Intercosmic - Chapter 43 – Soldiers on the Roof

I peel back another roof tile, remove the crooked nail and toss it down to the bin below. I wipe the sweat away from my eyes with my forearm. I’m told this is unusually warm for Spring in this hemisphere on Nyame. All I know is I signed up for mild physical labor, not replacing a roof on the biggest house I’ve ever seen that wasn’t owned by some dictator or warlord. I can’t complain too much, Martin isn’t hard to work for; he’s the type to keep his head down and get his work done. Pauline, is not someone I’d want to meet in a dark alleyway. She’s charming, but I can tell she could knock most men on their asses without much effort. If she was about 70 years younger, I might be turned on. Hell, I’m still kind of turned on at times. I’m sick, this is what I get for hanging out with Edan.

“You know, there’s easier ways to do this than the way they did it in the past,” I tell Martin as a I toss another shingle.

“Easier isn’t always better,” Pauline responds. I didn’t even see her arrive on the roof. “If you can’t take the work I’ll gladly find a replacement.”

“I can take as much as you can throw at me,” I smile at Pauline as she offers me a glass of dew broth.

“You know why Martin doesn’t complain,” she asks.

“Because it wouldn’t do him any good,” I respond.

“See, I told you the boy had some brains,” Martin smiles.

“So, is there some sentimental value in the house? I’ve noticed the guest house is a lot more up to date than the main house,” I’m stalling, roofing is hard.

“My grandfather built it. It’s an old house, made with real wood, real nails, and put together right here, not some factory on another planet. This isn’t a house you can just pick up and float somewhere else,” Pauline pauses to sip some dew broth. “It’s like this dew broth. I go out and select which dew berries I’m going to use to make the broth. I cut them myself, add the sugar, boil them down and make sure it gets chilled at the perfect temperature and mixed with just the right amount of water. Now, you can get the same drink, with the same ingredients at any store. But, it just won’t taste the same.”

“Pay attention, she might teach you something,” Martin smiles as she talks.

“You boys keep up the work,” Pauline starts to leave.

Martin smacks Pauline on the backside, she giggles and gives him a look that can only mean one thing. It’s an act of affection, a larger one than anything I’ve ever seen my parents do. I can’t help but blush just seeing their boldness. They’re both well over 100 and still acting like teenaged lovers. It’s sweet.

“You got a sweetheart of your own,” Martin asks as we pull more tiles.

“Nah, I’m all by myself in this great big universe,” I laugh.

“Why?”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re a good-looking fella, you’ve got a good head on your shoulders and you aren’t a user.”

“I just don’t think I’ve met the right person.”

“Sometimes they just pop up right when you least expect it. That’s how I met Pauline.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

Martin didn’t seem very talkative when I first met him, or even the next few days working around the ranch. Now that we’re up here on the roof he can’t seem to stop talking. The only time he pauses is when Pauline comes by to give us drinks, food or tell us to speed up the pace. Most of the things he says are, thoughtful. Things I wish my own father had said to me when I was young. I’ve already learned most of these things the hard way. Always work hard, but know when someone is taking advantage of you. Your life is more important than money. Value yourself, it isn’t okay for people to treat you poorly. Don’t just feel an emotion, try to understand it. Meanwhile Pauline keeps bringing me more food. She’s worried I don’t have enough weight. I’ve got plenty of weight and muscle, but she doesn’t seem to care. For my part I pretend to laugh at the jokes, I really do laugh at a few. It seems like I wasn’t the only person searching for family. I’ve only been here a week and they treat me more like a son they haven’t seen in a long time than a worker.

“Good job up there today,” Martin pats me on the back as we come down from the roof.

“Thanks, but I think you did more than I did.”

“Nah, it just seems like that, I was taking it easy. You’re going to have to do this without me one day.”

“I hope not.”

“You never know. Go ahead and get cleaned up, then come join us for dinner.”

“Did you clear that with Pauline,” I joke.

“Nah, but she likes to have you eat with us and tell us stories.”

“Alright, I’ll join you for dinner.”

“She might even let us have some beer,” Martin laughs as he walks away.

I feel like all I do around here is laugh. A lot of the laughs are fake, but even fake laughs make me feel some joy. Maybe being a rancher is what I should have been doing all along.

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