Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Somebody Call the UN

My dad has just brought home paint again. It is a blue-gray color, usually the color of a cloudy day, the color that means we stay inside and read good books and drink cocoa. But I know better. The cans he brought were not a nice omen, because they were filled with house paint.

Now, Mom has been begging us to do something about the house for over two years. Dad is way too busy to handle managing the painting, unless he takes vacation time, since he is attatched via a Brethren umbilical cord to all members of our congregation, their friends, relatives, and distant aquaintences. She is miserable with the way the paint has curled up, whimpering, and given up the hope of clinging to our siding, falling away in long, snakelike chips, never to return. And the mold growing behind our bushes in the front of the house, which made its appearance a full two weeks after our last paint-job, has reduced her to tears more than once. I firmly believe that the mold was always there, but the green paint of my childhood had shielded us from noticing what cadet blue has drawn to our attention.

From the moment I saw the cans, anxiety has been growing deep inside me. Yesterday, when I nonchalantly picked up a paintbrush to put it away, I had a full-out flashback, which led me to drop the brush in horror, shaking bodily.

I am twelve. Dad is thrilled with Mom's decision to repaint the house, because he has realized that his children have reached the age where slave-labor is acceptable. Or at least they could be employed legally. He has determined that they will paint alongside him, so he can teach them a Work Ethic. They will then become Responsible Adults, proving that he has been a Good Father, after all.

However, he also knows that, being young, the two young and innocent members of the family might need valuable fatherly attention while learing to paint. This, he concludes, is far too much of a commitment on his behalf. He needs all his attention to put toward the house painting, not the supervision of two novices. He has conveniently forgotten that his children had painted INDOORS many times already, and is convinced that they have never held a paintbrush.

He also knows (or fears) that if he leaves them under the watchful eye of his wife, they will be allowed to wander away to other pursuits. This is unacceptable. No pain, no gain.

So Dad set off for the hardware store. Now the owners of the hardware store know my father by sight. The few times I have accompanied him on trips there, I have watched as they scurry to the back room, scattering keys and paint-stirrers in their wake. The novices are left to listen to my father's rambling, aimless questions, their eyes wide, shaking behind their counter. I pity them all. But this time, Dad knew exactly what he wanted.

Hey kids!" he cried when he returned, brandishing the nondescript brown paper bag. "I got you a suprise!"

I was looking forward to painting the house, quite naively. I closed my eyes, imagined white overalls, a little white hat, and an artistic sprinkle of multi-colored paint over the purity of my crisp new clothing. I would perhaps have a smear of paint on my cheek, which would be alluring on a tween like myself. My hair, in its loose ponytail would be shiny in the sunlight. Passing motorists would be transfixed by the adorable Laura, expertly painting her home, and would hire her to paint their homes, paying her in library cards and trips to Barnes and Nobles.

Dad pulled the bag open and brandished his gift.

It was a half-inch wide, barely two inches long, with a flimsy, four-inch wooden handle. And it was made of foam. He had brought home sponge-brushes,

Believing his children incapable of handling a real paintbrush, he had determined that the best solution was to bring them a fail-safe: something that would easily protect from errors of massive proportions, no drips, no loose fibers caught in the paint, no spiders drowned and fused with the siding, no mistakes.

Laura and Paul spent the next two weeks grasping the miniature brushes, meant by their designer for fine-detail work, never for painting the massive sides of a country home. Paint dripping down their forearms, they were unable to swat the mosquitos which fed off their blood.

By the time Mom discovered the sponge brushes were in use, I had lost so much blood that I could no longer stand without assistance, and I spent the next two weeks believing I had contracted malaria.So, standing at home yesterday, I dropped the paintbrush that I had discovered, which clattered to the ground at my feet. Ever since then I have been in the office, drinking Big Gulps of Dr. Pepper and eating Tums like candy. With any luck, the house will be finished before Dad notices I'm gone.

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