A ladder shakes precariously in the early December breeze. Its extension rattles against the side of Borough Hall, almost 20 feet in the air.
Two men stand in front of the main entrance, glancing at its top and then glancing at the ground. They wear heavy Timberland construction boots and graying black sweaters. Their hands, the same size as the sheets of paper that fill the offices inside, are stuffed deep within the pockets of their thick blue jeans. An evergreen wreath rests on one man’s leg, so large it reaches his waist. It is covered in painted red, gold and silver glass balls, and lights that shine faintly in the morning sun. A large red bow hangs in the center, its velvet soft and smooth and shiny. Its ends flutter lifelessly on the sidewalk as the two men stand and stare, first up, then down, then up then down. Two smaller wreaths have already found their homes in the windows next to Borough Hall’s main doors; the men have only to place the large wreath above the doors before they can leave.
But the rattling sound is ominous and the mantle above the entrance far from the ground.
Finally, the man picks up the wreath by his feet. He notices the dirty ends of the velvet ribbon, and calls his partner over. His partner takes out a box cutter and slices the ribbon perfectly at an angle. “Byoo-ti-ful,” he says in a thick Brooklyn accent, admiring his own handiwork.
The other man nods and grabs the wreath. It is too big, even for his mammoth hands, so he hangs it in the crook of his elbow and grips the ladder tightly, knuckles white against the orange steel. One timid step after another, he climbs, boots hanging over each narrow rung, eyes peeled on the rungs in front of him. His partner stands at the foot of the ladder, looking up at the mantle and encouraging the man as he makes his way up. Finally, with one booming step and then another, the man arrives on safe ground. He has reached the mantle.
The wreath jingles as he rests it against a window. The man pulls thick green wire through the wreath and hangs it over the main entrance. He lowers the wreath by allowing a large amount of wire slacken, so that the wreath falls. “Slowly!” the man below shouts, as a woman runs into the building to avoid the oncoming wreath.
“My bad,” the man at the top yells, as he pulls back much of the wire. He then releases the wire, little by little. “There ya go,” his partner says, nodding his head. The man places the wreath just over the main entrance, and ties the wire into a knot.
“It’s f—ing gorgeous,” his partner shouts.
The man peers over the edge and catches a glance of the wreath. He steps back, far away from the edge, and finally, he smiles.