Painting the Shed
"So," my brother said, "when Marvin was in high school he got into trouble at school and we decided to ground him for life but Annie wanted to get the tool shed in the back yard painted."
"That sounds like a job for you."
"But I can already see your mind at work." I said.
"I had been putting it off for a couple of months and no doubt I could have put it off a little longer, except here was Marvin grounded for life and a shed that needed painting so I suggested that he paint the shed and Annie was all over that idea."
"One of those rare situations where having a kid grounded for life actually comes in handy."
"I'll say," he said, "but you should have heard Marvin. As if he had received a death sentence. He was into the hip hop world in those days and he wore those enormous pants with the waist around the middle of his butt and he was forever tugging and adjusting to prevent the pants from actually falling down around his ankles. And everything was motherfucker this and motherfucker that."
"So he whines and whines about painting but finally after a day of two of swearing he'd rather die than paint the shed he slouches into the kitchen and asks me where I put the fucking paint. I tell him it is in the garage."
"So he gave in?"
"But only to the bare minimum. I go down to the garage and the paint cans are right by the door. Two brand new buckets of hunter green house paint with a big old paintbrush and a paint stirrer on top."
"Yeah, I know. It had been sitting out there for a couple of months ever since Annie bought it and every time I walked by I wondered what "hunter green" looked like."
"But not enough to actually open the paint can."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. You sound like Annie."
"I doubt it."
"So anyway, I come into the garage and he is standing there like he has been dropped off by a taxi in bad neighborhood. He says, "so where in the fuck is it?" and I point out the cans of paint with my elbow."
"What did he do then?"
"Well he tucks the paintbrush and stirrer under his arm. Then he picks up the cans, one in each hand, and heads for the garage door. I call after him to ask if he wants a screwdriver but he doesn't acknowledge that I am alive."
"Just a man on a mission."
"So he storms out into the backyard. He has got the big pants hanging down his butt with about a foot of boxer showing over the top and the pant legs dragging on the ground. You can't even tell if he is wearing shoes. He is not wearing a shirt and he has a baseball cap on backwards."
"Did he have the tattoo?"
"Yeah that stupid thing on his shoulder."
"Beavis and Butthead smoking a blunt."
"He says it is a work of art. So anyway he gets out to the shed and now he has to open the paint cans but he doesn't have a screwdriver. From inside the house I can hear him cursing and whining."
"So he comes back to the house?"
"No way. That would be an admission of defeat. He does what men of our family have always done under those circumstances…. He tries to pry the lid off with the plastic doohickey they give you to mix up the paint. It does not to work very well."
"I have tried that very thing myself." I said.
"Obviously. You are a Duret. Things like that run in the blood."
"So then what?"
"He hunts around behind the shed by the tree line and finds a rock and a couple of branches and then he is pounding away with the rock on the sticks and swearing to beat the band."
"How did that work?"
"About as well as expected."
"I don't think it worked for me either."
"Finally, I take pity on him and I go find the screwdriver and take it out to him."
"Did he actually take it?"
"I didn't think he would at first. He gave me a murderous look, but I dropped the thing on the ground and went back in the house and about five minutes later I look out the window and see he has started to paint. I figure he decided that branches and a stick would never work."
"So then what happened?"
"It was an old shed, very weatherbeaten, so it drinks up the paint. He has to paint and paint just to get the paint to cover. It takes several coats. If you actually listened to his whining you'd think it was his blood on the brush."
"How long did it take?"
"Almost two days. He spent more than a day on the front and then he had to go around into the woods behind our yard to get to the back of the shed. Although he wasted a lot of time with his continual bellyaching."
"Did he do a good job."
"Well it looked okay from the house but if you got a little closer you would not conclude that Marvin was neat."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, there was paint all over the grass and shrubs around the shed. He actually painted a couple of leaves right into the side of the shed because he was too lazy to move the branches out of the way. And, of course he got himself covered in paint. He had hunter green drops and smears all over his chest and it looked like he wiped off his brush on those enormous pants."
"I bet he was unhappy about that."
"You got it. But I will say this. He is enterprising. When he was finished he came inside and said that I owed him 80 bucks."
"I thought it was punishment."
"So what did you do? Did you pay him or not?"
"I did not do either. Obviously."
"Oh I get it. You told him to ask Annie. Very smart."
"But she had had it with his attitude and she wouldn't pay him a penny. He sulked around for days. He said his pants were ruined and they cost at least $80 bucks. He was demented on the subject. He wouldn't let go of it. Finally we ungrounded him and he took his bad attitude off to other locations. Man I am glad we made it through that age."
"But at least you got your shed painted."
"Oh come on it sounds like, in the end, he did a pretty good job. And cheap."
"I thought it was ok until last year. He had gone off to college by that point and Annie made me go out behind the yard and dig up a little holly tree out there."
"Missing him at that point, I bet."
"Badly, I avoid that stuff like poison. Anyway I walked around the back of the shed. I hadn't been back there in years. And when I did I discovered that he hadn't actually painted that side. He just painted the side that faced the house."
"You gotta be kidding. The dog."
"But you'll like this. On the back of the shed in hunter green letters at least a foot high it said: "FUCK YOU MOM AND DAD" It had been out there for two or three years that way."
"Ha! What did you do?"
"What could I do? It was two or three years after the fact. I just laughed. And then I sent him a check for $80.
- Jay Duret