Paranoia (155 of 170)

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Paranoia
by Joseph Finder
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Paranoia by Joseph Finder. Copyright 2004 by Joseph Finder.
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Part Eight: 84 (Cont'd)

Oscar was a little too interested in how we rigged up our gear. He hung around, watching us fasten the locking steel carabiners. These were attached to half-inch orange-and-white kernmantle climbing rope and connected to the safety anchors.

"Neat," he said. "You guys probably climb mountains in your spare time, huh?"

Seth looked at me, then said, "You a security guard in your spare time?"

"Nah," he said, then he laughed. "I just mean you got to like climbing off tall places and stuff. That would scare the shit out of me."

"You get used to it," I said.

Each of us had two separate lines, one to climb down on, the other a back-up safety line with a rope grab, in case the first one broke. I wanted to do it right, and not just for appearance's sake. Neither one of us felt like getting killed by dropping off the Trion building. During those unpleasant couple of summers when we worked for the window cleaning company, we kept hearing about how there was an industry average of ten fatalities a year, but they never told us if that was ten in the world or ten in the state or what, and we never asked.

I knew that what we were doing was dangerous. I just didn't know where the danger was going to come.

After another five minutes or so, Oscar finally got bored, mostly because we stopped talking to him, and he went back to his station.

The kernmantle rope attaches to a thing called a Sky Genie, a kind of long sheet-metal tube in which you wind the rope around a forged aluminum shank. The Sky Genie—gotta love the name—is a descent-control device that works by friction and pays out the rope slowly. These Sky Genies were scratched and looked like they'd been used. I held it up and said, "You couldn't buy us new ones?"

"Hey, they came with the truck, whaddaya want? What are you worried about? These babies'll support five thousand pounds. Then again, you look like you've put on a couple pounds the last few months."

"Fuck you."

"You have dinner? I hope not."

"This isn't funny. You ever look at the warning label on this?"

"I know, improper use can cause serious injury or even death. Don't pay attention to that. You're probably scared to remove mattress tags too."

"I like the slogan—'Sky Genie—Gets You Down.' "

Seth didn't laugh. "Eight stories is nothing, guy. You remember the time when we were doing the Civic—"

"Don't remind me," I interrupted. I didn't want to be a big pussy, but I wasn't into his black humor, not standing up there on the roof of the Trion building.

The Sky Genie got hooked up to a nylon safety harness attached to a waist belt and padded seat board. Everything in the window-cleaning business had names with the words "safety" or "fall-protection" in them, which just reminds you that if anything goes even slightly wrong, you're fucked.

The only thing we'd set up that was slightly out of the ordinary was a pair of Jumar Ascenders, which would enable us to climb back up the ropes. Most of the time when you're cleaning the windows on a high-rise, you have no reason to go back up—you just work your way down until you're on the ground.

But this would be our means of escape.

Meanwhile, Seth mounted the electric winch to one of the roof anchors with a D-ring, then plugged it in. This was a hundred-and-fifteen-volt model with a pulley capable of lifting a thousand pounds. He connected it to each of our lines, making sure that there was enough play that it wouldn't stop us from climbing down.

I tugged on the rope, hard, to check that everything was locked in place, and we both walked over to the edge of the building and looked down. Then we looked at each other, and Seth smiled a what-the-fuck-are-we-doing smile.

"Are we having fun yet?" he said.

"Oh, yeah."

"You ready, buddy?"

"Yeah," I said. "Ready as Elliot Krause in the Portosan."

Neither one of us laughed. We climbed onto the guardrail slowly and then went over the side.




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