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Christo: Package on Radio Flyer Wagon, Project (1993)
" … before telling me what he intended to do for me that day."

"Are we done?" Our Carpenter Joel asked the question, which seemed to come out of nowhere. Done? So quickly? It had been four full months since he'd first showed up, ostensibly to just lay some vinyl planking and complete a few other chores. Those few other chores had grown to include quite a few more than a few other chores, including installing five large windows, refinishing a large staircase, and rebuilding a wall of shelves from scratch. His chop saw had become a seemingly permanent fixture in the middle of our living room since the weather had turned and his periodic saw dust injections had become a part of our accepted atmosphere. He'd just come out from under his rebuilt wall of bookshelves, having anchored their stanchions with fresh long screws, and he was out of work and ready to load up. He was moving out, PackingUp his van and heading home. I could not respond to his question. Though I had been anticipating an impending ending, I had not prepared myself to recognize it when it finally appeared. I found one tiny final task before releasing him from further obligation.

Kurt Our Painter would remain for another day, touching up and cutting in, finishing the final painting, always a lagging indicator of progress
. I busied myself switching out electric outlets so that our freshly refurbished rooms might look finished, destroying the old fixtures in the process and sprinkling still wet baseboards with gritty particulate. Kurt took my intrusion in stride, reporting that he'd have to return in a few days to touch up the final touch ups, never having been one to leave well enough alone, the rooms were not quite up to his snuff, not quite perfect enough. Kurt's stuff had taken up long term tenancy since he started Our Grand Refurbish five full months before. His first official on-the-clock act was moving in. He brought boxes and bags and ladders and tarps, quickly filling up the room I'd prepared for his tools. Those tools had become a part of my daily existence since, especially his BIG fucking pliers, which seemed to have ten thousand uses. I wondered how I'd survived so long without a pair of my own. Kurt would be PackingUp next, loading his pickup and, unlikely as it seemed, not coming back. I'd be shopping for a pair of pliers for myself.

Grand Refurbishes end with a whimper. The Muse and I sat on our grandly refinished window seat and watched Kurt's final performance, cutting in the new (wrong) crown moulding we'd just hung the day before. He'd already caulked it all in and touched up the paint job. It seemed fitting that his final act on this huge effort would be tying in the wall and ceiling, making that fundamental distinction free-hand, seemingly without thinking about it, an artist in his element. He mentions that this has been the longest job he's ever worked outside of concrete construction. Usually, painting's more tightly focused without very much preparation. He once did a job where he went through ninety gallons of paint a day, spray painting an apartment complex where every flat was precisely like every other. Here, he might have applied fifteen gallons over five months and much of his effort had been preparing surfaces, drawing from his decades of experience, seemingly capable of any odd effort. He'd become my mentor, even on that last day, he came to my rescue when the outlet I was attempting to replace had gotten the better of me. We —I really should say "He"—managed to put it back together again. He became my reliable friend, JIminy Cricket with a pair of pliers and a paint brush, coming to my rescue again and again, whispering encouraging words. I swear he can do anything!

I taped together a leftover packing box and Kurt quickly filled it. The floor cleared and the room appeared more like an empty dance hall than a living room and library, the walls echoy and the space, vast after weeks as a construction site. We carried loads out to his pickup in the gathering dusk and plummeting temperature. A full moon was rising up over the Blues and it seemed that Winter was moving in, bringing its chill. Those saw horses went in there along with that pile of canvas tarps, all props without their accustomed powers, toys returning to their box. He'd left his cell phone on the mantel the night before, calls coming in early that morning, a familiar intrusion. He left three paint rollers, wrapped in plastic and unwashed, hanging on the fireplace screen. He said he'd be back for his tools, bivouacked in the garage, during daylight, for it had grown dark and cold while we were PackingUp. I've grown accustomed to timing my days to Kurt's seven-thirty arrival. I'd been up for hours, but never showered and dressed until just before he'd come up the walk to the door, which I would often open up just as he'd reach for the handle. "How are ya today, Kurt?" He'd reply that he was just fine, thanks, before telling me what he intended to do for me that day. All that, PackingUp and moving out.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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