Sarah’s not amused at the outcome of their attempt at decorating.
Strips of wallpaper piled up on the bare wooden floor. Sarah sighed and wiped her hands on an old towel. “This is the worst job ever.”
“Nearly there, babe, just a few more hours and we’ll finish stripping it off.”
“Do you think this old place will ever look nice, John?”
“It’s going to be our palace baby. Come here,” he wrapped his arms around his young wife, holding her tight.
They had recently purchased the run-down house. It had been for sale, standing empty for nearly a year when they’d made the snap decision to get a mortgage and buy it. They saw the amount of work needed to make it habitable, but they could also appreciate its potential. It just required some imagination. That, a lot of hard work, and of course money which was in short supply.
After work each evening and nearly every weekend, they’d leave Sarah’s mother’s house to work on their soon to be new home.
Gradually they stripped back the layers of paint and old wallpaper. Ripping mouldy old carpets up revealed wide oak floorboards which they knew would look amazing when sanded and varnished.
“Hello, it’s only me.”
“Oh, no, it’s Bill, again. Tell him we’re busy.” Sarah whispered. “I hate it how he just lets himself in.”
“He’s harmless babe, he’s lonely.” John whispered back. “Come in, Bill, were in here.”
A stooped old man opened the door to the living room, displaying a toothless grin.
“I saw the lights on. What are you two up to now?” Bill’s eyes took in the half-stripped walls and Sarah’s bare legs up the stepladder as she scraped at the old wallpaper.
Sarah sighed, giving him a look that said, “What does it look like?” But she said nothing. John had more patience with the old next-door neighbour.
“Hi, Bill. I think we’re getting somewhere. What do you think? We’re not managing too badly for a couple of kids who don’t know what they’re doing. Hey?” John laughed. He’d discovered that Bill had always lived next to the previous owners. He and his recently deceased wife had been friends with them for over fifty years before they’d also died.
“I can remember when Sam and Marge put this wallpaper on.” He shook his head at the memory.“So long ago, now.”
“This writing on the wall would have been Sam’s then.” John pointed out a message on the wall written in pencil.
Bill peered over his glasses and read out loud, “If anyone wants to wallpaper this room, it takes eight rolls. I only bought seven, and it really pissed me off.” Bill laughed. “Yes, that sounds like something Sam would have done.” He wiped his eyes with a dirty old handkerchief he pulled from his pocket.
“Come on John, stop talking and let’s finish this job,” Sarah admonished.
Two weeks later John and Sarah were Googling how to wallpaper a room. They’d purchased eight rolls of beautiful, although expensive, green pattered wallpaper. “Thanks to Sam at least we know we’ve bought enough.” John said, as he cut the first drop to length, then unrolled it on to the pasting table where Sarah had her bucket of paste ready.
The summer evening light glowed through the recently washed window. Sarah admired the new curtains they’d just hung and was feeling they were at last making excellent progress towards being able to move out of her Mother’s and into their “palace.”
They were just hanging the last piece of wallpaper when they heard the now familiar sound of Bill entering the house. “Hello? It’s only me.”
“Hi Bill. What do you think about the new wallpaper? Looks good, doesn’t it?” John asked the old man.
Bill nodded. “You two are doing a marvellous job, the old place has never looked so good.”
Sarah smiled and stepped back to admire the feature wall. “I really like this paper, one wall’s enough though. We’re going to paint the rest of the room, Magnolia.”
John was stirring a gallon of paint. It was standing on an old newspaper to avoid spilling any onto the newly polished floor boards.
“Excuse me Bill, we’ve got to put the paint sheets down.” Sarah ushered the old man into the kitchen. “Why don’t you go and make us all a cup of coffee?” She knew by now he loved coming to see them and John had asked her to be kinder to the lonely old man.
“Hey, John.” Bill called from the kitchen, “you seem to be making hard work of stirring that paint, it’ll take you ages to mix it properly like that. I’ve got a better idea.”
John took Bill’s advice and fastened a piece of wood on the end of a drill bit. He attached it to the electric drill and used it to mix the gallon of paint.
As Bill walked into the living room carrying three mugs of coffee, John looked up from his task, at the same time lifting the drill from the paint. The drill was still revolving, splashing paint all over the room. It spattered Magnolia coloured paint all over the new wallpaper.
Bill stood holding the coffees. He too was covered in the paint, as were his glasses. Sarah stood open-mouthed as she saw her newly wallpapered wall destroyed. John stared at the tableau. There was no sound. Until Bill started to laugh uncontrollably. The tray of coffee tipped and spilled all over the floor.
Sarah didn’t see the joke.