THURSDAY: Gutter Guy


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“WHERE THE hell have you been, China?” I asked when Chris pulled into the driveway.

“No, that was last year, remember?”

I remembered. Chris had told me while clambering around on our roof one autumn — me looking up at him, shielding my eyes from the sun — that he was starting a business supplying pizza places in Winnipeg with ingredients. “You know, cheese, pepperoni, mushrooms, stuff like that,” he’d said.

And last year he’d gone to China to see about getting some canned pineapples cheap and maybe a couple of other things that I couldn’t recall. Come to think of it, he’d “skyped” me from China, to make an appointment to clean the eaves troughs when he got back.

“But this year I was in Moscow, at a food convention,” he continued. “And I got arrested. Actually, I didn’t get arrested in Moscow but in St Petersburg. You see, the price to take the train from Moscow to St Petersburg was more than 600 dollars but I saw where I could get there cheaper by plane. So I flew to Amsterdam, stayed overnight and then flew to Prague and from there to St Petersburg.”

Chris climbed out of his station wagon, paused to light a cigarette and pull an extension ladder off the roof rack. “So it was actually when I landed in St Petersburg that they arrested me. How was I to know that the ‘OT’ stamped on my visa meant ‘one time,’” he said, “as in ‘one time entry into Russia.’”

“Anyway they threw me in jail and left me there all night and I’m telling you I got the fleas bad. The next morning, some army guys came to get me, marched me onto a plane, got me seated and took off my handcuffs in front of the other passengers. You should have seen the looks I got.

“Man was I glad to get out of there and back to Amsterdam where I spent the night in the shower trying to get rid of those dam fleas.”

He started to climb the ladder that he’d placed against the side of the house and paused halfway up. “And you know where I’m going next? France,” he continued. “Next summer. I’m going to look into making my own cheese. I’ve got all sorts of plans to expand the business.”

“Listen,” I said, “I’ve been thinking of writing a little story about you, thought of calling it ‘The Entrepreneur.’ Would that be okay?”

“Sure,” he said, “but I’d call it ‘Gutter Guy.’”

He climbed a few more rungs before pausing and stopping to look down at me. “Say,” he asked, “did I ever tell you about the time I almost fell off a roof?

“It was wet and I slipped. It was only my foot getting caught in the eaves trough as I went over the edge that saved me. The guy that was working for me froze when he saw me dangling there. I had to yell at him to come and grab me. Afterwards, when I asked him what he’d been thinking about he told me he was wondering what the hell he’d say to my wife and who was going to pay him.

“You can put that in your story too.”

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