Standing on the top rung of the ladder, the one above the one with the sticker that says, “Don’t stand or sit above this rung for risk of losing balance,” I’m trying to fit warped tongues into warped grooves. Up on my toes, fully extended, the ladder rocks and I wish for just six more inches. Even three would be great. It’s not happening though, and as I reach up with the nail gun, the air line snags on the ladder’s base and I drop the 16 ft length of pine. Then I swear, only once, but loudly and with a vengeance. Em looks up briefly then goes back to wrestling the tarp away from my wood pile.

Itching with fiberglass threads that rain down from exposed insulation, I build up a film of sweat and sawdust as I move up and down the ladder with wood in one hand, tools in the other. The radio plays the country Top 40 in the background, but I’m too preoccupied to change the station. When the compressor kicks on it drowns out Toby Keith singing about American pride. Later I will build a hot fire and take a cold shower to wash away the fibers, but right now I make up words and sing over the compressor as the ceiling slowly comes together.