The perfect day. Another perfect day in a long string of them, blue sky, madras, the pale blue of Indian summer. Rivers of yellow flow to the valley floor, aspen streams of gold tinged with orange flames jumping from the deep green stands of fir and spruce, blazing with all the promise that life has to offer, would one but grasp it.
The air is still and hazy, flattening immense cliff faces in the distance, making them look unreal, diffuse, painted in muted tones. The morning warms, frost from the early hours but a memory. The pass road beckons to valleys unseen. It is a perfect day for mountain biking. Or road biking, rock climbing, hiking peaks, boating, sailing, running. Anything. Or hanging out in the town dumpster building.
Faced with an unexpected expense, another job was taken on, one that, the impression was, no one else wanted. The task was giving the town dumpster building a much-needed facelift. The town manager shrugged and said: “Hey, it’s work.”
The first thing to do was prop open the doors to admit fresh air, as the dumpster building is home not just to dumpsters and recycling bins, but also to large heated communal composting bins, which range in smell from aromatic to very aromatic. With the doors closed, being in there is like being trapped in a broken elevator with a score of smugly smiling and heartily farting vegetarians post-banquet, with no relief in sight, at least for the non-farters. Open doors mandatory, should one harbor aspirations of survival.
The next task was sweep the walls and ceiling free of dust and cobwebs, wash the windows, practically opaque with filth, and rid the window casings, in anticipation of trimming with No. 2 pine, of 15 years’ worth of mouse turds and dead flies. But wait, aren’t mouse turds supposed to harbor the dreaded hanta virus? Hey, it’s work.
Then, to enjoy a somewhat civilized work environment, a sweep of the floor, which is always littered, sometimes with things that are disgusting. You don’t want to know. Suffice it to say that those who miss the dumpster — hard to do, given their large size — and don’t bother to pick it up are most likely the same culprits who leave their mustard-congealed hotdog wrappers under their seats at the baseball game, and abandon soda cups and tipped-over popcorn boxes on the floor of the movie theater, then flee in anonymity as the credits roll.
Next up was removing the faulty drywall tape, not a difficult undertaking, as a healthy percentage of it was hanging freely in the breeze. It was easy to discern the stage at which the previous effort, so many years ago, ran out of budget or interest.
A quick scrape and re-tape — self-adhesive mesh tape on the butt-seams of the field and paper tape in the corner joints — and a second go-around of mud and we’re ready for priming. Neighbors, whose reactions upon arrival range from gratitude to amusement to pity, invariably offer, when discerning that a painting is imminent, are not shy on offering suggestions.
So far, there have been two votes for purple. This is absurd, but understandable, given the pundits being mothers of young daughters. Another felt strongly that the interior should be yellow. Deep yellow, which would be wonderful should one desire to emulate the nebulous sensation all young chicks must feel making the transition from yolk to hatchling. The rote response is: “There are two choices, honey. Bone White or Navajo White.” Ask any local contractor of the last quarter-century.
If you want to make things unnecessarily complicated, go hire a designer. It’s your money.
These conversations take place under the constant blare of the radio, dumpster sessions taking place on Saturdays, the religious days of autumn when college football games are broadcast. Which leads to confusion and misunderstanding, at the least a disjointed exchange, should an interloper, innocently dropping off the week’s garbage, attempt discourse at a critical juncture of the gridiron contest.
“Hey, how ya doin’? How did you get roped into doing this stinky job?”
“ … The quarterback drops to pass. Under pressure. He’s running for his life!”
“You gonna paint this? I think you should paint it … ”
“ … He’s going down! No! He gets away! How did he get away? He’s got two guys hanging off him!”
“Who gets to decide the color? Is there going to be a vote?”
“ … He’s still on his feet! He heaves the ball down the field! Time’s running out!”
“Hey, is that uncomfortable, being perched on a plank, hanging over the dumpster with flies buzzing around your head?”
“ … The ball’s coming down! It’s in the endzone! Oh, my god! This is incredible!”
“I say, it sure stinks in here. Whoa.”
“ … The ball’s batted in the air! The clock reads zero! It’s gonna be caught! No, it’s gonna be intercepted! It’s, it’s … the crowd’s going crazy!”
“Hey, are you listening to me? See ya later.” And they walk away, scratching their heads.
When the painting is done, a new, larger free box is to be installed, with more compartments. There will be traditional labels, “Men’s,” Women’s,” “Boy’s” and “Girl’s” etc., but the debate over unspecific gender headings, a current hot-button topic, rages on, the grass apparently always greener on the other side of the gender. The current front-runner is one cribbed from the restroom at Eatery 66 over the hill: “Whatever. Just Wash Your Hands.”
The sun goes down, as it will this time of year, too soon. Tools are collected, radio turned off, doors closed, and the retreat sounded, house lights warmly glowing in the gathering dusk, to home and chores and dinner. Outside, the air is crisp and clean, an extra-sweet perfume.
Sean can be reached at email@example.com.