Roof Man


“Have you seen what’s going on at the end of our block?” Glenda, our next door neighbor, said over the phone. “There was a crash just a minute ago.”

“Going to take a look right now,” I said, heading for the front window. I hung up and called to Husband in the other room. He and I stepped outside.

“I thought I heard some screeching tires,” he said, his attention fixed on the wreckage at the end of the block. “I guess this explains it.”

Police tape wrapped the intersection like a giant, forbidden gift. Inside the tape, officers from the sheriff’s department poked around a car, crumpled between a pickup truck and another car. We strolled up to the police tape and waited, hoping to catch the eye of someone on the scene. Husband slid his badge from his pocket—the sun hitting it just right—and an officer sauntered over to us.

“What happened?” Husband said.

“We were chasing a guy—drug-related—and he crashed into one of our undercover vehicles.” The officer nodded at the unmarked pickup truck on the scene. “Then the other car pinned him in. But he bailed.”

“Did you catch him?”

“In a sense. He’s up on the roof of a house right now one block over, and they have the house surrounded.” The officer hooked his thumbs on his belt buckle and rocked back on his heels. “He did the same thing before in Bloomington. Up on someone’s roof there too. Bloomington SWAT team shot him down with bean bags, but he got away. Had the U.S. Marshals looking for him after that.”

“Does the guy live around here?” Husband said.

“Just around the corner.”

The street—blocked in all directions—didn’t deter people from driving up to the police tape to get a good look. The KMOJ Radio station van rolled up too. We spotted Jeff and Mary who were renovating the vacant house two doors down from ours. We strode over to say hello, Husband filling them in on the details of the crash.

“Yeah, we already heard all that from the KMOJ guys,” Jeff said. “They get their info pretty fast.”

“Want to take a peek inside the house? See our progress?” Mary said, shifting a bucket to her hip. “It was in pretty rough shape when we got it.”

They led the way, and inside the house, Husband and I admired the repaired cracks in the plaster, the gutted kitchen, and the refinished cabinets. Fresh paint dressed the walls, and the old 1920s woodwork sang again.

Since we had only met the couple once before—they lived two blocks away—I asked about their life in north Minneapolis. The neighborhood had weathered its ups and downs in the past thirty years since she moved in, Mary said. And much had happened in her life too. She told me about her son who died at the age of twenty-one in 2004. The same year Dicka was born. I sighed and shook my head. While I had gained one that year, she had lost one. 

“It’s not something you ever get over.” Mary’s eyes misted with the truth of her words. Then after a moment, she freshened her smile. “Let’s show you the upstairs now.”

“Come over whenever you want and see our house too,” I told Mary and Jeff when our tour ended. “It might be messy, but you’re always welcome.”


Husband and I returned home, gathered the girls, clipped a leash on Lala, and invited Glenda to join us. We ambled over to the next street where the fugitive was perched on someone’s roof. Police tape cordoned off the entire block. A crowd had gathered and news crews stood in position, their cameras aimed at Roof Man. Just outside the tape, I noticed a woman. She lingered by her car while two police officers questioned her.

Dinner and homework pulled us back indoors, but a couple of hours later, Husband and I ventured out again. The street—normally bustling with traffic—was still taped off. The atmosphere was festive; people meandered around with drinks and snacks, visiting their neighbors.

We spotted Keyondra—one of our basketball kids—with her mother Donna out on the sidewalk in front of their house. We stopped to check in.

“So what’s the update?” I said. “You have a better view than we do.”

“He’s still up there,” Donna said, shaking her head. “The cops are trying to talk him down.”

“He ran through somebody’s house before climbing up on their roof,” Keyondra said. “I guess he freaked them out.”

“No doubt.”  

“The police are talking to his baby mama right over there.” Keyondra nodded toward the same woman I had noticed earlier.

“So that’s who she is.” I hoped none of their kids had witnessed the event from hours before—or Daddy up on the roof now.

“So how are things over here on your street?” Husband said.

“Well, the candy girl is gone,” said Keyondra with a shrug.

“There was a girl who sold candy?” I wondered how we had missed her.

“No. It was a woman. And she sold other food too. Like homemade ribs and pickles. She had a little table she set up every day right over there across the street.”  

“I figured you needed a city permit or something to do that, but I guess not,” Donna said. “The police were okay with it. They stopped there for food all the time.”

“Homemade ribs sound good right about now,” said Husband.

The evening air grew crisp, and I tugged my sweater around me. We chatted as we waited for the grand attraction: Roof Man’s Descent. But as daylight faded, we lost interest.

“You should all come over some night when we have a fire going in our fire pit,” I told Donna.

“And whenever we have the barbecue going, you can all come over here too,” she said.


Back at home, Husband clicked on the TV to watch the local evening news. We saw close-up footage of Roof Man. He strutted across the roof’s peak, stretching his arms out in “come get me” defiance. Then three and a half hours after it had all started, the stand-off ended. This time, law enforcement used words—instead of bean bags—to lure Roof Man to the ground.

What had started with a crash at the end of our block ended in a fizzle. But after the excitement was brushed away, I realized the hidden beauty. We neighbors were drawn from our houses by an unusual spectacle and united by shared territory and humanity’s inborn curiosity to find out the ending of a story.  

We also drummed up plans for more home tours, fire pit time, and barbecues. Summer in the neighborhood couldn’t come soon enough.


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*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.