pile of broken stones and rubble beneath me. I knew if I went down my body would be broken. Even if I did not die on impact, the coming snow would cover my body and it wouldn't be found until a thaw. I knew I was as good as dead.

Just beyond my reach, a single by inch board stuck out from the peak of the new barn. It was one of the overlaps which would strengthen the connection to the unbuilt middle. I could see it was out of reach. Then time exploded. It was as if all the time I had spent suspended in the air had been compressed and then released.

I found myself hanging by one hand. Gripping that by board with my finger tips. It wasn't possible, but I was there. I reached up and got a grip with my other hand and pulled myself over toward the peak of the new roof. There was no place to go but back on the roof or slide down the face of the barn to the pile below. So I pulled myself up, straddled the peak, and shook uncontrollably for who knows how long.

A while later, with the first snowflakes falling, I finished covering the roof. As I sat in the cab of my little black truck, the event rolled through my mind. Every detail washing over me again and again. I don't know how long it took to pass. The snow had begun to pile up before I was calm enough to drive. But it was a longer time before I stopped seeing my broken body lying on that pile of broken stone and rubbish, covered with a blanket of fresh white snow.

Pax & Amicitia,

Papa Joe

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