Lemme share this again:
"I don't know if I want to do that."
"Sure you do," Clyde said. "Now go get a towel and I'll tie it around your neck."
It was the mid 50's and Superman was on the TV as well as on radio and in funny books. Superman, faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and able to leap tall buildings at a single bound.
"Look! Up in the sky!" And that is where we were looking, Clyde and I. Up at the sky filled with the roof over the garage at my grandmother's. A sky full of Martins flying, to and fro, to the gourds higher than the roof fluttered nearby.
"Did you get the towel?"
I came running from the back door, screen slamming behind me.
"How about a safety pin to hold it around your neck?"
I handed it to him.
"Yeah, nef." Being his nephew and he was four years my senior, he called me nef.
"How come you want me to go first?"
"You're smaller and lighter. That towel as a cape will help you stay aloft longer than heavy me. I'll get some pointers as I watch you sail along and I can compasate for my extra muscles and stuff."
I was never smart enough to see the illogic of his logic. He was my hero and I believed every word he said.
"OK. I got the ladder set up on the side of the garage over there, so go on up."
"Aren't you coming up too?" I asked.
"Heck no. How am I going to see the errordynamicals of your flight from above?"
"Well, I ain't going up there by myself."
"Don't say ain't, nef. There ain't no such word."
"Come on. I'll hold the ladder while you climb up."
"Didn't granddaddy say never to go up on the roof of the garage?"
"Yeah, he did, but I checked out the underside of the roof and there ain't no weak spots that you could fall through. So, I'm sure he won't mind since it's safe and all."
"Come on. First one rung then the next. One at a time. There you go. You're doin' good, nef."
About halfway up I froze.
"Now what's wrong?"
"I'm scared. I don't want to go any higher."
"Don't be a baby."
"Are you coming up?"
"Oh, alright, but you'll have to let me come back down so I can observe real scientific like."
"Go on. I'm coming right up."
I slowly crawled up the ladder, rung by rung, holding on for dear life. I climbed over the last rung and onto the slanted roof. I lay flat my arms spread out staring up at the sky while Clyde came bounding over the top of the ladder and landed heavily on two feet.
"OK, nef. Lemme show you where I think is the best place for lift off.
I crawled to the spot he was showing me.
"Alright. you stand here..."
"Stand? I don't think I can do that."
"Sure you can. Don't be a baby. Stand here and let me get down below so I can observe real clear like."
I got to my feet, shoes angling to the ground far below.
"Look at that cape flowing in the breeze. Just like Superman. OK, hang on. I'm going down now. Don't jump before I say."
He scrambled down the ladder. I stood at the edge of the roof in the afternoon breeze with rippling cape, uh, towel, around my neck. Finally, Clyde was on the grass in front of me far below. He was looking anxiously at the road then back at me.
"OK! Let's do this fast. All you gotta do is launch yourself outward like Clark Kent after ripping off his shirt. Just pretend you're jumping through the window of a tall building."
"You sure about this? I won't just fall and hurt myself?"
"Heck no. You've got that towel cape."
I heard a car door slam under the roof.
"I don't know. I don't think I can do it."
"Sure you c..."
"What the...? Clyde, what are you doing?" It was my grandmother. "What are you looking at?" She looked up at the roof to see me standing on the edge. Panic sprang ot her face.
"Rickey! Don't you jump. Sit down right now." She turned to my uncle.
"Clyde, you get up there right now and get that child down from there. Do you hear me?"
He nodded and started toward the ladder.
"Where's your father?" She shouted at him.
"He went fishing. He said it would be OK since we were just playing."
"I said get that child down this minute!"
"But I can't go on the roof. Dad said..."
"I don't care what your dad said. Get that child off that roof this instant!"
"Hey, nef. Come on down."
"I'm scared. I can't move."
"Go up there and help him."
He climbed up and walked me over to the ladder. He told me to stay there until he could get down and hold it for me. And that's why he was my hero. He was always thinking about my safety.