“The guestroom needs to be painted,” Mrs. C. said to me one day.
“We agreed to change the color when we bought this house.”
I shrugged. “That was a year ago and we haven’t had a single guest. So what’s the point?”
“We’ll do it together. It’ll be fun.”
That’s what she said about Lamaze classes thirty years ago and I still hadn’t gotten over them.
“Painting is harder than you think.”
She let out a tiny snort. “How hard can slapping around a little paint be?”
“Okay. If you’re willing to help, how can I say no?”
She told me what color she wanted and I drove to the paint store for supplies. I could tell when I opened the can that she wasn’t happy with the color. “It’ll change when it’s dry,” I promised.
“What’s all this stuff?” she asked, pointing to the supplies I’d lugged upstairs.
“This is the stuff we need to do a good job.”
She rolled her eyes while I unfolded drop cloths and covered the bed and hardwood floors.
“Hand me a brush,” she ordered.
“We aren’t ready for brushes.”
A little kid must have lived in this room because there were crayon marks everywhere. “Wax and acrylic paint don’t mix,” I explained. “The paint will peel off if we don’t remove the crayon marks. Then we need to pull out nails, spackle over the holes and sand them smooth. Then we need to tape off the moldings so we don’t get paint on them, along with the ceiling to keep a straight edge where the ceiling meets the walls.”
“How long will all of this take?”
“An hour. Maybe an hour and a half.”
There was that little snort again. “They make it look so quick and easy on the home improvement shows.”
An hour later I trudged downstairs and found her in the living room with her nose buried in her Oprah magazine. “I thought you were going to help me?”
“Are you ready to let me slap some paint around?”
“Almost. The prep work takes up the most time.”
“Call me when it’s time for some serious painting.”
I called for her a half hour later. She climbed the stairs, grabbed one of the brushes I’d laid out and began slapping paint on the wall facing the street. This wall had a large window and the least surface to cover. “You might start with applying paint to the corners where a roller can’t reach,” I said.
She slapped paint into the corners for a few minutes while I finished taping and sanding the dried spackle covering the nail holes. When I grabbed a roller and started applying paint she said, “That looks like more fun.”
“You said you wanted to slap on paint. You can’t slap it on with a roller.”
She was beginning to look like she wanted to slap something other than paint. I handed her the roller.
Her arm got tired before she’d gotten far. “I think you bought the wrong paint. I can see the old color through it. Did you buy single coat paint?”
“Like the chupacabra, single coat paint is a myth. You always need two coats, especially if you’re covering a dark color with a light, which is what we’re doing.”
Five minutes later she was back downstairs with her nose buried in her Oprah. Two hours later I finished the second coat and carried the ladder downstairs, along with the paint, brushes, rollers and drop clothes. When everything was put away, Mrs. Chatterbox looked up from her magazine and asked, “Are we all finished?”
“Yes, we’re all finished,” I said, my tone dripping with snarkiness.
That night, our guest room received its first guest—me. She never told me to spend the night there, but for some reason it seemed like a good idea.