“Not a big fan of ladders, I see,” says Catfish, who’s walking by Fuse’s house.

Fuse has a 20-foot ladder leaned up against his house under a leaky gutter. He’s on the bottom rung, hugging the ladder as if it was a teddy bear during a thunderstorm.

“I hate ladders,” says Fuse. “Ladders hurt people.”

“The ground hurts people, not the ladders,” says Catfish.

“G-g-good point,” says Fuse, hitching himself up to the second rung.

“You have a broken rung,” says Catfish.

“What!” says Fuse, quickly descending. “Where?”

“Just kidding,” says Catfish. “Here, let me go up there and fix your gutter. Ladders don’t bother me at all.”

“Really?” says Fuse.

“Really,” says Catfish

Catfish grabs the caulking gun hanging on Fuse’s belt and scampers up the ladder.

A few seconds later, wet, rotten leaves and maple seeds start raining down as Catfish cleans out the gutter.

“Gonna need to dry this out so’s the caulk will stick,” he says. “I’m gonna need a rag.”

Fuse walks around his house to get a rag from his garage. When he gets back to the ladder, there’s no sign of Catfish. The caulking gun is on the ground.

“Geez!” says Fuse. “Quitter.”

He ponders the ladder for a time, then decides he needs to get the gutter fixed, no matter what incredible courage it may take.

He sticks the rag in his pocket, hangs the caulk on his belt and begins the slow, terrifying, white-knuckled climb up to the gutter, 12-feet above.

Breathless and shaking with fear, he crests the eave of the house. “I HATE THIS!” he says aloud.

“ME TOO!” says Catfish, which startles Fuse so much he nearly falls.

Catfish is sitting up on the ridge of the roof, clutching the chimney, his face pale and his lips locked in a grimace of terror.

“What in the Sam Hill are you doing up there?” says Fuse, forgetting his own anxiety. “You nearly scared me to death.”

“T-T-THERE’S A SNAKE IN THE GUTTER!” says Catfish. “I-I-IT TRIED TO BITE ME!”

Fuse looks in the wet gutter, and sure enough, there’s a snake. He picks it up and holds it aloft with his right hand while he clutches the ladder with the other.

“You mean this snake?” says Fuse, twirling the critter around like a lariat.

“ARGHHH!” cries Catfish. “KILL IT! KILL IT!”

“It’s made out of rubber,” says Fuse. “One of my kids tossed it up here when his sister threw it at him.”

“KILL IT! KILL IT!” screams Catfish.

Fuse drops the rubber snake to the ground.

“It’s rubber. It’s gone. Come down now,” says Fuse, as he cleans the inside of the gutter with the rag. “You know, it’s not so bad up here once you get used to it. I can see seven states.”

Catfish stands up and walks back down to the edge of the roof as calmly as if he were strolling down the fairway at the golf course.

“Go on down,” he says. “I’ll finish things up here. And when you get down, put that cursed snake in the garbage can and clamp the lid down.”

Fuse climbs down the ladder, picks up the rubber reptile and carries it around to the garbage can. When he comes back, the caulking gun and rag are on the ground and there’s no sign of Catfish.

Fuse, now inured to the idea of climbing a ladder, climbs up to find Catfish again clinging to the chimney, trembling.

“What now, for heaven’s sake?” says Fuse.

“M-M-M-MOUSE! IN THE GUTTER!”

Jim Whitehouse lives in Albion.