Winnipeg. Our highest hotel yet, thirty floors in all, and us perched at the very top. With a view, by night, of tiny cars and long lines of streetlights and the flipping reds yellows greens of traffic signals all along them; darkened buildings, forgotten sidewalks. And by day, peregrine falcons fluffing their feathers on the rooftops below, eyeing for careless pigeons; people bustling about like, well, ants, as is always said so well, with their scarves wound tight and hats pulled low and coats double-buttoned and chins tucked into collars like turtles. Because, yes, it was cold.
Perhaps Mister Winter, himself, had not yet arrived at the doorway, but his bratty younger brothers were most certainly stomping on the porch, kicking about with their frosty boots, whirling leaves in miniature tornadoes, readying the place for the cold, wet, and miserable months to come. Erik, however, was firmly convinced that he could roam the entire world in a pair of shorts. "You sure you're okay?" asked Val, as the two of them waited outside the hotel. "You might want to get a jacket. Or a pair of pants, for starters."
"W-w-w-what are you t-t-t-talking about?" His legs were twisted around themselves, his arms wrapped twice about his torso. But, in his own words, he was…. "F-f-f-fine."
Winnipeg, I'll tell you, despite all this shiver and chill, was a rock-show. Superstars, we felt like. The top of the heap; and not just in our hotel. Six television cameras following our every step, cables winding everywhere we went, vans with satellite dishes perched on their heads rolling stealthily behind, beautiful reporters chasing after with pencils and notepads. "Chris! Just a few more words, please? I'm thinking front-page for this one!" Honestly. Over-the-top, it may seem, but that's how it went. Stack-of-bibles, I swear.
At times, we couldn't ever see past the clustering bodies, fat video-cameras, pushing microphones. "Hey Brad, you over there? …Erik, Chris…? …Anyone?" We couldn't turn around, even, without stumbling over a reporter, a radioman, a journalist, a producer, a camera-man or two. We washed cars; they filmed it. We raised our signs and marched around busy intersections; they captured every minute. They even… "Look, guys," Brad's voice crept over the door to the bathroom stall. "I mean, do we have to get absolutely everything on tape? …Ten minutes, please, to myself. Is that really too much to ask?"
Ah, the next day... Peace. We crept from our rooms, slunk around corners, peered through the cracks of doors, then ran ahead, slamming the motor home door and roaring away. "I think we lost them, guys," Chris said, squinting out the back window.
Twenty miles east of the city, Henry was waiting for us, lying on his roof in his plaid woolen jacket and kneepads, hands behind head, eyes closed, staring up at the sun. Those shivery winds, it seemed, had granted us a reprieve.
"Hello, boys," he said, as we arrived at the top of the ladder. "Not a bad day, eh?" He sat up, stretched, and reached for a hammer and a handful of nails. "Well, better get some tilin' done."
Under this surprising sun, then, hammers were passed, and, as thick flaps of tiles were quickly spread into place, the banging began
Erik, determined to go faster than anyone else, charged along, swinging away with his mallet at break-neck pace, making everyone else repair his mistakes, straighten his crookedness, and get ice for his thumb when he sandwiched it between two colliding pieces of steel. "Arghhhh!" He jumped up and down and roared, doing a fair impression of the Incredible Hulk. "Wow! Now if he could just turn green while he did that," Chris remarked. "Then he'd be set."
Brad scampered up and down the ladder like a squirrel, with a shoulder-ful of tiles. Val, cautious and slow, followed behind. "Remember," he called up to Brad. "Slow and steady wins the race... And keeps you from a purple thumb!"
But rabbits we remained, whizzing along, row after row. "Slow down, guys," Henry said. "You're making me dizzy." We crawled up the peak; side-to-side, like those snakes of the desert-dunes. And with one last hammer-stroke, that was it. A roof stood water-tight, wind-proof, and solid against the chill, ready to withstand a Winnipeg winter. We planted a flag, and raised our hammers high.
Afterwards, back to the hotel. Into the elevator, and up, once again, to the roof of the world.