A few years up until I went off to college, my
father managed a condo on the beach
and I was
13 or so. In the off season, there were few kids
to play with on the island. The off season
9 months out of the year.
The condo was only 7 stories high and
overlooked the beach. It too, was empty most
of the year. We moved every 3 or 4 years
around on that island all during my childhood ,
so I saw it as my duty to investigate each new
dwelling, each new apartment with its back
alleys, creaky porches, and barren city blocks.
It only took me a month at the condos to
discover the garbage chute that ran through all
7 floors and collected in a dumpster on the
Getting stuck in a garbage chute just wasn't
creative enough for me , so I ventured to the top
floor to inspect where the chute began. Inside
the little room and above the chute's door,
there was a short ladder that led to a crude
flap of a window sized door . It was
padlocked. Hmm. My dad had all the keys to
every lock in this building.
I quickly rummaged through my dad's office
until I found the key marked "roof", and
ambled back upstairs. We were supposed to
be meeting some friends of the family's for
dinner that night, but I figured I had time .
I climbed the ladder and sat on the ledge of the
door, fumbling the key into the lock without
any light except what was coming through the
sides of the door. Everything I touched was
slick and soft like driftwood , I guess from the
The roof was flat with no guardrails or divider
between it and the edges of the building. It was
nothing special, and I didn't plan to be up there
for long anyway, so I turned back to the door.
As I did, a gust of wind pulled it shut, and
there was no knob on the outside.
I yanked with my fingers around the edges of
the door to no avail. I imagined that the tongue
and groove latch was well sutured, and that the
soft wood was creating a nice fusion.
I peered over the side where all the railings
were below, the opposite of the oceanside . I
was thinking if I was brave enough , I could
dangle over the side and swing my body until
the inertia carried me under and onto the 7th
Then I thought of the oceanside's porches, the
balconies to the individual condos. There, all
I'd have to do would be jump down; they had
no cover. But then I'd have to break through
some poor retired man's glass patio door and
even if it was empty, I wasn't prepared to
explain that to my dad.
So I thought of the wimpiest way out, while I
waited for my parents to eventually wonder
where I was. Being the only child , I was often
searched for after about an hour. I began to
hurl loose pieces of ply wood that were on the
roof, trying to aim for the windows of our own
apartment, thinking if someone saw wood
flying by, they'd at least look up.
My dad finally came out and looked up to see
the little dot of my red face peering off the side
of the roof. He unlatched the door and I
followed him downstairs; neither of us spoke.
We didn't get to go out to dinner that night, and
my father didn't say a word to me. My father
never laid a hand on me when I was growing
up, but he was the size of father that scared
other children . All he did was yell at me, and
loud. Later that night, my mother told me he
was so terrified that he could barely speak at