From the story, When Murray Met Helen

June came.

The Russian stock market was tumbling. A new island was being born in the North Atlantic. A fourteen year old boy escaped from Myanmar in the wheel well of a jetliner. Back in Milwaukee, Helen considered the e-mailed entreaties from one of her periodic suiters, who now seemed to think that the path back to her favors should resemble something like a clemency hearing. Murray sat shoeless in his blue silk bathrobe and composed his next letter to Senator Feingold, this one about the importance of the Great Lakes fisheries.

Glenn, the pony-tailed mailman, who rarely made such mistakes, had unwittingly misdirected the friendly reminder card for Murray’s annual “internal exploration” (Murray’s description) and so Helen sauntered over, doctor’s card in hand, tongue in cheek, hoping also to playfully irritate him by showing off the features of her new iPhone.

He’d already opened the front door to let some air in through the screen so what she could hear, from the steps, was the pa-tap-ta-tat of his Underwood typewriter and the opening piano flourishes of Brubeck’s “Strange Meadow Lark.”

She just sat on the porch and listened for a while, enjoying the loose blend of sounds that you’d expect to hear emanating from a time capsule. Under the circumstances it was going to be hard for her to follow through on razzing him. She finally decided she just couldn’t bring herself to interrupt and bug him, so she simply slid the card through the mail slot and wandered back.

She was back to parsing how best to answer Bruce, the e-mailing romantic appellant, when she heard what she later realized was the sound of an aluminum ladder contacting the side of Murray’s roof. Maybe, she thought later, this warning would have registered with her were she not so distracted.

Three days away from finally getting cable, Murray had gone up to adjust his aerial. He was crabbing back toward the ladder when he slipped and slid the rest of the way over the edge of the roof, missing the ladder with his outreached hand but miraculously getting hung up when he crashed through the rain gutter and one of the brackets latched onto his pants’ pocket.

“Helen! Help!” he yelled.

She quickly looked out her window and gasped at the sight of Murray dangling in the air, like a doll on a string.

Her second well-formed reaction was that she’d want to smack some sense into him for going up on his roof without telling her. But first she’d have to get him down.

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