Balancing Act
by Judy Cabito

Arnie is up on the aging, shingled roof again, the third time this week. Rain pouring – no, screaming -- so Kat doesn’t hear him the first time. When she does he wants the wider chisel – the one with the red handle.

She carries it up the warped wooden ladder with one hand the same one she’s holding on with and in the other hand she holding her Monet silk-screen umbrella. She got it at the museum store in San Francisco the weekend she spent with the girls.

"Why bring that stupid thing up here?" he yells.

"I just fixed my hair. We’re going out with Max and Cindy – remember?" She hollers back over the sound of the rain pounding and crashing down on the roof. Drops hit and splash out, in giant sprays - dirty and musty.

"We ain’t going no where till this roof is fixed. So you might as well toss that stupid thing before you go and kill yourself and bring the ladder down with you leaving me up on the roof alone."

Arnie and Kat have been married thirty-five years.

# # #

They met at the Bible camp the summer she was sixteen. He was with three of his friends and she with her girlfriends; the girls outnumbered the boys. Arnie had been flirting, with Cecile Jeffery until she gave him a big grin, a mouth full of braces and bits of breakfast food stuck between her teeth. He quickly moved on to Regina Highland who took off, said she was late for Bible Hour but Bible Hour had been an hour earlier, so us girls knew she wasn’t interested in him or boys as far as that went as we discovered in college.

Arnie gave Kat a look, an all encompassing appraisal, taking her in from head to toe, but then went to ogle Cindy Matthews; petite with big breasts. That made Kat last girl out as the others had already paired up. She’d never been petite, and she knew she’d never have knockers like Cindy's, so she left too. She didn’t make an excuse like Regina but she brooded over the rejection for the remainder of the day. By dinner things had changed.

Cindy was the type, a total airhead, she’d go along with anything a guy had to offer. So whatever Arnie had offered had to be pretty disgusting, cause Cindy was sitting by herself in the dinning room her shoulders rolled forward in a sitting fetal position. Kat sat down next to her and tried to strike up a consoling conversation. As soon as she did Cindy’s big-brown eyes filled with large-tears and like dam water they gushed forward, and her chest rose and fell until it leveled her whole body into depressing sobs. She couldn’t even speak.

Kat could think of only one thing, that dirty Arnie had done something bad. She shot out of the dining hall and headed straight to the boy’s cabins. She found them outside, mingling, loitering like day-workers out front the hardware store – looking to get hooked up. Arnie was the cutest, a stock of golden-wheat curls large gray eyes, and sunken-dimples and a smile even a parole officer would concede to. But Kat wasn’t a parole officer and the sting of his rejection still motivated her, so running full force she ran my two fists into his gut. He barely moved; it only caught him off guard.

"What’d you go do that for?" he choked.

"You know you scumbag. You leave Cindy alone, you hear me. She’s my friend."

"What are you talking about? I didn’t do anything to her."

"Liar." Kat screamed.

"I ain’t no liar. You go and ask her."

"She can’t talk. She’s in the dining room right now, sobbing her eyes out. What’d you do to her to make her that way?"

Arnie threw his head back his curls bounced and he laughed hard, his dimples dug deep into his cheeks. That really did it to Kat. She went for him again. He caught her by my wrists and put his full lips down to her ear and said pronouncing each word clearly, "I told her that she was real sweet but I liked someone else. I guess she didn’t take it well. It’s no wonder she didn’t tell you."


"Because that someone is you. I told her I liked your looks."

# # #

Kat watched Arnie another minute remembering back how she had surrendered to him that day at camp. Let him pull her back into his arms, he would have kissed her had it not been for the guys watching, hooting and hollering – waiting for action. "Kiss her, kiss her, kiss her," they chanted. Arnie had whispered to her, "Don’t worry I will, if she’ll let me."

Arnie takes the chisel and scraps up a rotted piece of roof. He slaps on another gooey layer of roofing material, tarpaper and a new shingle.

"You going to stand there the whole time," he yells.

"Maybe. Maybe I’ll stand here until you get this job done."

He gives her one of his "Arnie" looks. She gives him one of hers then smiles. He just shakes his head then the corner of his still full lips turns up and he shakes his head again.

Kat flings her head back and laughs, the ladder titters, she grabs the edge of the roof and steadies herself. She thinks about how she realized that Arnie was meant for her, he's the only guy who kept her in balance.

He looks down at her, shocked, frightened, his curls only now beginning to recede still bounce. She takes a good look at the umbrella then pitches it as far as she can.

BIO: Judy Cabito lives and writes in Long Beach, California. She grew up steps from the Puget Sound and calls herself as Westcoaster, if there is such a thing. She has been published in several very fine online publications. Contact Judy.