With the Quickness
Paint dripped from the pail. The paintbrush skimmed the surface of the ecru colored paint. Cary Murty edged the lines at the building in an adequate fashion. His apprentice, Lamar Givens prepared the mix of the ecru with an even whiter paint: ghost white. Murty motioned for Givens to retrieve something from the work truck.
“Hey, boy, go and fetch me that ladder,” Murty said.
Givens snapped to and obeyed the command with the quickness. He took out the ladder and proceeded back to the house to the wall where Murty prepared to paint.
“Hey, boy, go and get my blowtorch. It’s beneath the tool chest in the truck’s bay,” He said.
On the Rungs
Givens never hesitated to meet the request. He returned to the truck and unlocked the box which housed the blowtorch. He also eyed two pairs of goggles, an apron, and gloves. He extracted those items from their home and hustled back to the wall. Murty forgot about the paint and tended to the tool that could burn a hole through virtually anything.
“Boy, I need you to bring back my….”
“....Goggles, gloves, and apron. Here you go,” Givens said.
“Well, boy, you catch on quick, don’t you?”
“Yeah, well, watch me work this. But stand back and put on….” He stopped.
Givens pulled out a pair of goggles and placed them over his eyes.
Murty marveled at this but didn’t speak it or show it. He just went to work.
He examined the ladder. His hands went over the rungs, the rails and each point where the ladder had been nicked or dented. He then donned the apron and mask and gloves and lit the torch.
“Stand back now,” he said. Murty ignited the flame and focused it on the rungs. He sharpened his gaze and steadied his hand. One by one, the rungs fell to the ground as aluminum nuggets in the dirt. Givens looked on with the blaze and the sparks illuminating his goggles. Bright yellows a few orange sparks and a consistent blue flame danced in front of him. Murty removed eight rungs of the ladder.
“There you go,” Murty said. “Now, go for it, boy.”
Givens removed his goggles and stared at the challenge ahead of him. He shot a glance back at Murty.
Higher and Higher
“Well, that ladder isn’t going to climb itself. And that wall needs paint. Are you with it or what?”
“But sir...I...How can I climb it without the lower rungs?”
“Boy, I’d imagine you had more brains than this. All you have to do is set yourself on that ladder and get in that window.”
Givens with a great deal of trepidation moved toward the ladder. The missing rungs made the ladder appear as a mouth with a eight toothless grin. He leapt into space trying to clutch that ninth rung. He failed.
“You won’t be able to get that rung like that boy,” Murty said.
Sweat beads eased their way across Givens’ brow. He dusted himself off and regained equilibrium. He slanted at an angle, picked up speed and jolted into the air and managed to at least clip the rung with his fingernail. He fell back to the earth, his wings singed.
“How am I supposed to get up that ladder? You just took off all the rungs. Now, how am I supposed to do that?”
“I don’t know. Maybe you can’t. That’s why I have arranged for you to learn from some folks who can.” He pulled out his smartphone and made a call. “Yeah, Jim it’s me. Send the over. Alright,” he hung up the phone.
“What would you like me to do Mr. Murty?”
The Tall Ones
Seven minutes later, a truck full of guys ranging from six foot to near seven feet tall pulled up to the house. Givens’ slight five foot eight frame could not compare with the men of greater height.
“Now, Casslet,” Murty pointed to a shooting guard. “See if you can’t show off your ups.”
Casslet took two steps and raised his hand as if he were about to slam a ball through the goal. He grasped the rung with effortlessness that astonished the women who had now gathered at the base of the house in need of renovation. In succession, the rest of the team latched on to the remaining rungs and hoisted themselves into the open window located in the center of the wall. They each climbed into the space and found stacks of money more rungs to the ascension.
Givens remained dumbfounded by what he had just witnessed. With all of his might he reared back to attempt again the unlikely. As he edged higher up he felt a tug at his waist. Murty pulled him back down to the ground.
“I can’t do it,” Givens exclaimed. “Without those rungs, I haven’t got the opportunity to lift myself up from my modest station.”
“Now you want to grow a brain. How else are you going to paint this wall? I’ve got no time for you if you can’t be like those ball players and bring yourself to the top of that ladder.”
His hands sullied by the gravel at the base of the house, Givens essayed yet again to scale the ladder and finish the paint job. But how? The task of just clenching a rung proved to be too much for the young man. Trials lead to disappointment and a poisonous taste crept in Givens’ mouth. He reared back, thrust his fist into Murty’s jaw, and knocked the man out cold. Givens’ then rifled through Murty’s pockets for the keys to the work truck. As he found them, the basketball players were just walking down the stairs with the wad of cash. Just as they were making their way down, they spotted Murty sprawled out on the ground. Givens stepped on the gas and shot off from the property. Three young women would inform the police of Givens’ doings.