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Fiction by Robert John Miller

Tips for Avoiding a Call from the Office of Risk Management as it relates to Ladder Safety

Remember to clamp your pawls onto your spreaders—without those rung dogs, the other parts might freewheel. And the last thing you want is to be up an extension three rungs over, wondering whether your gaskets are cashed, spiraling out of control on a merry-go-round in the sky. Spring-loaded pawls if you can. And don’t get cocky about ladder standoffs. Now, if you’re on a Class III, just fuck right off, because you’re not gonna listen to what I’m telling you, but please, make sure you know your anchor points. Upgrade to at least a Class EN131 and we can talk. We can talk all day about rungs, steps, safety feet, the other parts. Non-negotiable: You are to always face your ladder, and never leave your ladder unattended, anywhere. You take your ladder with you. You’re going to want a vehicle big enough to transport your ladder, and you’re going to want a mattress big enough that you can sleep comfortably next to your ladder. Know that your ladder will be a cover-hog, especially if it’s stainless, because you want to prevent electric shocks in the night. Even as you sleep, you want to be facing your ladder. I sleep head-to-foot with mine, but what you do depends on your particular ladder relationship. Do not use a series of ladders as an ersatz bed frame to elevate your mattress, thinking it will save you time. It will not, and you’ll also have to cut multiple holes through the mattress so you can look down during randomly timed safety checks, which will void your warranty. For me, I have multiple clocks placed strategically throughout the bedroom and, once a week, I take an Ambien to set the alarms and hide the clocks from myself in such a way that I won’t remember any of it, thus ensuring the safety checks are truly random. If you try to automate this process, you will fail. The other question is the issue of structural integrity. The answer is, if you have to ask, you’re right to question it.

Real True-Life Rejections I Continue to Suffer

The time a horse stole my donut. The time I stayed well after it was over. The time I genuinely asked a woman with whom I had good rapport on a dating app, and who collected bones—she was a bone collector; she collected bones she found in various places—what her favorite bone was. The time I realized there was such a thing as being alone, lonesome in a K-Mart aisle. The time I bought new jeans to wear to Toy Story 4 with someone who never showed up. The time I accompanied this very prose poem as my bio for a one-sentence story submission to The New Yorker. The time I said, You can’t spell Saturday without turdsy.” The time my internist—who was primarily, apparently, a pediatrician—refused to touch me. The time my insurance company paid out only the wrong claims. The time someone kissed me just because she could. The time I was left at 3 a.m. in a downtown diner without a phone. The time it was over well after I stayed. The time someone forgot about their banana-prank under my bed and did not remember until we scoured for the source of the fruit flies.

Robert John Miller

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