So I’m sitting halfway up the extension ladder pondering life with the blade of a ceiling fan hanging precariously over my head like the Sword of Damocles. From a downstairs bedroom rise the cries of a baby and within my head the lyrics from an old Talking Heads song keep recycling: “How did I get here? And, my God, what have I done?”
The questions fly around my head like escapees from Pandora’s Box:
A. How did I get the extension ladder through the house and into the upstairs guest room without knocking over the Christmas tree and can I repeat it in reverse or would it be better to open the window and just slide it out to crash on the driveway below?
B. Which will come first – (a) Christmas, (b) Melody getting released from the hospital, or (c) Conner settling down for a nap?
C. How long can I sit on a rung of an extension ladder before my butt falls asleep?
D. How much should we pay Brian for painting the upstairs when I’m the one on the ladder?
E. And most importantly, how do I find and rescue a screw from the bottom of a full can of white ceiling paint?
I have lots of time to ponder. One of the secrets of the bizarre “World of Men” is that people usually leave you alone when you are on an extension ladder even if it is oddly indoors instead of its usual place on the outside wall of a house. So I take on Pandora’s questions one by one. Being an intellectual kind of guy, I soon come up with answers:
A. Very carefully. And since I’ve been to Lowes twice a day for three days buying more paint, it will be easy to paint over the ten or eleven gouges I’ve already put in various walls by banging the ladder into them coming up the stairs with it.
B. I can’t predict this one. Melody’s blood sugar has been bouncing around since morning sickness became 24-hour sickness. But I have faith in doctors. And Conner will fall asleep soon. Ah! But there is a related question – Annabelle! Annabelle is Brian and Melody’s new puppy. A combination of a German Schnauzer and a Slinky. Long body, tiny legs and she is staying with us too while Brian stays with Melody at the hospital. I’m not really sure if Annabelle was the pick of the litter or the entire litter since she seems to be more than one dog…she is everywhere, all the time.
Believe me, there is nothing that will get your heart beating faster than stepping on a puppy while you are carrying an extension ladder up a flight of stairs.
C: Three and a half minutes. My butt has now been asleep for half an hour, even after shifting from right to left buttock an back again a few times.
D: $499.50. When Brian was laid off for the month of December from his painting job at the shipyard, we offered him $500.00 to paint the upstairs. This was wonderful because I hate to paint and this would save me the agony and help the kids out at the same time. I did offer to help him move some of the furniture and told him I’d be his subcontractor for 50 cents. Thankfully he had done everything except the guest room when Melody got sick. I didn’t expect to put two full days into this. But a deal is a deal. I’m going to frame the 50 cents and hang it on my wall!
E: Now this one is the real challenge! Being so damn smart, I figured it would be easier to roll ceiling paint on the ceiling if I took the blades of the ceiling fan, even thought I’ve installed enough ceiling fans to hate them with a passion. It’s just enough of a vaulted ceiling so the stepladder didn’t reach – hence the gouges in the walls coming up the stairs.
The amazing thing is that when the first of the two screws holding the last fan blade came loose and I dropped it and it bounced off a ladder rung, arched into the air and – what are the odds? – landed with a perfect little “kerplunk” right in the middle of the one, newly opened gallon of flat ceiling white latex.
Heck. I have a toolbox full of assorted wood screws but this is one of ten perfectly fitted metal screws to fit a fan blade. I look down at the white paint in the can and consider going to Lowes, buying a duplicate ceiling fan, taking out one screw and throwing the rest of the fan away.
I consider pouring the entire gallon of white paint over Annabelle until I find the screw.
Getting a little more serious, I think about the fact that Latex paint is pretty washable so maybe I should roll up my sleeve and just slide my hand completely into the paint can and find the screw that way. That seems a little yucky, however.
I could buy a magnet and tie it to a string?
But, finally, I climb down the ladder. Carefully, because by now my butt is asleep all the way to my feet. And I take two wooden paint stirring sticks and begin using them like the chopsticks of a blind man, moving them slowly across the bottom of the paint can, trying to find the screw by feel. In a gallon of thick paint, this is a very subtle game, to sense the tiny additional resistance when a wooded stick makes contact with a screw. After several minutes, stooped over a paint can, focused like a sonar operator in a submarine, I detect a miniscule ping. I freeze. I slide the other stick down slowly, bring them up slowly together and almost lose it with excitement when I see a little round white blob at the surface. I jam it against the side, let go of one stick, reach in with two fingers and come up with it in my dripping fingers. I stand up, turn to go and wash off the screw (and my hand) in the bathroom sink…
…and step, once again, on Annabelle.
Falling back against the wall, arms flailing, I let go of the screw which spirals up into the air again and down, down…toward the open paint can…down in slow motion...and…
Thank, God, misses the can!
But lands on the only section of carpet that has not be protected by plastic.
I re-adjust my glasses to see how bad the paint stain on the carpet is going to be and suddenly I can’t see out of my right eye which reminds me that my fingers were still covered with paint which is now smeared on my glasses.
Maybe I’ll charge Brian an extra quarter for hazardous duty pay.
Meantime, it has become quiet in the house. Conner is blissfully asleep. And I kind of think Melody will be home by Christmas. It will be a nice Christmas and if it does get too crazy, I can always go and sit on the ladder.