This article is taken from Stand 227, 18(3) September - November 2020.

John Siberry The Ladder
The Ladder

Move, for Christ’s sake. A bit of commotion but no movement. How long can we hang on – that’s the question that scurries up and down the ladder like a rat. Hang on for what? We feel safer without the answer.  

Someone drops their bread. A gull intercepts it. We’d eat gull and bread if we could. The ladder shakes.

I can smell the ladder’s alloy. Word filters down the rungs that there’s a delay at the top, lost paperwork or some other lame excuse. They’re fit for anything. Unusual to see bread being lost like that – all of us would kill for it. We’re more used to falling bodies. Nobody minds the bodies because they have no food value, not in our predicament. Whoever dropped the bread risked taking a hand off a rung and reached into a pocket or shoulder bag for the bread. But the height or fatigue or boredom sapped their judgement. They won’t try it again. Some women and men have kids on their backs. Tied into a sling, the kid is wrapped in a blanket and cries or even laughs, here on our ladder. All up and down the ladder kids cry and sometimes laugh. There’s no question of taking the kid from the sling for any length of time, because a fall would be fatal. I’ve heard how a couple of people have jumped. We get ‘fallers’ almost every day, but the jumpers increase as desperation builds. One is said to have hit the water and ...
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