Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
Sean stopped at the convenience store on his way to work. He went over to one of the shelves and examined all of the products there. He picked out one and headed to the counter. Holding up the can of deodorant, Sean asked, “What have you heard about this new super high heat resistant underarm antiperspirant and deodorant for men made by stink blasters?”
“I heard that stuff doesn’t work,” Sam said.
“Really?” Sean asked.
“That’s right,” Sam said.
Sean looked at the can and said, “It even has odor fighting micro-capsules that will last all day.”
“Won’t last a minute,” Sam said.
Sean looked down at the can finding Sam’s assessment a little hard to believe. The can even had a picture of a thermometer reading 120 degrees on it. He said, “I was hoping that it would keep me from smelling too bad after working in the kitchen all day at the Dairy King. The stuff I used yesterday quit after an hour.”
“I only know of one thing that can stand up to the heat of the Dairy King,” Sam said.
Sam leaned over the counter and, in a whisper, said, “The mildly scented women’s deodorant. It is stronger than anything made for a man.”
“You’re kidding. Why would the women’s stuff be stronger?” Sean asked.
Same looked at him as if he was stupid and said, “No woman would ever be caught dead smelling from BO.”
“True,” Sean said finding it was a statement that was hard to argue against.
“Get the cheap women’s stuff. It is the best that we have,” Sam said.
“I’ll smell like a girl,” Sean said.
“That’s better than smelling like a skunk,” Sam said.
“That’s true,” Sean said. He wondered how he was going to explain that purchase to his mother.
It was two o’clock in the afternoon and business was slow. Sean was outside cleaning up the front of the store while Mr. Catchums was busy cleaning the kitchen. To tell the truth, Mr. Catchums appreciated the help cleaning the place more than the help cooking. Trying to run the Dairy King single-handedly had required him to cut some corners. One of those corners was giving the place the kind of thorough cleaning that he preferred. That’s not to say that the place was dirty; it wasn’t. It just didn’t have the kind of shine to it that it once had. An unkind person might say that it looked like a dump. A kind person would describe it as shabby.
Seeing that no one was around, Sean commanded the small cloth to clean up the counter that customers used when picking up their orders. He ordered another cloth to wipe down the outsides of the plastic squeeze bottles that held the condiments. He ordered a third cloth to wash the glass of the window. While the cloths moved to and fro, Sean sprayed the appropriate cleanser on the surfaces. Releasing a squirt of ammonia based glass cleaner on the window, he said, “I’m just working my fingers to the bone.”
It wasn’t long before the windows were spotless, the counter shined, and the condiment containers looked new. Sean couldn’t remember ever seeing the windows that clean. The little metal edge of the counter no longer looked a dull gray, but reflected the sunlight. The squeeze bottles looked like they had been polished. He didn’t realize that plastic could actually look that nice.
Sean leaned in through the window and spotted a little scrub brush. Waiting for when Mr. Catchums had his back turned, he ordered the brush to come to his hand. He then commanded the brush to clean the front wall of the store. There were lots of little stains and scuff marks left by customers picking up their orders and he thought it would be a good idea to remove them. He stepped back to watch the brush work and noticed that it was removing a lot of the paint that covered the wooden exterior. Muttering, he said, “Oops, that’s not good.”
He ordered the brush to stop. By that time, the brush had removed almost a square foot of the paint. He ran a hand over the surface of the wall and chips of paint flaked loose. He stuck his head through the service window and shouted, “Mr. Catchums, could you come outside for a moment?”
“Give me a minute,” Mr. Catchums shouted back.
Sean stepped back and examined the exterior of the Dairy King. All of the paint was flaking and looked like it would fall off any minute. Even with his gift of magic, Sean was sure that scraping off all of that paint so that it could be repainted would be a major effort. He hoped that Mr. Catchums had enough money to hire a painter or two or ten.
Mr. Catchums came out of the kitchen carrying two cokes. He handed one to Sean. Hot, he went over to one of the picnic tables in the shade. Wiping the sweat from his brow, he asked, “What do you want?”
“I went to clean the area around the service window and discovered that the paint is peeling off the wooden exterior,” Sean said pointing to the spot where he had removed the paint. He took a sip of his drink. The ice cold drink was much appreciated.
Mr. Catchums looked at the bare wood that Sean’s cleaning had exposed. There was a nice square of bare wood surrounded by flaking paint. The clean patch made the rest of the store look pretty bad. He was not surprised to see that his building was in such disrepair. This day had been coming for a long time and he had hoped to postpone it for another year. He stared at the service shelf and windows for a full three minutes without moving a muscle. Sean was beginning to get worried when Mr. Catchums said, “You did a real good job with the bathrooms yesterday.”
“Thanks,” Sean said. He had sacrificed two sponges and two bottles of detergent to that little job.
“The counters look great and I can actually see into the store through the windows,” Mr. Catchums said.
“Thank you sir,” Sean said figuring that his accomplishments probably took the edge off the mess he had created.
“That patch of bare wood makes the rest of the building look pretty shabby,” Mr. Catchums said after squatting down to study the cleaned patch of the exterior.
“I kind of noticed that,” Sean said.
“I guess I’m going to have to take care of this somehow,” Mr. Catchums said.
Nodding his head in agreement, Sean said, “There are only three things we can do.”
“Three things? I only can think of one thing,” Mr. Catchums said somewhat amused at the idea that Sean was going to advise him on what to do about the building.
“The easiest solution would be to ignore it. What do you think of that solution?”
“It is the easiest and cheapest thing I could do,” Mr. Catchums said. “The problem is that it will still look bad and doesn’t fix a thing.”
Sean said, “I agree. The second thing we could do is hide it by putting some sort of sign over it.”
“What would the sign say?” Mr. Catchums asked.
Sean answered, “We could have the sign say something like ‘Read this sign and ignore the rest of the building.’ That way, everyone will be busy trying to figure out what the sign means and no one will notice the peeling paint.”
“That’s brilliant,” Mr. Catchums said. “Do you really think it will work?”
Sean shrugged his shoulders and said, “Not really.”
“I tend to agree with you,” Mr. Catchums said. Wondering how much it was going to cost him, he said, “There’s only one real solution to the problem.”
“You paint the whole building,” Sean said nodding his head.
“No, you paint the whole building,” Mr. Catchums said looking over at Sean with an amused grin.
“Even though our solutions are identically worded, I like my idea better,” Sean said.
Mr. Catchums laughed and said, “You’re just like your mother.”
“My father mentioned to me that you used to date my mother,” Sean said.
“Has he ever gotten over the fact that I wooed Cindy away from him with promises of chocolates and flowers?” Mr. Catchums asked.
“He tells it a little differently,” Sean said. This was the first that he heard about his father dating Cindy. He wondered if his mother knew about that.
“I’m sure he does,” Mr. Catchums said. He was quiet for a moment while taking a quick trip down memory lane. He patted the side of the building affectionately and said, “Why don’t you head over to the hardware shop and get a scraper to start removing the old paint? I guess you’ll need a drop cloth, too.”
“It is just my second day on the job and I’m already the head of maintenance and chief purchasing agent. At this rate, I’ll end up a senior executive by the end of the week,” Sean said.
Mr. Catchums snorted and said, “You’ll need some money. Take a twenty from the till before you head over to the hardware store.”
“Yes, Mr. Catchums,” Sean said.
An hour later, Sean was busy scraping the paint off the building. Actually, he was wearing a glove that was holding the scraper while it was busy scraping the paint off the building. He couldn’t command the scraper, so the glove was the best that he could come up with. Of course, he had to wear the glove so that no one would notice that the glove was doing all of the work. Despite all of his plans, his arm was getting tired from being pulled all over the place by the glove.
He was about to take a break when he noticed what he thought was a hummingbird next to him. He looked over at it and realized it wasn’t a hummingbird. It was a naked miniature person with wings. Judging by the bare breasts that jutted disproportionally from her chest, the gender of his visitor was obviously female. Curious, he said, “Hello.”
The little creature flying beside him replied, “Hello.”
“Who and what are you?” Sean asked although he suspected that she was a fairy.
“Who and what are you?” she asked.
“I’m Sean and I’m a human,” Sean answered fully expecting the little creature to echo his answer.
“I’m Daisy and I’m a fairy.”
“It is nice to meet you Daisy,” Sean said wondering what one discussed with a fairy.
“It is nice to meet you Sean,” Daisy replied politely. She flew closer to the wall for a minute and then zipped back a bit. She asked, “What are you doing?”
“I’m scraping the old paint off the wall so that I can put new paint on it,” Sean answered.
“That doesn’t sound like fun,” Daisy said.
“It isn’t,” Sean replied. He leaned forward a little to see if she was anatomically correct. It was hard to tell from the angle.
Seeing that Sean was looking at her, Daisy said, “You’re just like Merlin. He was always trying to check out the goodies.”
“That’s okay, but it won’t do you any good,” Daisy said turning to face him. She spread her legs and held out her arms so that he could see everything.
“Why?” Sean asked surprised at her willingness to display her anatomical features.
Daisy said, “If you haven’t noticed there’s a little difference in our sizes. Your battering ram is bigger than I am. At least, I hope so. Actually I don’t care how big or small it is, but I’m sure that any women you bed will care.”
“It is,” Sean said realizing what she meant.
“So you can’t play with me,” Daisy said.
“I don’t have to play with you to appreciate your beauty,” Sean said.
“Do you think I’m pretty?” Daisy asked running a hand through her yellowish blond hair. Fairies had a tendency to be more than a little vain about their appearance.
“Very,” Sean said.
“That’s sweet,” Daisy said. There was a little popping sound next to her and another fairy appeared. This one was a red head. Daisy shouted, “Rose!”
Sean watched the pair of fairies fly off. Shaking his head, he said, “Those fairies sure are cute little things.”
Sean wondered how long it would be before other people started noticing that there were magical creatures roaming around the area. He figured that a lot of people would be seeing them over the next few months, but no one would talk about it out of fear of joining Max at the hospital. He worked another twenty minutes before taking a break. By that time, his arm felt like spaghetti.
He was sitting at one of the tables drinking a soda when Suzie sat down next to him. She asked, “What are you doing here?”
“I’m working,” Sean answered.
Suzie looked at him and said, “It doesn’t look like you’re working.”
“Actually, I’m taking a break. I’ve scraped all of the old paint from almost this entire side of the building today,” Sean said pointing over to where he had been working.
“Wow, you got a lot done,” Suzie said looking at the bare wood.
Sean leaned over and whispered, “I’d be done by now if I could really use my magic. I’d get a dozen scrapers going all at the same time. That old paint would be flying off the building.”