I lost my job at Benjamin Moore after putting my manager’s bird cage in the pneumatic paint shaker. I had paint on my hands – and time.
I had time to watch the walls slowly grow.
Every one of them inward. I couldn’t cover them any quicker. With each new layer they came closer. I inhaled deeply and thought of the day they would close in on me, touch me.
That day would not come for many weeks. Paint production was slow and my
output was slow. The fumes got to me. Sometimes I would wake up my body spread between the wall and the floor – like I wanted to be the paint. I didn’t and I did.
The room was 28 feet by 14 feet. A perfect rectangle in the eyes of man and the Lord. The ceiling was white, an old white, dating back to 1912 when the house was constructed. It had a messy texture that was impossible to replicate. You could try but I’ll warn you that not even those ding dongs restoring the Michael Angelou in the Latrine
Chapel for a living could do it.
The floor was made of thin strips of a medium-stain birch hardwood from a tree four times as old as the house. I could never climb them but I sure as hell can walk all over them when they’re in this here state.
The only items in the room were white, five-gallon paint buckets and some
colourless newspapers spread flat across the hardwood. A black headline from a March 1943 issue read A PERFECT WORLD.
At one point every wall was yellow; an instinctual yellow like the flower head of a dandelion before desiccation. All four walls bright as hell. I couldn’t leave them like that.
I went down to the stream that ran through my cache. Downstream was a water reservoir that the townspeople built years back to capture the water from rivers flowing from the mountains. Fewer people live here now.
The bristles of the soaked brush tickled my hand as I swept it back and forth on my palm. The water was so cool and transparent, I liked the way the yellow paint muddied it and dissolved away.
The sun was out. I let the brush dry on a rock near the stream and cupped water to my mouth. It was easy for me to forget about hydrating when I spent all day in the room. I looked over at Maggie, laying in the cache on the stream’s small bank of dirt and root. Her dark skin reminded me of a particularly trying time for the walls. The sediment-brown era. It took me days to cover them up but my work ethic was a young man’s back then.
People would come by the house and ask to see the room that was available. I’d say Sure, if you’d like, and invite them in to see the place.
Maggie told me she liked the colour of the walls, they always said that. She was impressed with how the walls accented the baseboards. I snapped my teeth together and through a clenched jaw said I didn’t paint the baseboards. She said Oh, is that chestnut? I responded with Something like that.
I’m not sure how they got my address, but they kept on coming and I kept on painting. You know what they say, if you build it…
One day, before all this, the sheriff’s blond and unpleasant daughter came by and I thought I was toast. She commented on the omniscient blue walls I had then and that’s when I was suddenly inspired me to create a new yellow.
I’m hypnotized by the way melted glacier ice washes over skin like cool slime and how the narcissus blossom so brightly and as violent as the conceptual heavens painted in a cathedral.
I will paint until the day I complete this cathedral. I will paint until someone arrives to take my place. I will paint until the next one cometh.
–Spencer Lucas Oakes
Spencer Lucas Oakes is a Canadian writer. His work has appeared in Shirley Magazine, Train and Daily Hive. Read his mind and follow @cultofspencer on Twitter.