Hat in hand, Lucas stepped out onto the roof of the tallest building in town and into the bright morning light. The cool, crisp air stung his face and he quickly pulled his cap onto his head. Following the same routine he had abided by for the past three years, Lucas walked to the edge of the south-facing side of the tower, and entered the rectangular box. He turned to his partner and gave him a customary thumbs up. Grant, who was sitting behind the crane’s controls, yawned and acknowledged the gesture by powering on the machine.
I wonder if Grant has had his coffee this morning, thought Lucas. Lucas had been washing windows for the past seventeen years, and never had he worked with a crane operator quite as old as Grant. So long as he stays awake, I should be fine.
The sky had cleared up after a night of torrential down pouring; Lucas had even thought that he was going to receive a call telling him that he wouldn’t have to go to work the next day. Nobody cleans skyscraper windows in monsoon-like conditions, right?
Lucas reached into his pocket and pulled out a small ziplock bag. He removed the glove from his right hand and tucked it between his hip and the side of the suspended box he stood in. He pulled out his white headphones, which were tangled into a knot, and fumbled around trying to disentangle them. After a minute, he succeeded. He placed the small buds into each ear and hit play. Lucas jumped with surprise, as the music assailing him was blaring at maximum volume! He flinched, pivoting his feet, and sending his glove tumbling over the the edge. He watched helplessly as the black cotton glove sailed out of sight, down hundreds of feet to the road below. Recovering from the shock, Lucas lowered the volume of the music, cursing under his breath at his bad luck. It was the middle of November and he was suspended high above the ground trying to wash windows.
After he had finished washing the first window in front of him, Lucas pressed on the button to lower himself further down. He knew that Grant was monitoring his progression down the side of the building, but this gave him little consolation. I bet he’s sound asleep by now, thought Lucas.
He continued the monotonous activity, washing a set of windows and then lowering himself, all the while listening to his music. Then, he heard an unfamiliar twang, like a guitar string snapping. He pulled one of his earbuds out with the now numb fingers on his right hand and waited. There it is again, he thought to himself, feeling more anxious by the second. He pressed the call button and waited nervously as he attempted to call Grant. The line rang and rang and rang… and rang. Come on, come on, thought Lucas, what is he doing up there?
Then he heard it again, much louder this time – TWANG – one of the cords attached to his box snapped, the two detached pieces writhing in the arm like blades of grass smoldering in a campfire. Lucas lurched forward, the entire box swinging along the side of the building. His tools, bucket of water, washing clothes, and lunch box went tumbling over the edge of the box. Lucas grabbed onto the railing of the box that now hung 90 degrees on its side, dangling by one wire high above the streets.
Lucas couldn’t move. Lucas couldn’t think. Lucas simply hung on to the railing next to him and trembled.