The house painter knocked on the door. He was holding a fat, narrow book with several hundred house paint colors in his hand. We shook hands and exchanged greetings.
He looked young to me, but I’m not a good judge of age. I could smell alcohol on his breath, but he was not drunk. He was stout, with a certain leering, humorous air about him.
I told him that I don’t make big decisions quickly and that I could spend a week deciding what color to paint the house. He told me he had the perfect color for the house. He then flipped to a page of a certain color range, starting fairly light at the top and gradually darkening at the bottom. He pointed to the second bar from the top.
“Ivory beige,” he said. “It’ll go perfect with this brick.”
He held it up to the paint on the house next to brick facing. We stood there on the porch discussing the paint job. He pointed to two houses across the street, explaining how he painted them. He suggested what he called “double white” for the wood trim, then launched into a long, complicated explanation of exacly what double white was, with different colors blended (there are endless shades of white). I even asked him to repeat himself. I never registered the explanation of double white, though, because my mind had drifted for a moment into preoccupation, but I quickly brought my focus back to the discussion.
We agreed to the work to be done. He was to clean the roof with chemicals, and paint the outside of the house. Before painting, he would pressure clean, caulk all cracks and repair the stucco. We also discussed the aethetics of the various paint jobs within view, and he pointed out those he had done.
He mentioned the police moving into a house on the corner; then we started discussing neighborhood crime. He told a few funny storys.
He said he was driving in his van at three o’clock in the morning.
“I pulled out from a stop sign,” he said, “and my fan belt sqealed loudly.”
“Next thing I knew, there were blue lights behind me and I was pulled over. As the policeman gets out of the car he is pulling on these fingerless gloves. He puts on his sunglasses, at night!
“He looked at my tires and said, ‘I can give you a ticket for these.’
“I told him I could show him receipts for the tires from three months ago.
“He then told me he was giving me a ticket for exhibition of acceleration.”