I’ve found a variety of excuses for not doing all the things I put off until the summer, pleading the need for hot weather to dry the wood so I could do the exterior painting. The interior painting is another of those things. If I were to paint inside, it needed to be warm enough to leave the doors and windows open so that the paint would dry quickly and the smell would go away. But when summer came, it got too hot, and the smell and the heat would have overwhelmed me, so I put it off to cooler, drier days; but then it rained.
Two years ago when I took over care and handling of this lovely house, I found the decor reasonably to my taste and jokingly referred to the previous matron of the house as my personal decorator. There was little I wanted to change.
I had to paint the girls’ room because it was to become my office and I couldn’t have blue teddy bears swinging from the moon as my office decor; I had to paint the basement because it hadn’t been painted since Methusala was born and I needed to see where the spiders and their cobwebs were. All the rest of it could be put off until better days.
But slowly I became irked by a few things. The upstairs bathroom had been given a few new pre-sale gleaming fixtures – bath towel racks, a toilet paper holder and some new chrome towel hooks. When they had been installed, the walls had been patched but not painted. It was unfinished; unaesthetic. Every time I soaked away the garden dust while lounging in the tub, my eyes would be on level with these unsightly patches and I vowed to repaint these spa-room walls.
It took me a year to ponder the colour I wanted. A pale new leaf green, I thought, would be a cheery uplift to this small room. Where else could I make such a colour statement and live with it for twenty years? And if I tired of it, it was a small room to repaint. It would only take an hour or two, n’est pas?
When it came right down to it, though, I lost my nerve about the choice of green and I decided on a neutral warm colour. I searched amongst the rows and rows of paints left to me by the former owner and the ones that I had brought from my mother’s house.
There was a robin’s egg blue; a Tuscan sun, a desert sable and many other exotically named colours, but only two tins of paint promised the durability of kitchen and bath paint. One with a rusty lid and a spot of pale yellow colour was marked “kitchen” on it. The other was an equally messy tin with “dining” noted on the top, containing a pale peach that just would not do. Neither was enough to paint the small bathroom in any case. It was a perfect excuse to not paint the bathroom. I had no desire to go out to the paint store and buy more paint. Where would I put the leftovers? I was running out of shelf space for more paint.
Then, in a brilliant flash of environmental conservation, I wondered what would result if I dumped one into the other and stirred it. Et, voila! I took the two tins, wrestled the lids off and poured the peach into the yellow, complete with a bit of iron oxide dust from the lid. Amazingly, the colour was acceptable and the iron oxide just blended in like a pure pigment that it was. After a vigorous stirring, not a speck of it was to be seen.
Bonus! I had an empty paint pail to send down to the paint recycling depot.
The choosing of paint and reorganization of half-filled paint pails had exhausted me. I had been at it for at least a half an hour.
I found my tools – the paint tray, roller and brushes; a few rags, a pile of newspapers a hammer to close the pail when I was finished and an old ice cream bucket to wash my brushes into afterward. I took the things up to the main floor, set them on the bottom step to upstairs. All that effort deserved a cup of coffee.
I sat on the couch and turned on the news. It wasn’t long before the coffee was gone and I was settled comfortably into the cushions, two propping my head gently as I dozed off to sleep for two hours. I had dreams of procrastination and perfectly new-leaf green walls but when I awoke, startled, to an extra loud commercial of some sort, I was only too aware that the paint pot was sitting on the bottom step and not one drop of paint had been married to the wall upstairs.
It must have been time for dinner. I had a blind craving for something to eat. I couldn’t start painting on an empty stomach, now could I? I made a cup of coffee and then a chicken sandwich with crab apple pickle, one of my home preserves. As I was rummaging through the fridge returning the pickle, I came across some fresh nectarines and brought one out for dessert. I snitched a few fresh blueberries from the blueberry bowl while I was at it.
They would taste a lot better with a tiny bit of ice cream, I thought; and I chopped up the nectarine and an apricot I found sitting out on the counter. I added the bit of ice cream and settled myself down in front of the television to watch the news. I hadn’t heard a bit of it all day.
Three soldiers in Afghanistan had been killed by a bomb. A refugee had been expelled from Canada, having lost all right of appeal. A recent immigrant had been returning to Canada and had not been allowed to re-enter because her passport photo had not been clear. There was a follow up on a Vancouver murder and an exposé of a door-to-door scam. The last of the aggravating car insurance ads for that half-hour came on loudly and I suddenly remembered the upstairs bathroom and my intentions to paint it this summer. It’s late August. I’m going away on holiday. It was tonight or nothing!
By eight o’clock, I’d cut in all the corners and the tops and bottoms of the walls where the roller couldn’t go. I had unscrewed all the shiny new fixtures and set them aside. I had put away all the towels and the regular array of bathroom counter stuff – toothbrushes, toothpaste, hand lotions, soaps, shampoo, mirror, reading material, the clothes hamper and the scale . It was time for a coffee.
It just so happened that a favorite program was on. Couldn’t miss that, could I? Besides the paint had to dry before I put on the next coat. The next program was good too.
I went back up to finish rolling up everything. On the north wall, high up in the corner, there was a patch of green that wasn’t there before. I climbed my step stool to see what it was and encountered a bright green little man with antennae. He was complaining in a low clicking sound:
“When I booked this hotel, they promised that it would be freshly painted before I came and they promised that it would be in my camouflage colour. Here I find the painting is not all done and I can’t hide anywhere.”
He wasn’t nervous at all.His stolid complaints annoyed me. I tried to dislodge him from the very corner I wanted to paint. I got rather close to him with the roller but he wasn’t backing down. He was asserting his rights.
He complained further. “It’s bad enough that I had to pay a huge fee for the astral travel, but this takes the cake! I’ll lodge a complaint with the travel agency. You’ll see. ”
“I want something done right away.”
It was getting late. This little alien creature had more mouth than it did sense. Where else would he stay? Obviously the Martian travel agency was running as scam. That didn’t mean I had to fall for it. I found a glass that was nearby and captured him underneath it. He had no earthly street smarts; he never even suspected I might take him prisoner. He didn’t budge.
I put him on the bathtub shelf enclosed in the glass, and he calmly went to sleep, or so it seemed. Perhaps he felt better in a glass bubble. Maybe that’s the way they operate in Martian space.
I pondered the ability of Martians to divine my intentions to paint in leaf green as I continued to paint, rolling up the four walls with the creamy blend of scrubbable paint. I vowed to photograph him when I was done with painting.
At midnight, I surveyed my progress. It was looking good, but all the cut in edges had to be done again – the first coat hadn’t covered, but it couldn’t be done until the paint dried.
Reluctantly, I admitted that I would have to finish it in the morning. I wrapped my brushes in a plastic bag and put the roller in a tube just like a tennis ball tube so that I wouldn’t have to clean up twice. I put myself to bed and slept soundly.
In the morning, I arose and cut in the corners again before I even had coffee. I put the towel racks back up and the holder for the toilet tissue. I protected the brushes so that I could wash them up later – much later. I put all the sundries back in place and the towels back on the racks.
It looked wonderful.
I got out my camera and photographed this alien creature. I had never seen one of these before and I still have no idea what he is. When finally I released him to fly away outside, he clung like fury to my wild shaking of the glass mug. I ended up having to poke a stick into the glass mug to encourage him out. But he didn’t want to go. I can imagine that, as a tourist not speaking the language well, he would be fearful of finding a safe hotel on his own without that exterrestial travel agency. But out he went. I wasn’t keeping him – he complained far too much and he was so insistent on green.
Well, he must be staying in my garden somewhere. There’s lots of green for him there.