Friday, September 27, 2013

Please lie in my obituary

Like a fool, I decided to paint the white trim on the front of my house. I'd scrubbed down the entire porch recently, and the peeling paint on the trim looked even worse in comparison.

I'd already scraped as much of the old paint as would easily come off a couple of days ago. This evening was the time to paint, and I was determined to do it all at one time. I dragged out my extension ladder and the paint I'd used to paint behind the new landscaping I'd put in a couple of months ago, and stuck a paintbrush in the back pocket of my cut-offs.

As soon as I started stirring the paint, my next-door neighbor Dustin showed up on his porch to smoke a cigarette, drink the rest of his half-empty pint of whiskey and watch me. Dustin is LeeAnn's step-brother who moved in after Tyler, who turned out to not be related to LeeAnn at all although he told me he was her brother, but was born in prison to a crack whore, and who stole her 7-year-old son Nathan's commemorative state quarter collection and sold it. She kicked him out after days of screaming and recriminations. But that's not the story for tonight.

Shortly after Dustin sat down on the end of their porch closest to my house, 11-month-old baby Brit crawled out through the open front door, sat down beside him and stared at me with her pretty blue eyes.

Dustin asked me if I'd heard that NASA was offering $10,000 to people who would agree to lie in a bed for 70 days so they could determine the effects on humans of lying in bed for 70 days. I said that one had somehow slipped by me. He said he was going to apply (and he seemed pretty sure they'd take him) because then he could just lie around and play video games and watch TV all day.

I said it sounded kind of boring, like when you have the flu and you start to go crazy after 3 days. Just then LeeAnn came out and sat beside Dustin. She plopped Brit down in the grass. Brit immediately picked up one blade of grass and started chewing on it.

LeeAnn said she thought Dustin was crazy to think he could just lie in bed for 70 days and not suffer severe consequences, like weight gain or maybe an embolism. I started painting the lower part of the trim and agreed with her. I said given 70 days, I could probably make $10,000 and avoid the weight gain and the embolism and the boredom of lying in bed for 70 days.

I asked if he'd be able to get up at all. Like to go to the bathroom.

LeeAnn said he probably wouldn't care if he had to poop in a diaper, but I said it was one thing to poop in a diaper once maybe, but to do it every day for 70 days might be kind of embarrassing. I said I didn't think I could poop in a diaper knowing somebody was going to have to change it, so my bowels would probably become impacted, and I'd get kicked out of the program.

Every once in a while, Nathan would run out of the open front door, stick up rabbit ears behind Dustin, laugh like a maniac, and run back inside. Or he'd just run down the sidewalk as fast as he could go. He can do that for long periods of time.

We continued to talk about the NASA program as Dustin and LeeAnn smoked, and Brit crawled over to my yard to explore my extension ladder, which was still in the grass.

The neighbor down the street, Cash, who drives a bright yellow pickup, walked by on the other side of the street and shouted, "Hey, Miss Redhead! You always out there doin' something, ain't you? You gonna get up on that ladder? I bet you are."

I told him I was an idiot, and yes, I was going to climb that ladder. He said I should be careful. Mmmm hmmm.

I told Dustin I didn't think lying in bed for 70 days would be good for his mental health, and it seemed like the kind of experiment where they could be doing other experiments he knew nothing about, and once he got in there they could strap him down and do anything to him.

LeeAnn said he might even become suicidal if he couldn't see other people for 70 days.

Dustin said they'd have to let him have sex or he probably couldn't do it.

 I said the family would probably get a letter saying Dustin was dead and had strangled himself with his diaper ....

LeeAnn said NASA probably wouldn't tell us how he'd died. They'd probably pay us the $10,000 to keep quiet, and we'd all say he'd run off to Las Vegas with some girl.

Dustin said he might actually do that, and then I lost track of the conversation about him going to Las Vegas, and then something about how he thought LeeAnn should become a prostitute in Las Vegas .... because it was time to put up the extension ladder and paint the parts that were over my head. Way over my head.

I stood the ladder up and raised the extension with some difficulty -- after I tried once and had it upside down -- and finally clicked the latches into place. I tried to set it against the house with the base on the outside of the stabby bushes I'd cut back the day before, but it didn't seem very steady.

So I tried to lift it over the bushes, which are about chest high and about 3 feet wide, but it was top heavy so when I lifted it up, the top of it fell over backwards behind me .... slowly .... awkwardly. I felt an unpleasant twinge in my back. LeeAnn asked if I needed help, and Dustin said he'd come over and do it. I said no, I'd get it.

I finally wrestled the fucking ladder over the fucking bushes, set the feet into place, and propped it against the house right in the middle of a big window. I said I thought I could reach both sides from there. Dustin said to just make sure I didn't lean too far to one side and fall off. I said I'd certainly consider his advice.

I had a little green plastic bucket that I'd poured the paint into (and then discovered it had a small slit up the side, but by then it was too late) because it had a handle. When I looked up at the ladder, I realized there was no place to put the paint while I painted. LeeAnn and Dustin noticed my predicament too. LeeAnn said maybe she could hold it, but I said I didn't want to go up and down the ladder.

I decided to get some rope and tie it to the ladder rung toward the top. I climbed over the bushes, up the ladder. and got it tied on to the side of a rung, but I have to admit that ladder didn't feel all that firm. I painted the trim on the sides of the window and then yelled back to LeeAnn and Dustin and asked if it would show if I didn't do the board above the window under the eaves. LeeAnn said it would because the new paint was brighter and you could see where it stopped ...  I said that's the problem with starting any project. It always leads to another one.

I climbed to the top of the ladder and painted that top board .... all except for the 2-inch squares where the top of the ladder rested in 2 places. I said I didn't know how I'd get those 2 spots because the paint was wet around them, and I couldn't prop the ladder on the wet paint, so maybe I'd tie a brush onto my broom and get them that way. I had no intention of doing that though. A close examination of the paint on my house will reveal a number of issues larger than those 2 spots.

I moved the ladder to the middle section and propped it with the feet just outside of the bushes this time. They were poking through, trying to push the ladder away from the house and scrape me as I climbed up. I'm pretty sure it's not the right way to prop a ladder, at such a shallow angle, but I climbed up anyway, slowly and carefully.

When I got to the top, I looked down at the newly trimmed bushes, and they looked like giant ice picks sticking up down there. I said I was glad LeeAnn and Dustin were out there while I was painting so if I fell onto the bushes they could call 911 before I bled out.

Then I realized those bushes were quite sharp and if I fell on them they really could do some damage. I said I didn't want to die after being impaled by bushes while I was painting the house. What an embarrassing obituary: "Reticula died unexpectedly when she was impaled by shrubs after a fall off an improperly set extension ladder. Her friends expressed shock and said that wasn't how they imagined she would go. Her children were too embarrassed to be named in the obituary, but are happy to be named in her will ..... "

LeeAnn said I shouldn't worry because they wouldn't let that happen.

 I said I didn't think they could get to me in time to catch me if I fell, but my heart was warmed by the idea that they would try to catch me ....

She said no, she meant the obituary. They wouldn't let the bush stabbing go into the obituary. They'd say I was participating in a secret experiment for NASA, and was last seen booking a flight to Las Vegas ......

I finally finished the painting about the time Dustin finished his pint of whiskey. It was dark, and I didn't feel like it, but I cleaned up my pail and brushes while they smoked one last cigarette and argued about whether LeeAnn should go to Las Vegas. Dustin said he was going with or without her, because he'd never been on a plane and he wanted to fly.

It took just as long as it always does to get the paint out of the brush. That's the worst part: the cleaning up .... even worse than climbing a ladder that's set into stabby bushes at a low angle.

By the time I finished, it was too dark to admire my hard work, so I have no idea what the trim looks like, but it has to look better than before. LeeAnn had taken the kids inside to feed them. Dustin was doing something on his phone, still sitting on the end of the porch closest to my house.

Maybe he could spend 70 days in bed. I don't know. I'm pretty sure I couldn't, not even for $10,000. I'd probably fair better in Las Vegas. 


  1. Reminds me of when I was pai ting a particularly tall wall in our new-at-the-time house. It was the stairway wall, so the ladder had to be set on the landing, and be exrended as far as it would reach. I had to climb to the very top and really stretch to get into the corner. I handed my cell phone to my daughter, who was about ten years old, and reminded her that she had to press "send" after dialing 911, or it wouldn't work. Thanks for the memory!

    1. Ha! Stairwells are the worst. I would buy a Groupon and pay somebody to paint a stairwell now.