Chapter 15

Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac

“Wake up!”

“Don’t shout,” Sean mumbled. He was in the middle of a nice dream involving Suzie and didn’t want it to end.

“The sun is almost up. You don’t want to miss sunrise, do you?” Lily asked brightly.

“Yes,” Sean said giving the short answer. He rolled over so that his back was to her.

“Wake up!”

“Go away,” Sean said. He knew that as soon as he started arguing that the chances of getting any more sleep had dropped to zero.

“Suzie is here to see you,” Lily said.

Sean’s head popped up from the pillow and he asked, “She is?”

“No,” Lily said with a grin. It was her job to get him up in the morning and she was quite proud at being very good at it.

“That’s evil,” Sean groaned. He turned onto his back and stared at the ceiling while considering running away from home so that he could sleep until after sunrise for once in his life.

“Out of bed sleepy head,” Lily said. She knew that Sean found rhymes particularly irritating first thing in the morning.

“I’m awake,” Sean said. He stretched thinking that there was something he was supposed to do that morning, but he couldn’t remember what it was.

“Come on, get out of bed,” Lily said.

“I’m in my underwear,” Sean said.

Having an effect on Sean like nails were being driven into his brain, Lily shouted, “Mom! Sean’s a pervert.”

“Of course I am. All boys my age are perverts,” Sean said. He sat up, yawned, and then said,

“One of these days I’m going to sleep until noon.”

Lily said, “I’ll let mom know that you’re awake.”

Sean watched her leave the room. He looked at his pillow thinking that his head should be resting on it. He scratched his head thinking there was something he was supposed to do that morning. Nothing came to mind and he yawned again.

Lily popped back into the room and said, “Come on. Get up. The day is almost half over.”

“Yesterday is over and today hasn’t even started yet,” Sean said trying to focus on his sister. His eyes weren’t working yet and she was just a blur.

“Get dressed. Breakfast is ready. We’re having cereal,” Lily said cheerfully. She seemed to think that the chance to have cereal was well worth the effort of getting out of bed.

“Oh, joy,” Sean said. The blur that was his sister left the room. He got up and put on his sweatpants. He stumbled to the bathroom and found the door was closed. He sat down on the floor with his back to the wall waiting for his sister to finish inside. His eyes started to drift shut.

“Wakee, wakee!” Lily shouted.

“Why don’t you go to the bathroom before waking me?” Sean asked.

“Because I don’t have to go then,” Lily answered as if there was no other possible answer to that question.

After a short visit to the bathroom, Sean stumbled to the kitchen. His mother placed an empty bowl in front of him. Looking almost motherly, she turned to him and grabbed his head. She examined his face very carefully. She said, “Hmm.”

Puzzled, Sean asked, “What?”

“I was just checking your eyes. I heard that you had a breast stuck in one of them and I was afraid that there might have been permanent damage,” his mother answered.

His father grinned and said, “You could have gone blind.”

Sean wished there was some place to hide. This kind of stuff first thing in the morning was just too much to handle. He said, “I hate mornings.”

“You can’t hate mornings,” his father said.

“They have dimples when they smile,” his mother said.

“That doesn’t make sense,” Sean said shaking his head. He said, “Mornings are ugly things filled with horrible cheerful people.”

“Did you hear him call us horrible?” his mother asked sounding offended.

“I heard. At least he tempered it with saying that we were cheerful,” his father said.

“That’s true. He could have really been nasty and called us horrible grumpy people,” his mother said.

Smiling over at Sean, his father said, “That would have been the pot calling the kettle black.”

“I hate mornings,” Sean said staring into his empty cereal bowl. There was something missing.

It took him a second to realize that it was supposed to have some cereal in it. He reached for the nearest box.

His father said, “You’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of you today. How long will it take you to scrape the rest of the building?”

“I don’t know. A couple of hours or so,” Sean answered remembering what it was he was supposed to do that morning. With no one around, he would really let the scraper go at it. That would be later. For the moment, it was taking all of his mental energy to figure out how to open the cereal box.

“It will take you a lot longer than that. Last time I painted the house it took me three weekends to scrape the outside,” his father said. Of course, his wife had kept distracting him whenever he was scraping near one of the windows. It was kind of hard to scrape and watch his wife do a sexy striptease. She had assumed that stripping the paint off of the house was just a subtle hint that he wanted her to do a little stripping as well. He hadn’t bothered to correct that little misunderstanding.

“I guess I’ll find out,” Sean said pouring some cereal into the bowl.

“Just work at a nice steady rhythm and the job will be done before you know it,” his father said.

“Okay,” Sean said.

“You’re going to have to sand it after that,” his father said.

“Sand it?” Sean said. He figured that after scraping off all of the old paint that he’d just paint it again.

“You need to feather the edges of all the spots where the paint couldn’t be scraped off or else the building will really look ugly,” his father said.

“That’s a lot of work,” Sean said thinking about sanding the whole outside of the building.

“That’s what a job is — it is a lot of work,” his father said. He said, “After you sand it, you’ll have to put down a coat of base paint and then give it a second coat of paint.”

“Oh,” Sean said staring at his cereal. He had been hoping to finish the job tomorrow. It was beginning to sound like it would take a couple of days.

“All of the real work is preparing the surface,” his father said.

Sean stared at his bowl thinking that there was something missing in it. It took a minute for him to realize what it was. He said, “Pass the milk, please.”

His father said, “The milk is right in front of you.”

“That breast must have done more damage to his eyes than I thought,” his mother commented.

His father said, “Dangerous things those breasts are.”

“I remember the time when you got your mouth stuck on one of mine. You must have been stuck there for an hour before you were able to get it out of your mouth,” his mother said grinning at her husband.

“It has happened more than once.”

“I really hate mornings,” Sean said covering his ears with his hands.

An hour after eating breakfast, Sean moved the drop cloth to catch the paint chips that were flying from the building. Once it was in place, he stood back to watch the pair of scrapers frantically moving over the wall. He had gotten a second scraper from the garage thinking that a second scraper would get the job done in half the time. Each scraper was wrapped by a single glove. They were moving a lot faster now than when he had his hand in the glove. He said,

“Well, that’s the rear of the building down. One side and the front to go yet and I’ll be done scraping the paint off this building.”

He walked over to one of the picnic tables and took a seat. Yawning mightily, he said, “This sure is a lot of work.”

A car drove past, but the area where the scrapers were hard at work wasn’t visible from the road. He said, “I guess I’ll have to be careful when I do the front of the building.”

The drop cloth was collecting quite a pile of paint chips. Thinking about how he was going to have to empty the chips into the trashcan soon, he reached down and idly ran his hand over surface of the picnic table. He pulled his hand back when a rather large splinter went into his finger. He looked at his finger and ordered the splinter to get out. It worked its way out and dropped to the table. Sean shook his head and said, “These tables are a danger to the customers.”

Sean got up and ordered the scrapers to stop. He took care of the drop cloths by folding them into thirds width-wise and then length-wise. They were almost too large and bulky to carry over to the dumpster. He struggled to get them there. Opening them, he dumped the paint chips into the dumpster. It was the hardest work he had done all morning. Frowning, he said, “There’s got to be a better way to do that.”

He carried the drop cloths back to the building and spread them under the area where the scrapers had not yet removed the flaking paint. There wasn’t that much left on the side of the building to finish. All that remained to do was the front of the building. Sean glanced at his wristwatch and noted that it was nearly nine in the morning. He’d been there for almost two hours.

Sean was about to order the scrapers to get back to work when he heard a truck pulling into the parking lot. He went around the side of the building and saw Mr. Catchums getting out of the truck. He said, “Good morning, Mr. Catchums.”

“Oh! Hello, Sean. I was wondering if you’d gotten here yet,” Mr. Catchums replied. He went around to the back of his truck to get out the ladder.

Sean took the ladder from Mr. Catchums and said, “I was here at sunrise.”

“Oh, I didn’t expect you to start working without me to supervise,” Mr. Catchums said surprised by Sean’s claim.

“No need to supervise me. I’m just a paint scraping maniac,” Sean said thinking it would be a disaster to have Mr. Catchums watching him. He might actually have to work.

“Set the ladder down and we’ll see what you’ve done,” Mr. Catchums said. He wondered just how much work Sean had actually done without someone around to make sure that he was working.

Sean looked at the ladder and said, “So this is a corporate ladder. It looks pretty easy to climb to me.”

“It is a whole lot harder when there are other people already on it,” Mr. Catchums said.

“Wow. This one even has warnings on it. Let’s see. Do not to stand on the top step. I guess that means that you don’t want to be the guy at the top of the ladder,” Sean said examining the rather large patches of paper with writing on them.

“You do want to be the guy at the top of the ladder. You just don’t want to stand on the top step of the ladder,” Mr. Catchums said.

“Ah! I get it. Once you get to the top of the ladder you sit down and become lazy,” Sean said.

“Just don’t stand on the top step,” Mr. Catchums said.

“Do not use on slippery surfaces. I wonder how you are supposed to change the lights over an ice rink,” Sean said reading the warning labels aloud.

“I don’t know,” Mr. Catchum said. Sean’s mother used to ask him questions like that. It was one of the reasons he went after Cindy.

Shaking his head after reading all of the warnings, Sean said, “You’d think that they’d warn us that only one person should be on it at a time.”

Mr. Catchums shook his head. He’d be worried that Sean was going to be a problem except that the kid had showed up in the morning. He stepped around the side of the building and stopped.

Shocked at how much work had been done, he asked, “Did you skip the rear of the building?”

“No. Was I supposed to?” Sean asked puzzled by the question. He set the ladder down by the drop cloth.

“No. I just didn’t think that you’d get that much done by now,” Mr. Catchums said.

“Do you want me to slow down?” Sean asked.

Mr. Catchums said, “No. Just don’t kill yourself.”

“I won’t kill myself. I never entertain thoughts of suicide except when my sister is waking me up in the morning. Then I just lie there in bed wishing that I was asleep or dead. Even then, it is just an abstract kind of dead rather than a real dead. I never really even gave it much thought about how I would go about getting abstractly dead. I don’t think I’d enjoy waking up and finding that I was really dead,” Sean said.

“Never mind. Just be careful,” Mr. Catchums said.

“You know, when I become a secret agent I think I’ll change my name to Jack Careful Stone.

That way, I’ll be able to say that Careful is my middle name,” Sean said.

“Huh?” Mr. Catchums said. He wasn’t a morning person and this conversation was edging past weird and into surreal. He wished that he was back in bed with Cindy.

“My name is Stone ... Jack Stone and Careful is my middle name,” Sean said sounding it out. He smiled and said, “Do you like that more than Stone ... Jack Stone — man of action?”

Mr. Catchums said, “I’m going to go back to the house. I’ll be back a little before eleven to open the store.”

“Excellent. I should be done by then,” Sean said.

“You’re sure that you’ll be okay working here alone?” Mr. Catchums asked. He still found it rather incredible that Sean had done so much that morning.

“Sure. It was kind of nice working while it was still cool and nobody was around,” Sean said.

Mr. Catchums went to his truck and drove away shaking his head. He muttered, “That kid is mad as a hatter, but at least he knows how to work.”

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