First chapter of my novel about working for a painting company.
|Throwing bricks at paper walls
It was a hell of a time, you could be sure of that. The first week was all fine and good- but the whole thing went to shit after that. Who's to say where it all went wrong? It could have been the countless hours of uninspiring monotony or those pointless trips to the soul crushing casino. The days were short and the work easy, but how could one prepare for such dry encounters with the surreal?
I was eighteen years old, I had done the job before; it should have readied me for a life of forgotten freedoms and abandoned hopes. But I was reluctant, unable or unwilling, to give in so easily. My frame was slender and frail, it held all the akward subtleties of my softly subdued teenage years. Being left here fresh off the chopping block wasn't really so bad. The miserable pricks I had gone to highschool with would be off soon; with their hope filled college ambitions, it was as clear as day, they were only fooling themselves.
The town's only SRO hotel held my soul and wished me well, I was living in room 19 at the time. The wall's paint job was sketchy, at best, and revealed nothing you couldn't already sense. With a single bed against the far wall, sink and faded second hand mirror in the corner, a desk built into the opposite end of the room and a shared bathroom; this lovely little rat's nest almost felt like home. I knew my way by now, so I thought, and felt calm melodies of the heart carry me away. Content, it was the first time in a while that I grasped on tight to this feeling.
My neck was tensing up, I knew tomorrow would be more of the same neutral sorrow. Sore muscles needed soothing, at least the tavern was just around the corner and down the stairs. The hallway was drab and lifeless, yet there was still a lingering hint of character clinging to it's nicotine stains.
Everytime I left my safe haven the elderly drunkard in room 15 would stare me down. He'd fake interest in his television, always leaving his door open. I knew his desperation, isolation will drive a man to the brink; in due time. We exchanged our usual glares as I shuffled through the hall's nostalgic flavors. I loved the utter absurdity and madness of this dive, it was my dive.
The tavern was on the floor level of the hotel and, besides the regulars, was a barren wasteland most nights of the week. I was safe again, so I walked up to the bar to order my usual drink; the bartenders all knew me by name here. "Hello, Jason." It was Lydia.
"That's two ten." I handed over the spare change in my pocket. "Thanks."
"Uh, yeah. Your welcome." I was timid and rushed, feeling ashamed.
So I sat down and took in the majesty of the moment. This surely was a fine place to drink. It was cheap, you could get a coffee for 50 cents if you wanted, and there were no obnoxious teenage drunks to ruin the mood. There were no people like me here, I could just sit back and relax. Draft beer was the everlasting necter of my aching servants soul.
From my seat I could see one of the regulars playing the VLTs, I never did find out his name, a balding panhandler that hung around the laundrymat and convenience store parking lots. Another slim patron, he was perfectly content to waste away the hours just to soak in the atmosphere here. I liked that panhandler, he was a good man no matter what the others said.
In my room I could spy the little barflies scurrying from here to there, swinging the tavern door in a mesmorizing motion. Tucked away hovels were too necessary when it came to all this drifting; an escape from the rural safety nets and blue collar killing grounds. It was a moderately tolerable beginning, happiness ten times dilluted. No matter how distorted, there is always a price to pay for this happiness.
Four hundred dollars a month was just the price for my absurd piece of mind. Gambling my dreams away in this faded roustabouts paradise. I may have held sanity in my rattling hands, but I knew it wouldn't be long before I lost complete control. Then a fine layer of boredom will settle in for a deep sleep. The room was small, sheets stale and cum stained, the view left much to be desired. But it was the best (my) money could buy, and was still a small slice of heaven smack dab in the middle of suburbia.
New West Painting inc was the company and Craig Francis the boss. He was a gentle soul, with twice the gut of coke's st. Nick, but still had a thing or two to learn about financial stability. Even with underpaying the workers and ignoring the notion of dolling out overtime, his first painting operation still went under. It wasn't that he was so terrible at running the show, he just burned the money in endless heaps of foolish consumerism. The only thing keeping him afloat was Don. Don Shroeder was one hell of a painter, a force of nature, the man who taught me the trade. Another fat one, as one might expect with age and a lowering metabalism. His black beard was such the enchanting creature. Any person, whether they hail from wild rose country or Ljubljana, knew this man meant bussiness.
When the morning came Don would be waiting for me, we'd go crawling off into another work day. I'd always set my alarm for seven thirty, so I could be out there for the usual eight o'clock pick up.
Stars were just starting to fill the sky, the sun had already peeled itself from plain sight; it belonged to someone else now. I was trying to find some sleep, but my mind was occupied with matters of no importance. Daylight would be a sweeter sight than all the hand rolled cigarettes in the slum hotels of east Hastings street. It was always the same, thoughts of past escapades and future friday night adventures eventually followed by unconsciousness. I could never accustom myself to nighttime routines, it was killing me; slowly raping my simple spirit. Threads tightly wound up kept me strung together and functioning in the dark. Enough talk had been dispenced and the next thing I saw was the light, with the alarm tearing holes in my brain. It was time to wait for Don.