The Roof

The roof had three rules: (1) laugh only when the sun opens, (2) step over, not on, the wax dandelions, and (3) call the sun to open only in the second quarter of the fiscal year. These rules were easy to follow, but not to learn. Newcomers often tired themselves out waving at the clouds, as if it’d do any good, becoming so exhausted by nightfall that they slept wherever they fell (which was often right on the dandelions). But this was all taken into account; we ordered enough wax to fill the rooftop with flowers ten times over on any given day, and the sun was just barely miffed by the drama as it occurred. After all, as long as we continued to tend the flowers into adequate performance, things seemed to go alright. Hot days were difficult, of course, running back and forth from the walk-in, constantly rewaxing the flowers to give them the appearance of growth rather than melting. It bears mentioning that the sun was by far the most insecure of the celestial bodies, so there really was no room for error in the summertime. But this also made winter a period of great joviality.

In the past, the sun became so ashamed of its weakness that, in darker months, it would rain for weeks at a time. It helped none that our bread had to be kept outside (for no good reason; it was one of the older rules of the rooftop). As a result, all of our meals were mushy, and we went to bed terribly hydrated, feeling like forlorn Olympic swimmers or some strange family of bugs. But we learned our lesson. Now it never rained. In the winter, the sun wrinkled but still spun with tired enthusiasm, singing of its eternal potency like an old man in the honeymoon months of morphine addiction. For our part, we wore bathrobes and played poker for leftover bread, enjoying our well-earned depression long into the evening. The moon, like a wise sister, knew the whole thing was a sham, but kept it to herself, happy to see dad in such high spirits.

But, as some of us had imagined it might from the beginning, time fell out of joint, confused by the odd pattern of seasons. The sun was a white dwarf in the winter then a red giant in the spring; that is to say, his revolutions were occurring totally out of order. When January came, and we unfolded our keyboards in preparation for the sun’s opening, many of us lowered our expectations. The sun swayed drunkenly into view, ambling over the horizon with great difficulty as if climbing onto the edge of a building. I stepped forward and asked him, with as much a sense of routine as I could muster, to open up, so we could receive our annual ration of egg yolks, that we might have sufficient protein to last the rest of the year. The sun just chuckled and laid his hand on the rooftop, burning our skin, heating the dandelions into a wash of brown liquid wax.  He took his hand back spastically, then stared at it for a while, turning it over and over as the wax seeped through spots in his skin. What happened next is unclear, if only because his light began to fail, and the rooftop went dim. All I can remember now is that he made a noise halfway between a burp and a moan, then fell back beneath the horizon. We all went quiet for a while, then someone’s kid broke the silence with a forced laugh. He was hushed just as quickly, and with no better ideas, I went to the walk-in to grab some bubble-wrap, which we all sat popping until the blizzard came. When we fell asleep, the roof was buried in snow.

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