The Jacksons – for Feb. 10, 2011

Brady Jackson opened the door of his father’s workshop and dragged the old aluminum extension ladder out into the snow. With the ladder trailing behind like an old-time travois, he trudged through the snow towards the house where Andrew waited for him on the front step, leaning on an aluminum snow shovel and holding a wide plastic scraper in his hand.

“You’re doing a good job there Pops,” said Brady wading into the waist-high snow and struggling to set the ladder up against the side of the house. “Don’t let those shovels get away.”

Andrew grinned and extended the smaller shovel. “I’m gonna suggest you dig down to the grass there,” he said, “so you get a stable platform for the ladder. Last thing we need is for the ladder to keel over and send one of us through the picture window and into the dining room.”

Brady glanced at the window and into the house. “Yeah, he said. “We wouldn’t want to disturb the women in the middle of their cup of coffee.”

“Exactly,” said Andrew. He moved off the step to join Brady and in a few minutes they had a little area cleared around the foot of the ladder. Andrew turned his attention to the top of the ladder. “Up you go,” he said. “I’ll keep the ladder steady.”

Brady looked doubtful. “It’s your roof,” he said. “How about I keep the ladder steady and you go up?”

“Not on your life.” Andrew was obviously sure of himself on that score. “You go up and check it out and if it looks good I’ll come up after you.”

“Oh all right.” Brady wasn’t thrilled but he could see there was no point in arguing. He held the aluminum shovel in one hand, and holding on to the ladder with the other he began the journey up to the roof. When he reached the third rung of the ladder he stopped and did a couple of little jumps. “Just making sure it’s solid,” he said.

“Solid as a block of ice,” said Andrew.

“I can tell,” said Brady and resumed climbing. When he reached the top of the ladder he stopped to survey the situation.

“What do you think?” Andrew wanted to know.

“I think there’s a high risk of an avalanche,” said Brady. “I don’t think it would be safe to snowmobile up here.”

“Good to know,” said Andrew.

“Hang on to the ladder,” said Brady. “I’m going up.” He tossed the shovel ahead onto the roof. “There’s like three solid feet of snow up here,” he said. “No wonder your roof is leaking.” He climbed a little higher on the ladder, and then took a careful step onto the roof.

“Is it safe?” called Andrew. “Because if it’s not I’m just going to stay down here.”

“Thanks a lot!” Brady’s reply seemed muffled by the snow. “Hard to tell if it’s safe,” he added. “And you’re not supposed to yell when you’re in avalanche territory.”

“OK then! I’ll be quieter!” yelled Andrew loudly.

“On the other hand,” Brady yelled back, “if we could start an avalanche we wouldn’t have to shovel!”

As he spoke a large pile of snow slid over the edge of the roof and plunged to the ground, or would have plunged to the ground if Andrew hadn’t been in the way. Andrew had just enough time to duck his head so instead of catching the full force of the snow on his face, most of it landed either on the top of his head or on his neck and down inside the back of his parka.

“Sorry!” Brady’s muffled voice called from above as a second pile of snow slid off the roof with a virtually identical result. Andrew let go of the ladder and stepped away from the house, avoiding a third snowslide.

“Ha!” he said. “You missed!” But even as Andrew spoke he heard an exclamation of surprise from above, followed by the sound of something sliding heavily on the roof.

Then, as if in slow motion, Andrew saw what appeared to be the entire snowcap hurtle over the edge of the roof towards him. A second later the avalanche of snow caught him at shoulder height and the last thing he saw as he tumbled backwards under its weight was a pair of size 10 snow boots appearing over the edge of the roof. Then the snow blocked his vision and another second later he felt rather than heard the muffled thump of something landing in the snow beside him, and then all was still.

Andrew opened his eyes just in time to see a pair of startled-looking faces appear in the dining room window. Then from deep in the snowdrift beside him a gloved hand appeared, the fingers clenched and the thumb extending skyward.

“Good job,” said the snowdrift. “That was easy.”

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