The Ladder That Fell From the Sky

It was more like a clatter than a crash. When the big bang occurred, I sprang from my swivel chair and flew to the window to see what could be the matter.
There, sprawled on my lower-level flat roof, sparkling in the sunlight like a diamond, was a silver ladder.
I’ve lived in my house for more than 16 years, and I’ve borne witness to all manner of strange happenings. But most of them occurred on the ground.
Attached townhouses, I discovered too late to move, rarely make good (or intelligent) neighbors, and I’ve had more than my share of absentee landlords hiring people of questionable skills to do all manner of routine tasks that always seem to go wrong and throw me into the mix.
The chopped down bushes, the exposed gas pipe that threatened to blow up the block and the cemented-over sidewalk are tales for other times.
For now, I return to the errant ladder.
Something told me that the ladder that had made such a loud landing on my kitchen roof had not acted alone. It had to have some help falling from the sky.
It’s true that my roofer, who has been scaling heights like a cat for decades, was due to perform routine maintenance, but I knew that he and his ladder would never part ways in such an unchoreographed way.
I ran downstairs only to discover a terrified young man clinging to the side of my neighbor’s house. He was balanced on the balcony (barely), gesturing toward heaven.
He began a long, loud discourse in Greek, and I began a long, loud discourse in English, which failed to shed any light on what he kept referring to as the “skála,” which I eventually realized means ladder in his native tongue.
Since we were at an impasse, and since he didn’t seem in imminent peril, I returned to my office, perplexed and uncertain what to do about this strange situation.
It just so happened that Pavlos, my IT guy, was setting up my new computer system, and he volunteered to speak in Greek to the man bleating on the balcony.
Several minutes, and many multifaceted sentences later, Pavlos returned, laughing and shaking his head.
It seems that the balcony balancer wasn’t the only man on the roof. His bumbling accomplice had climbed to the very top, a full story above my kitchen, where he had let the ladder slip through his hands.
He was still up there, and he didn’t know how to get down — it was too far to jump — and the balcony balancer was scaling the wall trying to reach him or the ladder.
I was contemplating calling the police or the Fire Department to effect a rescue, but before I could take action, the silver ladder clattered again, and somehow the man made it down.
And that, I thought, was a fitting end to the skála story.
A week later, I again heard footsteps on the roof. A man, presumably the same one who reluctantly parted ways with the clattering ladder, was clutching a bucket of tar.
As I watched, he patched the leaky spot without calamitous consequence and began climbing down.
When he made it to the ground, our eyes met.
But he didn’t say anything, in Greek or in English or anything in between.

Nancy A. Ruhling may be reached at For more, visit

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