Disclaimer: Names in this posting have been changed to protect the innocent. And the guilty. You know who you are.

Last Saturday promised to be another scorcher, so Tom got up and headed out to run at 7 a.m. instead of his usual 8 a.m. As I’ve mentioned before, Teddy is not a morning dog; in fact, he gets downright grumpy if forced to get up much before 8 (have I mentioned how much I love this dog?). So since I knew he wouldn’t be in need of a wee for a bit longer, I snuggled back down into the sheets for another hour or so of snoozing after Tom left.

A little after 8, I dragged myself out of bed, threw on some capris and a T-shirt, and woke Teddy up. The two of us stumbled out into the backyard; me tugging on Teddy’s leash, slapping the side of my leg, blathering on in a high-pitched plea, “C’mon Teddy. Go potty. C’mon, Fuzz-Butt, do your thing!”; Teddy eyeballing me like I’d completely lost my mind.

When we got about 50 yards away from the back of the house–which took a few minutes because Teddy kept stopping to lay down in every patch of shade we walked through–I heard a low rumbling sound coming from the side of the house and immediately thought, “Oh, crap, I hope the air conditioner isn’t about to blow up.” But it was only 8 a.m. If the air conditioner was thinking about having a nervous breakdown in the god-awful heat, I didn’t want to know about it or deal with it until I’d had a chance to fully wake up. I didn’t even turn around to see if there was smoke. I just kept walking, cajoling Teddy every step of the way to take care of business. Even at that early hour, the heat and humidity were so bad, sweat was trickling down my back and my hair was starting to plaster itself to my head. I just wanted to go back inside.

When Teddy had finally squirted all the trees and bushes in need of a squirt and had determined that all was right in his realm, we turned around to head back to the house. That’s when I saw it. The low rumbling sound was not coming from the air conditioner. It was coming from an ambulance, and I knew immediately why it was there. As we raced up the backyard and around the side of the house, I saw the police cruiser and the firetruck.

The afternoon before, our neighbor, whom I’ll call “Ward,” had started painting his new detached garage. “June,” his wife, had left a day or two earlier to take their boys, “Wally” and “The Beav,” to summer camp and then to go to the lake to hang out with her mom. I knew June was planning to be back in town at some point for a bachelorette party she was hostessing Saturday evening, but as I ran up toward the street, I couldn’t for the life of me remember when she’d said she’d be back.

As I raced toward their house and saw the crowd of firemen, EMTs, and police officers, I had two recurring thoughts: “Good lord, I hope Ward is okay!” and “Thank goodness I put on a bra!”

After Teddy and I navigated our way around the emergency vehicles, I paused momentarily to survey the situation. Two ladders were lying in the side yard as though they’d been tossed out of the way in haste. As I feared, Ward was on the ground toward the back end of the garage, the firemen and EMTs gathered around him. Good grief, the garage is nearly two stories tall at that point, I thought, and I shuddered. I saw that the EMTs were working to get Ward secured onto a board, and I was relieved–at least a little–to know he was in the hands of professionals. I looked around a few seconds more and didn’t see anyone but emergency personnel. No June. No other neighbors. I hesitated, not wanting to be a Gladys Kravitts, asking questions and getting in the way, but wanting to know if June had been notified. A police officer was standing a few feet back from the action, so I approached him and asked if they’d been able to get a hold of Ward’s wife. “She’s right over there,” he said as he nodded toward the crowd around Ward. Phew.

Sure enough, just then June stepped out from behind a tree. When she saw me, she started calmly up the hill. Her demeanor was reassuring. She let me know immediately that Ward was hurt, but he wasn’t going to die. His shoulder was dislocated, his right leg was scraped up, and he was in enough pain that the first words out of his mouth when the EMTs arrived were, “Give me morphine,” but he wasn’t going to die.

As we stood there waiting for Ward to be loaded into the ambulance, June and I commiserated about the fact that he shouldn’t have been up on the ladder in the first place, and she filled me in on the few details she had. Apparently, Ward had gone out early–by himself–to get as much painting done as possible before the heat became unbearable (too late for that, I thought to myself as she talked and I sweated). June had returned home the evening before and, like me, was taking advantage of an opportunity to sleep in Saturday morning. Her reverie was interrupted by the next-door neighbor who came into the house to find her after finding Ward sprawled out in the side yard. That the neighbor found Ward at all is a miracle. Normally she would have left before Tom, who Ward remembers waving at a few minutes before swan-diving off the ladder, but she was running uncharacteristically late that morning. As she opened her garage door, she and her daughter heard his calls for help. Thank goodness. Heaven knows neither June nor I would have heard him. Geez. I didn’t even hear the fire truck coming into the neighborhood with its sirens blaring around 7:30, and it was less than the length of a football field away from my bedroom window when it came to a stop. Unbelievable. And un-nerving. Ward had been lying there waiting for someone to help him for about 20 minutes before the neighbor found him.

Before it was all said and done, Ward ended up having to be fully sedated so his shoulder could be put back into place, but he did come home from the hospital that afternoon. Groggy and heavily medicated, but he came home. I’m happy to report, he’s doing quite well as of today, all things–and all possibilities–considered, but I doubt he’ll be up on a ladder anytime soon. For that matter, I’d be surprised if any of the guys in the neighborhood find themselves up on a ladder in the near future–that is if their wives have anything to say about it. The memory is too fresh.

I don”t know about the rest of the guys, but Tom’s not complaining. He’s never been all that fond of dangling from the top of a ladder. Once he knew Ward was going to be okay, he even joked about the new “toys” the guys in the neighborhood were going to be able to buy or  rent–things like hydraulic lifts–that they’d need if they couldn’t use ladders.

Amazing. I’m fighting the nausea I feel every time I think about Ward lying on the ground, all alone, immobile, and in horrible pain, and Tom’s imagining the circus tricks he and the other guys can do in the forklift…or hydraulic lift…whatever. Truth be told, Ward will probably want to be first in line to operate it. Boys. I give up.

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