We are having our house painted.
Last summer I scraped, sanded, sealed, primed and repainted the garage (with help from my mother who was visiting and the next door neighbor who is skinny enough to squeeze between his fence and the building). One afternoon out in the alley working on the door a guy came by me and said, in what I assumed was a Russian accent, “Not bad job, thdis.” He told me he was a house painter working in the neighborhood and then quizzed me on my plans to do the rest of the house. “You’re doingk house? rrest of house? I could make house look nice. Now looks like shit – up thdere peelingk, needs scrrapingk, needs caulkingk. I could do house, fence, wall, whole thingk! I give good prrice. You do thdis colour? Thdis is pink?” And he made a face. “Bah, I dunt know. You like colour?” When I told him that I did and that we had, in fact, picked it out on purpose and wanted to do the house in the same (which you can see below) he reconsidered. “I guess is ok, you know… for girls.”
He said that he would come by and leave his number because I was definitely interested in having the house not look like shit anymore and I can’t do the high stuff myself. I think I saw him occasionally after that, having the same conversation – yes paint house, other houses in neighborhood good, yes pink, maybe summer. I remembered to tell Lolly that if a Russian guy came around not to worry, it was only “Mike” and he wants to do our house.
Some time later while getting out of the car in the garage, Lolly was unexpectedly cornered by a guy speaking animatedly in the doorway. She squinted at him and stepped back cautiously looking for a weapon and wondering how she would escape when she realized… that he sounded kinda Russian… and that he seemed to be gesturing at the garage and over to the house… and that perhaps he is covered in paint splotches because he is the painter… ahhah. He then seemed to realize that he had cornered a stranger, a woman, in her own garage and he took a few steps back. Unable to answer any of his questions, or really even understand much of what he was saying at all, she gave him my cellphone number.
The weather started warming up. I started to consider this thing more seriously and took a bid from one of those college painter groups. 7K? Too much money! I waited for Mike. Finally last month I was walking home through the alley and he was back there talking to the Swastika Santas. (Definition: the Truck-driving Men With Piles of Junk Around Their House. One item of junk was once a good-sized, plastic, lawn santa with a black swastika spray-painted on its belly. It was only there a day or two but made a lasting impression.) He shouted, “Heylo! heylo!” and trotted after me to ask if we were ready to paint. I told him to come along and give me the Good Price. Only 2K? That’s more like it! We made an arrangement to meet so he could show me the house he was finishing a couple blocks away. “If you like, I paint for you.” He had done several in the neighborhood. “Thdis guy over here, I do thdis one. One on corrner? I do thdat too. But thdat guy thdere, I didn’t do. I, ehh, no like him. I only worrk for people I like.”
One of my coworkers noted that I might end up on the local news special investigation into fraudulent handymen. I figured that if he really was a scammer he wouldn’t still be hanging around the same neighborhood where he’d been scamming. Right?
So he was coming on Monday to start, with pressure washing. I met him that morning and while he was explaining that the pressure washer hadn’t been working properly because he had let his friend use it and there was air getting in somewhere and that was bad but he had it fixed even though this one is like new but not as good as the one he had that got stolen it will be okay, I noticed that his t-shirt read: Official Bikini Contest Judge. The pressure washing began on the back of the house. I put towels down in the doorways to keep the water from coming in and Lolly drove me to work. She kept me apprised of the progress (lack of) when she got back home:
Subject: we’re peely . . .
but everything else is fine. Just got home. No water a’tall on towels by front door, or anyplace else. Back of house facing back fence now seriously peely in places it wasn’t, like under kitchen window. Front of house still seems dirty to me, but maybe it doesn’t get washed. Or mebbe he’s not done. Maybe he stopped due to rain. Not sure, but no flooding, no worries there. No waffley on the paint job, though. It needs it now fo’ sho.
Tuesday it was time to pressure wash again. Again, Lolly kept me posted while I was at work:
Subject: currently getting pressure washed [9:06 am]
I closed all the windows and reapplied the towels. There’s also a dude here who looks just like one of the actors on Rescue Me. I talked to them and Mike said (upon seeing me walk out the back door), “But I just called the tall one!” I said I was the one there today. He got a little flustered but I think he’s regrouped by now. He said he’d be done pressure washing today, so no more worries about windows after this.
Subject: Re: tsk tsk [10:29 am]
They were definitely in the back and on one side doing something, but now they seem to have left again, and nothing has been done to the front. ??? But they told me they’d be done after today. It did rain, perhaps that’s why they left? But they surely knew that would happen, and told me they’d be done today anyway. Are they coming back today? I have no idea what’s up now, they just vanished. When I sent the last email, I assumed they were staying until done. That doesn’t seem to have occurred. I am totally confused, and don’t know what to think about windows and towels.
Subject: more . . . [11:14am]
Well, the pressure washer is still in the yard. Maybe I’ll toss it down the back stairs, cover it with a blankie, close that door, then act dumb when they come back. (You think that’s how that other one went missing?) Washer? Who? Huh? Where? What? It’s raining. Everything’s clean now. I’m tired. Are we done with these towels?
Subject: they’re baaaaaaaack . . . [1:54pm]
I guess the bikinis and piroshkies have been properly wrestled under control, and it’s time to return to the issue of our Dirty Dirty House. They’re wambling about in our backyard again.
Subject: Mike is currently ON [2:28 pm]
the roof. As in, on. Walking about a bit. Weezie Meep doesn’t think this is a great thing. She’s looking annoyed. For some reason they didn’t think I’d closed one of the upstairs windows, so RescueMe rang the front bell. I went and double-checked, and it was closed. Already. ??? But in the course of making sure, I pulled aside the curtain and . . . smiling Mike head waving back at me. Inches from me. OH! IS CLOSED THEN! YES! VERY GOOD! You just don’t expect to see another human head looking back at you just inches from yours, while looking out a window not on the first floor.
Subject: Gomez . . . [4:40 pm]
is experiencing distress. He does not know where to go or what to do. He is currently parked midway up the stairs. Both upstairs and down have apparently taken on suspicious qualities. He was tucked in bed till he saw Mike on the roof. Yes, Gomez. I’d feel the same way. RescueMe is standing right outside my window as I type this, halfway up a ladder, holding on with one hand, smoking a cig with the other. I need that man to hold on a bit better. Hold on, RescueMe. Hold on. Hold on NOW, smoke LATER. Weezie just growled. She’s in the office with me.
Before Mike and RescueMe left that day they stopped to ring the bell at the front door with some final comment or question for Lolly. Mike was holding a molded cardboard box with holes in it. The box had been out on the back porch since they returned from lunch, but Lolly could now see that it was an animal carrier. She asked what was in the box. “Is snake.” was the reply. Mike and RescueMe started to giggle. Lolly was unfazed; she thinks they were expecting her to say “eek!” or recoil in horror. “But no, I joke. Is no snake… IS KITTEN!” And the box opens and out pops a little black and white kitten head wearing a tag that said “Timmy.” Mew? While away for lunch they went to the PAWS animal shelter down the road and Mike got a kitten.
On Wednesday, there was some more washing.
On Thursday, there was some scraping. A little maybe. Maybe some on Friday too. RescueMe almost fell off the ladder explaining to me that some wooden parts of the house were rotten. Mike was kept up the night before by the kitten, “biting nose, biting feet.” He might name him “Tiger.” On Saturday it rained a lot.
On Sunday it didn’t rain but no one came. Nothing happened on Monday either. On Tuesday maybe something. Wednesday? I don’t remember. At some point there was a lot of talk about how realtors and people who are selling houses do many bad things like painting over parts of the house that need to be fixed just to make them look nice and fool the people who buy them. A box of movies on VHS appeared on the back porch.
On Thursday, there was a lot of activity. It was going to rain again and we were all behind schedule. Another guy joined the crew, a cousin who is better at the work. I could see it; he got things done. One of the things they got done was to put plastic all over the windows and door in preparation of priming in the morning. After the cousin left I found a cassette type out where he had been parked. Someone had designated it as “avnili dhe grupi.” I showed it to Mike. “Oh Avnili dhe grupi! Is music. You have cassette player? you want listen? You listen. You can dance to Armenian music!” He left, with RescueMe, and I went inside to play the tape and dance for Lolly. She had a headache and preferred a nap to my Armenian dancing. A carpeted cat scratcher appeared on the back porch.
On Friday morning it rained. On Friday afternoon the 2 returned with the paint sprayer. Is new. There was no painting however, just a little more scraping and then we put the sprayer in the cellar so it wouldn’t get stolen.
On Saturday, it was supposed to rain later in the day, but the morning was clear. So they were back and then gone and then back. We got the sprayer out of the cellar. There was a little scraping. Some of it by me. It was too windy for painting and rain was coming and so the sprayer went back in the cellar. It was joined by an electronic dartboard in a small wooden cabinet.
…. [to be continued]