Today as I was out in the plain flat cold morning moving the lawn furniture around at my mother’s request (though it was not her fault I went out in shorts), I was piling the various items in the creaky little shed out back. Here I was glad that I hadn’t imagined anything creepy or untoward in said shed, because even though I know I control essentially nothing in this world, I can’t help but feel sometimes that imagining something creepy will happen could actually make it happen.
For an example, I harken back to the house. The house that my ex and I bought in DC in 2000, and which we later sold to some friends when it became obvious that we were no longer a we and when anyway, we’d been living separate and debatably equal lives way south of the equator for a darn long time. But I take you back to the do-it-yourself days, when we were assembling and reassembling plumbing and retarring rooves (not me!), and doing massive demolition projects with little more than a crowbar and a paper facemask from home depot (that part was mine alone).
Among the more straight-forward of the projects at the house was the painting of the interior (and later the front porch) of this 1907 DC rowhouse, perched quietly next to an empty lot where the most hated of our neighbors would run his endlessly barking curs at 6 in the morning, and occasionally squeeze through the hole in the fence to bury a dead cat. This is also the neighbor that used to break the windshield wipers off of our very old elephant of a car, which I never drove, and which we later took to parking five blocks away where he wouldn’t be able to find it.
Ah yes, so back to the painting. I’m a heck of an edger and love painting around quirky little features, like the gas jets that stuck out from our walls here and there, threatening an eye-ectomy to the unwary. It was my happy task to unscrew every lightswitch faceplate and outlet cover and paint underneath, and then later reassemble the same so we could switch on the light and say, right, looks good. Next!
We painted and painted. Giant tall hallways previously painted royal blue, repainting a bedroom with a gold ceiling. On ladders and chairs, on our knees and paint under our nails and in our hair. The final housepainting task was the tiny entryway. I had spent hours unearthing the orignal surface of the floor in the entryway, a tangle of faux-greek mosaic tiles, unglazed, like pieces of onyx. This, which was under (from the top down) astroturf, burlap tiles, peel-and-stick tiles, soft vinyl tiles and finally gacky sticky stinky adhesive which made me high as a kite to scrape off. The next step to take was to paint the little closet-sized space. And as I was unscrewing the final unscrewable lightswitch faceplate in the entire three-story house with its budget colors from the overstock pile at the paintstore, I confessed my fears, saying “I always worry that there will be something gross behind it when I unscrew these things.” “Like what?” P asked. And I said, I don’t know, just something nasty.
And there, behind the last lightswitch faceplate in the house on Monroe Street, was a tiny little skull, attatched to a tiny little spine, off of which protruded tiny little ribs. And I, ever the scientist, tried to play a tiny little game of Operation with the needlenose pliers. A game which I lost because I got the skull, but the rest of the body dropped off behind the wall of the house.
And this is why you should never think your thoughts outloud of what vile thing you might find upon opening, for example, the shed doors. Because here I kept my brain quiet, and as a reward there was nothing at all interesting inside. And that, for the most part, is how I like it, tiny mousie parts notwithstanding.
Oh, what a nice way to wake up in the morning, reading this fine piece. What fine painted walls you produced (I remember). And what a scoundrel of a neighbor it was who went after your car so viciously so many moons ago. Life is different now!
I can’t tell you enough how much I enjoy reading your work. I look forward to it with my cup of coffee every morning. Thanks as always for sharing.