Herbert Lumpstein and the Missing Roof

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
Herbert Lumpstein is a nervous and anxious man with highly critical neighbours. His roof goes missing one day, and he struggles to find out what happened, how to rectify the problem, and how to cope with his neighbours.

Submitted: May 16, 2015

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Submitted: May 16, 2015



Herbert Lumpstein awoke one morning to find that the roof of his house was missing. He blinked, confused, and wondered what could have happened. He was sure his roof had been there the night before. Herbert had plastic, glow-in-the-dark stars on his ceiling that soothed him to sleep every night, and he was positive they had been there last night. Herbert continued to stare at the space where his roof had been, paralyzed with confusion, when a bird flew by and pooped on his wardrobe. The big splotch of white poop was enough to shake Herbert out of his paralysis, and he got up and out of bed.

Herbert stumbled to the bathroom to brush his teeth and to ponder what to do about his missing roof. He brushed, gargled and spat. Brushed, gargled and spat. He noticed, as he was brushing, that the sound of nature in his bathroom was very pleasant. He could hear birds singing. It was bright and sunny and he found that he was enjoying the experience of listening to nature in the bathroom. That is, until he remembered that he was enjoying the sounds of nature because his roof was missing and he began to fret about what his neighbours would think.

Herbert peered at his reflection in the bathroom mirror and noticed that his confusion and fear were obvious on his thin face. He rubbed his hands across his balding head and took a brush to the hair that rimmed his large bald spot. He hardly had any hair left, but he still brushed what little he had every day. Then he splashed some water on his face, feeling his bulbous nose he had always hated, and sighed deeply.

Herbert's home was also eccentric and therefore reflected his personality quite well. He lived at 257 Wardle Crescent. His home was generally quite normal looking, in that it was similar in size, shape, and design to all of the neighbouring homes. Herbert's home was eccentric because he had painted each of his shutters a different bright colour. The other houses on his street were muted, neutral colours, with shutters that matched the front door. Herbert had decided to add more colour to his home when he examined it critically one day in the driveway, and thought that it looked a little sad. He was pleased with the finished project. That is, until he got his neighbours' perspective. A group of Herbert's neighbours had come to his home, knocked on the door and, when he answered, began shouting together:

"What have you done to your shutters? Why does your house look like a ridiculous rainbow? Are you mad? Your ridiculous house will lower our property values! Have you even considered that!?"

Herbert had no idea how to respond to the sudden onslaught, so he had meekly apologized over their shouts, attempted to explain that he liked the colours, and quietly shut the door. Herbert was shy, nervous and anxious by nature. He avoided conflict as much as possible and found his neighbours to be overwhelming.

On this particular morning, Herbert was especially worried about what his neighbours would think. He fretted while he made his tea and toast, got dressed in his safari shorts and socks with sandals, loaded his wallet in his fanny pack, and left the house. He wasn't really sure where he was going, as he worked from home and, as such, had no office to head to, but he knew he needed some time away from his home to consider what to do with it. He knew that he was going to need a new roof, as he couldn't imagine that his would magically return, but he was terrified by the thought of calling a roofing company. Herbert had no idea where his roof had gone, how it had vanished, or why, but he was sure the roofers would want answers to those questions.

Herbert drove aimlessly around town, fretting about his missing roof. He suddenly realized that he had been peering at the roofs of the houses he passed, checking to see if any were his missing roof. As soon as he realized that he was looking for his missing roof on other houses, he also realized that it was a ridiculous thing to do. He drove to local coffee shop, ordered a large coffee with cream and sugar, even though he hated the taste, and drank it quickly in the hopes that the caffeine would help him work up the courage to call the roofers.

He found that the coffee made him quite jittery. His call to the roofers was not as coherent has it could have been:

"Hello, Daniel Dunby, Dunby Roofers, how can we help you?"
"Hello, I'm missing, that is, I'm Mr., oh but I suppose I should start with, how much does a roof cost?" Herbert stammered.
"I'm sorry sir," Mr. Dunby said. "You're asking how much a roof costs to be built?"
"Yes, you see, mine has gone missing," Herbert explained. "That is, I think it's missing. I woke up this morning and it was gone so it must be missing. I don't imagine, no, I'm sure no one could have stolen it. Could they have?"
"You're asking me if I know if a roof could be stolen? Is this a practical joke?"
"No, no, no," Herbert exclaimed. "I'm completely serious. My name is Herbert Lumpstein, I live at 257 Wardle Crescent, and the roof of my house is gone."
Mr. Dunby sighed and responded, "I see. Well sir, I can't give you an estimate on the cost until we see the size of the, uh, missing roof. I will be there shortly to examine the, er, job."
"Oh thank you! Thank you so very much!"

Herbert hung up and breathed a deep sigh of relief. He was sure the conversation could have gone better, and he suspected that Mr. Dunby thought he was insane, but at least he had listened instead of hanging up. All that mattered now was that a roofer was going to come and see that his roof really was gone, and then he'd get a new one and everything would be okay again. Herbert felt a little better, and a little more in control of the situation, but he was still feeling anxious. He had managed to avoid his neighbours thus far by staying away from his home. But he knew they would have something to say about this unexpected change to his home, and he was dreading the encounter

Daniel Dunby, of Dunby Roofers, drove straight to 257 Wardle Crescent when he ended his phone call with Herbert. He hoped that the call had been some sort of practical joke, since he knew roofs don't go missing, but the caller had sounded so genuinely anxious and upset that Daniel was curious to see for himself. Daniel identified 257 without looking at the numbers on the homes. He turned onto Wardle Crescent and immediately spotted the house without a roof. He stopped driving in the middle of the road and looked at the house, dumbfounded. "I can't believe it's really gone," he muttered to himself. A few moments later, he recovered from his initial shock, drove over to 257, and parked in the driveway. He let himself in the front door, that Herbert had left unlocked in his rush to leave, and started his evaluation. He noticed as he was parking that the neighbours around Herbert's home were standing on their porches, glaring at the house. He felt a little sorry for Herbert, seeing their unfriendly faces.

Herbert dawdled on his way home, not expecting Mr. Dunby, or anyone from Dunby roofers, to arrive very quickly. He was sure they were busy with jobs that didn't sound utterly ridiculous. Herbert was therefore surprised, but pleased, to see a Dunby truck in his driveway when he returned home. Like Daniel Dunby, Herbert also noticed his angry neighbours, so he rushed into his house after parking in the hopes that they'd stay away a little longer.

Once inside, Herbert went upstairs to find Mr. Dunby. They shook hands and Mr. Dunby said:

"I can't believe this is for real. I mean, seriously, I thought you were completely crazy, calling me up and saying your roof was missing. But I'll be damned, it really is gone."
"Yes," Herbert said nervously, "it's very distressing. I just don't know what could have happened."

Herbert continued to mutter about how confusing and distressing the situation was, while Mr. Dunby continued to survey the house, measuring and calculating to give Herbert an estimate on a new roof. He found Herbert's muttering to be a little distracting, but could tell he was still in a state of shock, so Daniel let Herbert follow him around and mutter about the missing roof. Daniel also thought he heard something about bird poop, but he chose not to ask about it.

Finally, Mr. Dunby turned to Herbert:

"It really is the damndest thing I've ever seen. I just can't fathom what happened here, but we can fix it for you. I'll have my men come by in an hour or so to put thick plastic sheeting across the surface of your roof. That'll keep the house protected. We can't start for a few days, but we'll get to you as soon as possible. My rough estimate right now is $5000, but I'll have a more solid figure for you later today."

Herbert shook Mr. Dunby's hand profusely and thanked him over and over. Mr. Dunby extracted himself from the handshake and headed out the door. Herbert noticed that several of his neighbours had congregated at the Worthington's, his neighbours across the road. They were all glaring in Herbert's direction. As soon as the Dunby Roofing trunk backed off the driveway and drove away, the neighbours started walking toward Herbert. He thought about slamming the door and hiding in his closet, but he decided to try to be brave instead.

The neighbours marched across the road up to his front door. There was Mr. and Mrs. Worthington, Captain Klimper, and a couple from a few houses down whose names Herbert didn't know. Herbert noticed as they approached that his neighbour to the right, Elena Rothbottom, wasn't among them. Herbert breathed a small sigh of relief. She was the scariest of the bunch. The group of neighbours stopped at his door, briefly, but politely, asked how Herbert was and, without waiting for an answer, started their tirade:

"What have you done with your roof!? How did you managed get rid of your roof and why on earth would you even do that? Are you mad? Or completely insane? Your ridiculous house will lower our property values, have you even considered that??"

They were even angrier than when Herbert had painted his shutters. Herbert inhaled deeply, in an attempt to continue to be brave, but as he exhaled, his courage escaped him and he meekly responded that he didn't know what had happened to the roof, but that it was going to be fixed soon. He quickly shut the door while they continued to shout about property values. Herbert stumbled to the kitchen, overwhelmed by his day, to make a restorative cup of tea.

Shortly before dinnertime, the men from Dunby Roofers arrived. They worked quickly and efficiently, covering the top of Herbert's house with thick, clear plastic. When they left, Herbert sought refuge in his library, to read, drink more tea, and try to recover from his horrible day. Herbert got lost in his book and it was nearly midnight when he finally put it down and headed upstairs to brush his teeth. He collapsed into his bed, exhausted. He fell asleep almost instantly but he noticed, briefly, that real stars were far more beautiful than his old, plastic, glow-in-the-dark stars.

For the next few days, Herbert tried to maintain his normal routine while dodging glares from his neighbours. As a freelance writer, Herbert worked from home, and he remained hidden inside for as much of each day as possible. He ventured out only to buy groceries. Herbert found himself going to bed earlier than usual, just to lie there and stare at the beautiful array of stars visible through his temporary plastic roof. He felt calm and at peace, which was new and strange for the generally anxious Herbert. He enjoyed the feeling all the same. When Daniel Dunby called three days later with an official estimate for the new roof, Herbert had a unique request. Mr. Dunby was surprised, but was able to accommodate, and sent men to Herbert's house to start work two days later. Herbert had now spent nearly a week with the plastic roof.

Three days after the roofers commenced their work, Herbert's new roof was done. He was immensely pleased with the result and, again, shook Mr. Dunby's hand profusely in thanks. Mr. Dunby was slightly embarrassed by Herbert's enthusiasm, but was genuinely pleased that he had such a happy customer. The roofers drove off and Herbert stood on his front lawn, gazing proudly at his new roof. It was made entirely of glass. The entire roof was transparent. Herbert had grown so fond of the plastic roof that he had decided to splurge on the glass roof. Now he could fall asleep every night under the twinkle of millions of beautiful stars. Herbert sighed with contentment. But then he noticed that his neighbours had massed at the Worthington's across the street, and they were walking toward him.

Herbert's neighbours walked over, and he drew in a breath to prepare himself as they started their tirade:

"What the hell have you done now? First it was no roof at all, and now it's this utterly ridiculous glass roof!? Are you mad? This ridiculous house will lower our property values even further. Have you even considered that??"

Herbert took a deep breath, exhaled slowly, and responded:

"I understand your concern, but it's my house, my roof, and I'm happy with it exactly the way it is. If your property values are so degraded by my home, you could just move!"

And with that, Herbert ran into his house and slammed the door. His heart was pounding, he was breathing heavily, but he was feeling a little proud of himself. Never before had he managed to respond to his neighbours when they ganged up on him. He breathed another sigh of relief and headed to the kitchen for a restorative cup of tea.

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