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» Articles » Garden Stories » Mr. Tippit Cleans His Gutters

Mr. Tippit Cleans His Gutters

by Douglas L. Bishop on 4/30/2012 16:43


Saturday morning. I take my coffee and my copy of the Daily Herald out onto the back deck—suburban reverie at its finest.

The sound of the motorized garage door opener from my neighbor’s house intrudes lightly into the air. Silently, Zarfle Tippit emerges. He walks a few feet out into his driveway as if to verify the existence of the day and then turns back into the cavern. The clattering of his aluminum extension ladder blends harmoniously with his muttered cursings as he announces to the world his intent to clean his gutters.

I’ve seen this show before. And, while Mr. Tippit doesn’t appear to enjoy, even slightly, any of the duties associated with home ownership, gutter cleaning must surely rank at the top of the list of chores he absolutely abhors!

I set my coffee cup onto the little plastic patio table beside my chair and smile as I begin to peruse the front page.

Mr. Tippit rattles the ladder around to the front of his house, props it against the roofline by his porch, and pulls himself upward, cursing methodically with each ascending rung. He reaches the roof, hoists himself onto it, and begins poking at the contents of the gutters with a stick. It’s as if he has to analyze, evaluate, and maybe even threaten the unwanted organic gunk gathered in his gutters before the ritualistic cleansing can begin.

Meanwhile, Timmy Atwater is riding his bike back and forth along the street, careful to not get too far away from his own house, where his mom is outside sweeping the concrete walkway clean and puttering with her flowers and other potted plants.

Two houses down, the onerous drone of Mona Nibbs’s zero-turn-radius Toro fills the morning air as bikini-clad Mona circles her petunia beds, more intent on deepening her tan than on shortening her grass.

Next door, the volume of Zarfle Tippit’s mutterings increases as he climbs down his ladder and heads back into the garage.

Soon the 2-cycle scream of his leaf blower drowns out his profanities as he emerges, once again bound toward the lofty, but certainly not heavenly, heights of the cursed roof.

On at least three separate occasions, my neighbor has asked me if I have one of those “long tube thingies” that can be attached to the leaf blower—thus making gutter cleaning from the ground possible. On each of these occasions, I have assured him that I own no such device. And I’ve tried suggesting, as an alternative, that he might want to see about having those gutter protector devices installed that would prevent debris from entering his gutters in the first place—thus eliminating the need for climbing the ladder, cursing into the wind, and consuming vast amounts of blood pressure medications.

But the conqueror has now, once again, scaled the castle walls and planted both feet firmly on top, thus claiming the roof and its ruins in his family’s name. Leaves, sticks, and “whirly-gig” seeds from the huge over-hanging silver maple tree in Mr. Tippit’s front yard are being blown skyward and then downward from the clogged gutters—Zarfle Tippit’s voice blasting them even more unmercifully than the force of the screaming gasoline-powered mechanical device.

Timmy has now shortened his route to extend back and forth only in front of Mr. Tippit’s house, apparently studying the roof-ranger’s rant in hopes of deciphering the enraged gutter cleaner’s gutter talk and thus expanding his own fourth grade vocabulary of curse words. Little does young Tim realize that many of Mr. Tippit’s words, if not created on the spot (or should we say on the roof), may actually be derived from words used in the old country by Zarfle’s European ancestors—and that it’s really the spirit with which the profane words are uttered, anyway, rather than their actual meaning, that gives them their zest!

The leaf blower sputters and then stops before its operator has completed even half the job—Mr. Tippit has forgotten to fill the gas tank before climbing upward. As he makes his descent, the stabbing cadence of his now-studied and very deliberate curses provides an almost cymbal-like rhythm interjected into Mona’s underlying rolling tympani of the Toro—the percussion section of the Saturday morning street side symphony.

After skulking into the garage, several minutes of silence elapse before my neighbor reappears. Certainly, he has gassed up the blower to the max. And, hopefully, he has calmed himself with a long drink of water or possibly a short drink of whisky.

Back to the rooftop, furiously revving the leaf blower, whooping and shouting at the day like a maddened, out of sync and out of season Santa Claus. Debris rains to the earth until the rampaging Mr. Tippit has completed his dreaded chore and has claimed dominance over the unruly gutters.

Silently he descends, drags the ladder back into the garage, and closes the door on another chapter of gutter cleaning misery.

Timmy pedals homeward. Mona drones on.

I flip through the paper to the “Leisure and Entertainment” section and laugh at the absurdity of the newspaper heading. Surely no greater entertainment exists than life in the slow lane as observed from my back deck!

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