GateHouse — This was supposed to be a column about something newsy, something like “the stupid economy” or “Guantanamo” or “the way the GOP has turned into that little raisin-baby Voldemort became at the end of ‘Deathly Hallows’” (Sorry, SPOILER ALERT.) There would have been a great deal of research, several statistics, and about six or seven paragraphs lifted directly from Talking Points Memo.
But this column will feature none of those things, because I’ve spent the entire afternoon stripping paint off of a set of bunk beds that will eventually inhabit my son’s bedroom, when I am done with this project, in 300 years.
I CANNOT FEEL MOST OF MY FINGERS, which is something I’ve sort of gotten used to. Everything smells like the overpowering mystical fumes of orangey paint stripper, and every now and again that pink rhinoceros in the corner calls me “Alan.” I am pretty sure my left ear is sitting on the table next to me, drinking coffee, because this project has turned what would have been a lovely Memorial Day weekend full of yelling at the Cubs on the TV into several days of being stranded in the garage being kept company by sandpaper, scrapers and an omnipresent cloud of totally awesome fume-aliciousness wondering WHO IN THEIR RIGHT DAMN MIND WOULD SLATHER THREE COATS OF WHITE PAINT ON PERFECTLY GOOD BUNK BEDS ANYWAY? Happily, the beds also appear to have been constructed entirely out of corners.
Had you not surmised this already, you can be assured that I am not the most handy of fathers. Yes, I can throw a baseball. I can grill reasonably well. I can start a fire, often on purpose. But when it comes to traditional male pursuits such as home-repair projects, cinderblock moving and alligator wrestling, I am pretty much useless. (My theory on home repair involves throwing a wrench at the offending object and hoping the wrench accidentally strikes the troublesome part, which is, not coincidentally, also my theory on alligator wrestling.)
So yes, this is my first semi-professional attempt at stripping, aside from that unpleasant summer I spent as a comely young redhead named “Mercedes,” which I’ll thank you not to inquire after further. And having spent the better part of the afternoon scraping, sanding and crying, I stood up at the end of a long working day to discover that the beds looked as though NO WORK HAD BEEN DONE TO THEM WHATSOEVER, like they’d fallen into the “Lost” wormhole or whatever.
Which is a problem, because when I go to return to this tomorrow, I’m not gonna be able to use my hands, which are crucial to nearly 75 percent of all home-repair projects. My thumb, for instance, is moving by itself right now, twitching and shivering, doing the Cupid Shuffle outside of my direct control, the victim of several hours of repetitive scrapery.
I am pretty sure, in fact, that I have that Devil Thumb disease. If dead bodies start turning up tomorrow and the only thing they find at the crime scene is thumbprints, IT WASN’T MY FAULT and I’m probably already in Tijuana (if you’re a member of my family, ask around town for “Felipe Vazquez”).
I blame both the scraper for that and the button on a can of some sort of spray-on orange goop. This is the sort of over-the-counter chemical cocktail that appears to most eyes safe and is sold at Wal-Mart, and everyone knows Wal-Mart has never sold anything unsafe except that Green Day CD with the dirty words (and, of somewhat lesser importance, guns).
And yet it’s one of those concoctions that has cryptic health-related messages all over it, like WARNING: MAY CAUSE TUBERCULOSIS AND AN EXTRA FOOT TO EMERGE FROM YOUR MOUTH and READING THIS WARNING IMPLIES CONSENT THAT YOU WILL NOT SUE FOR US FOR DEVELOPING JUNGLE ROT IN YOUR LEFT COCCYX, WHICH YOU JUST HAVE, SORRY. And yes, I said left coccyx. It gives you one of those, too. I was gonna mention that earlier, but the whole all-caps things was getting too long already.
The goop is responsible for unpainting the wood, but what the goop’s 4-point condensed Warning Font fails to tell you is that paint, when stripped, coagulates into a bloopy plurchy pile of glorp with a decidedly non-terrestrial consistency, something just horrible, like an alien baby or something from Arby’s.
It also, when you throw it in the trash can, makes a noise like you’re throwing a wet cat against a moving train. (Which I don’t recommend, of course. Dry cats are much easier to grip.) But I have a plan for how to address this tomorrow, when I return for another afternoon of non-progress: I am totally going to ask the pink rhinoceros for help.