It was the usually sub-conscious sense of roof that made life cosy and safe: a feeling hidden behind other instincts that home was not only where the heart was but also a place whence one could view the happenings of the world with an assumed immunity.
A damp patch had drawn Joe Carter’s attention to the all-important roof. It was a shock, therefore, when it dawned on him, following expert advice from a chirpy roofer, that the whole roof needed replacing … with all the resultant lack of security that then seeped through the various cracks of Joe’s mind. Worry flowed, like water, by default. Even foreign wars crept nearer to his street. Weather a constant news item. Winter ever on the horizon.
“It needs doing, Mr Carter, but don’t worry we shall make it fast at all stages of the work,” said the chirpy roofer, after quoting the cost of the job, but quickly spotting that the potential customer’s priority was more than just the money involved. It was as if one roof needed to be replaced with a new roof in a single swoop, tiles and battens and membranes and ridges fully in place like a conjuror’s trick, instead of the laborious dismantling and mantling that were actually involved.
Joe gave the go ahead to the chirpy roofer, despite the nightmares Joe envisaged. Indeed, without preamble, he was able to dream dreams before even dreaming them and, following the commencement of the building work, this phenomenon grew. One such dream became a separate entity: a dream Joe called ‘the resident’ that often squatted on the bedroom carpet, preening itself for the time which, it somehow knew, would inevitably arrive for its turn at being a dream within Joe’s head rather than outside it. A different dream was already in Joe’s head dreaming the potential onset of this new dream that Joe called 'the resident'. The Resident Dream on the carpet was an image of his bungalow’s roof with two proud dormer eyes like windows – a documentary view through a number of stills of the piecemeal de-tiling and the bare areas open to the elements with the work only slowly progressing as a result of contrary weather conditions that hindered the work itself as well as ensuring that any cracks in the armour left by the chirpy roofer in media res were laid bare to the selfsame weather conditions … eventually causing a tortured drip from a crack in one of the ceilings which the chirpy roofer (it has to be admitted) quickly rectified during the night (following Joe’s emergency call for assistance) by unkinking the membrane that should never have been left kinked in the first place, thus having earlier allowed the melted snow to run down a surreptitious vertical channel of least resistance between chimney-stack and dormer but now, after rectification, fluidly sloping into the gutter instead.
If time were our friend, one could convey the comical side of Joe’s character and the debates he had with himself as to his own dire anxieties. The chirpy roofer learned to handle his customer in the shape of Joe Carter by having more time to do so than us because of the delays in his work caused by the weather. The conversations between the two of them, perforce, sadly went unrecorded and, inevitably, in due course, unremembered. All that could be judged was that, despite his best intentions, the chirpy roofer’s reassurances fell by the wayside because Joe continued to see the Resident Dream picked out from the gloom of the bedroom by a wild-eyed anxiety that became itself a living creature with a luminous face amid imagined drips ticking like the gold fob watch that this creature kept in the top pocket of its dapper smoking-jacket. It is a moot point whether the chirpy roofer indeed was justified in trying to reassure Joe because he may have been a waster who couldn’t even skin a rice pudding by leaving it to go cold before eating it and Joe was quite right to worry as much as he did about the roofing.
The fact that the Resident Dream continued to develop while still outside the jurisdiction of Joe’s real dreaming process seemed to prove a point that things were not quite as comical as indicated so far. The thing with the fob watch was bodily absorbed piecemeal into the Resident Dream as part of its status as an ever-developing ‘virgin birth’ dream with no dreamer to disown its reality by waking from it and deeming it a dream or, even better, forgetting it completely as one normally does with many dreams. The dream was a mighty castellated dollshouse contraption with eyes softening out from the ill-shaped cracks in the new-laid wooden slats that constituted the whole dollshouse. It was largely nothing but roof. A dream topped by a wooden roof that was also the same roof from top to bottom of the dream. Even the eyes became nothing but inverse teardrops draining away into sock-puppet stitches. A dream too solid to channel within normal dream ducts – thus remaining an indigestible lump of psychic deadwood straddling the room like a ramshackle bridge or transitional shed above a torrential river of time. The dream developed as a narrative of change but remained stolid in its perseverance not to change its shape or existence as a Resident outside Joe’s mind.
“How are you today, Mr Carter?” the roofer chirped as the front door of the bungalow was opened to him. “It’s a nice day today. We should be able to get going a bit faster on your roof, especially as I’ve brought someone else to help.”
He indicated the dark shape behind him that the sunlight could not seem to undarken. This had been an introduction that needed no introduction because two hands had already extended towards each other and shaken.
The door closed after a few unrecorded civilities of small talk were exchanged.
The most frightening thing was that this was no dream. This was just a loose end. A forgotten coda. A lost motive between disconnected intentions. The Resident took out his fob watch and said: “We mustn’t waste the first day of Spring.” And that’s what he did … a curved swoop up to the sloping roof where he sat changing his chirps into cuckoos.