Jim Siergey: Circus Boy

April 23rd, 2019

On Easter Sunday my brother and I were standing in my back yard, lightly conversing as we enjoyed the nice warm weather.

As we were gazing nowhere in particular and, as it happened, in the same direction, we saw a bird fly in the open space between my house and my neighbor’s house and disappear inside a tiny hole in said neighbor’s wooden siding.

We simultaneously said to one another, “Did you see that?”

We continued to gaze at my neighbor’s house and saw the bird pop its head out from the hole and look around.

“That has to be a sparrow.” I proclaimed, eagerly exhibiting my knowledge of the habits of said bird as I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert on that particular avian species.

The bird exited the hole on wing and, sure enough, it was a sparrow.

My brother, apparently an expert of the behavior of avian creatures as well, began to tell me of the potential damage birds can do if they dwell within the walls of one’s domicile.

I pointed to a perfectly round hole in my cedar siding that I blamed on a pesky woodpecker that kept hammering away on my wall last summer (although I don’t know how he made that hole so perfectly round unless it was a woodpecker with OCD) and said “I guess I should patch up that hole then, eh?”

We walked closer and stared up at the hole which was approximately twelve feet above the ground. My brother asked if I had a ladder.

“I do. It’s a six footer but so am I. I might be able to just reach that hole. In fact it looks like a cork might fit right in there.”

Besides being a self-described ornithologist, I am also a self-serving oenophile, so a cork would be easy to find.

“No, no.” my brother insisted, “You can’t stand on one of those ladders. It’s too dangerous. “

“Hmmm”, I said, “You’re probably right. I do have one of those extension ladders in the garage but they’re rather heavy and difficult for me to manipulate.”

mountaineeringHe made it to the top…


We decided that we would procure the talents and abilities of my young, strong and able son to do the deed. He joined us in the yard, looked it over and said he would do it and added a few other things he’d do while he was up there, patching some other little holes, checking the gutters, etc.

What a lucky man I am, even luckier than I realize.

The next day rolled around and I decided I would see if I could indeed reach that hole while standing on my six foot ladder. I loaded my pockets with wine corks and even found an old champagne cork that I brought along just in case the aperture was larger than it seemed.

I unfolded the ladder and secured it on the ground as best I could. It seemed sturdy so up I climbed. I stood upon the topmost step and carefully reached upward only to find that I was a wee bit short of my goal, the hole.

Warily and balancing myself with one hand upon the wall, I left the metal rungs behind and stepped up onto the the actual apex of the ladder. Before I could channel my inner Jimmy Cagney and proclaim “Made it, Ma! Top of the world!”, I felt the ladder begin to teeter, totter and then topple.

I leapt into the air away from the descending ladder and bent my knees as I landed feet first onto the lawn. From there I sprang up and my momentum carried me into a forward somersault from which I emerged quite gracefully in one fell swoop to a standing position as if I had carefully rehearsed the entire routine. I was so surprised that I didn’t even think of saying “Ta-Da!”

Having escaped disaster, I decided to tempt Fate one more time.  But first, I persuaded my wife to come outside and hold the ladder for me as I once again scaled this metal Mt. Everest back to the tippy top. From my pocket I produced the champagne cork and inserted it into the hole, banging on it with the palm of my hand to further secure it.

Mission accomplished, I made my way back down the ladder, none the worse for wear, at least for that day.

I stood with hands on hips and gazed proudly at the bit of house repair that I had accomplished. I couldn’t help but think of the many times I had been told to put a cork in it and, now, I finally did.


Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Just Like Proust

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