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It was February and the rungs were cold as rods of ice. Beneath the suit he’d never had the occasion to get married in, Ernie Boettner was wearing his favorite flannel long underwear, the red sleeves of which stuck out past the cuffs. Despite the extra layer, he was still underdressed for climbing a silo in February in Illinois. He told himself that his senses had begun not to matter, but his teeth were chattering. He couldn’t tell whether he was breathless from the cold or from the climb or both. Fifteen feet off the ground the ladder was encircled by a safety cage that continued all the way to the top. When he reached the cage, Ernie leaned back and felt the freezing metal through his clothing. He closed his eyes for a moment, then looked up and kept climbing.

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is the author of Almanac: Poems (Princeton University Press) and is currently a Jones Lecturer in Fiction at Stanford University.

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