Idea by Tom Austin Original story by Tom Austin
Revised and vastly improved by award winning author Meg Sorick
Brad lay face down on Milly’s bed, his head poking out from beneath the covers. With the newspaper spread out on the floor in front of him, he perused the real estate section. He looked up to find Quincy observing him from a safe distance. No doubt, the cat was curious about this intruder. Brad’s feelings about Quincy, however, were considerably darker than mere curiosity. What on earth did Milly see in the creature?
“Are you ready?” Milly called from the kitchen. It was about time for another treatment.
“Just a minute.” Brad turned a page of the paper. Quincy stood and stretched, then resumed his vigil.
“Just let me dispose of the body,” Brad muttered. He had never been a cat person and he was even less fond of this particular cat at the moment.
Milly leaned against the doorway. “When will you two learn to forgive and forget?”
“Forgive and forget?” Brad repeated. “Maybe when he’s dead and buried. My carcass is sore as hell!”
“Bradley Peters, do you remember what I said about swearing?” Milly scolded.
“It looks like someone sharpened a Ginsu knife on my butt!” Brad glared at the cat and quietly swore at him.
“Do you know I can still hear you? That’s ten more dollars in the swear jar.”
“Twelve! Keep it up, and we can get new wallpaper. But if you really feel like it, then go for broke and we can paint, too.”
Mr. Humphrey ran the local hardware store. When Milly first moved into the apartment, she had been a frequent patron and had gotten to know the proprietor quite well. He was short and stout, reminding Milly of a fire plug. And though his Coke bottle eyeglasses were a clear indication of poor eyesight, he recognized Milly as soon as she entered the store.
“Milly, you haven’t graced my store for weeks! What can I do for you?” he called out from behind the antique cash register —his pride and joy.
“Well, my boyfriend, Brad, and I are here to look at some paint samples. We want to liven up the apartment.”
“So, I guess the traditional feminine colors are out?” he asked, with a twinkle in his eye.
“We’re looking for a nice inoffensive eggshell color,” Milly said.
“Excellent. I’ve just the thing for you,” he said with a clap of his hands. “I’m carrying a new brand and my first order came in just a few days ago. Now, are you painting yourselves, or do you have a professional in mind?”
“We’ll probably end up getting more on ourselves than on the wall, but we’d like to try doing it ourselves,” said Brad.
“Can I give you a piece of advice? In an old building like that, you’d best get all the old paint off first. And if you find you find a crack in one part of the wall you’ll be able to see if it carries on to another part of the wall.”
Brad frowned. “What happens if I do find a crack?”
“Never fear. For the price of a cup of coffee, I’ll advise you on the best course of action. If you find a crack, take photos and email them to me. Or, after I close up, I’ll come over and take a look. Just make sure to call.”
“I do have one question.”
“How do I get the paint off?”
Milly looked heavenward and with a heavy sigh, rolled her eyes.
“What?” Brad asked as Mr. Humphrey chuckled.
After Mr. Humphrey supplied them with everything they needed and Brad paid for it with his Visa, they said goodbye and walked back to the apartment.
“So what was so funny?” Brad asked Milly when they were alone.
Milly snorted. “Seriously, Brad? You perform organ transplants on a regular basis, you’ve restored a classic car all on your own, and yet you are clueless about painting an apartment wall? I’m sorry but that is just hilarious! Hellooo !
After studying the instructions several times, Brad came to the conclusion that removing old paint should be relatively easy. “Just have to brush the paint remover over the whole wall.” He checked the instructions again. “Then, wait two hours and scrape the old paint off.”
The section of wall nearest the floor would be the most difficult. Milly had given him a step-stool to sit on and —considering his still-tender backside— had taped a small pillow onto it for extra cushioning. He opened the jug of paint remover and poured some out into a small pail. As he dipped the brush in and lifted it back out, a big glop came with it. It reminded him of hair gel, only much thicker.
“How’s it going Michangelo?” Milly called from the kitchen, where she was preparing lunch.
When he didn’t answer, she decided she better check on him. As she peeked in the sitting room, she found Brad wearing goggles and surgical gloves, with a small mask around his neck. He turned at the sound of her laughter.
“You look like a mad scientist from a cheesy horror movie!”
“Sure, sure, go ahead and laugh, young lady. Once I get this glop brushed on evenly, I have to leave it alone for two hours. Then I’m all yours.” He took a step toward her with the messy brush in his hands.
“Don’t you dare come near me with that glop on you,” she said, backing away. “Besides, maybe you want to eat before you get too far into the job. I’m making those sandwiches you love so much.”
“You mean the ones with Fluff ?”
She grimaced. “Yeah. Marshmallow Fluff with banana slices. Gross. Simply looking at it is makes my arteries harden. Brrr.”
“I’ll have you know those sandwiches got me through college. Mac and cheese on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays it was bananas and fluff. And on weekends I had pizza and beer.”
“Good grief! You must have a cast-iron stomach!” She caught movement out of the corner of her eye. Quincy, resting on the couch, had begun cleaning his paws. Milly inclined her head. “Looks like you have an admirer.”
Brad ignored the cat, lowered his goggles, and raised his mask. After shooing Milly from the room, he got to work. Some time later, he sauntered into the kitchen and snapped his rubber gloves to get Milly’s attention. “Ok, the glop is on. Start your watch.”
“Not bad, Michelangelo. Now, go wash your hands, and strip,” she ordered.
Brad’s jaw dropped. “What did you say?”
“Get your mind out of the gutter. No grubby pants in my kitchen.”
“Yes, dear,” he said, trudging from the room. He returned moments later, in just his boxers and with washed hands. As he sat at the table, Milly set a plate of sandwiches in front of him, then went back to tidying up.
When Brad was quiet for a while, she glanced over her shoulder. The cat had followed him in and had stationed himself at his feet. Brad was treating Quincy to Fluff and Banana sandwiches by putting some on his fingers.
“Hey, I made those for you!” said Milly.
Brad shrugged. “I can’t help it if your cat has great taste.”
“Well, now he’s got fluff on his whiskers,” she complained. “Listen, when you finish abusing your stomach, why don’t you and Quincy go for a walk? You did say you had two hours to kill.”
“Sounds OK to me. Where’s his leash?”
“Um, Quincy is a cat? Cats don’t have leashes.”
“But before you go outside, you might want to put your pants back on.”
Brad looked at the cat. “C’mon your lordship. The queen has dismissed us.”
Milly glared at him. “Damn you, Brad….”
“Ah, ah, the swear jar!” he reminded her as he ran from the room, the cat on his heels.
“Out!” she ordered, slamming the door shut, barely giving Brad time to pull the zipper up on his jeans.
After they had gone, Milly moved around the sitting room to inspect Brad’s handiwork. The old paint was already bubbling, and some already dropped to the floor. “Looking good,” she said to herself.
As Milly returned to the kitchen to finish cleaning up, there was a noise behind her. She stopped in her tracks. Had Brad forgotten something? “Brad?” she called out. “Is that you?”
There was no answer. She slowly walked back to the sitting room and peered in. The jug of ‘glop’ that Brad had stored in the closet, was now in the middle of the room. And she wasn’t alone. The old man from 14 Rillington Place sat on her couch.
Further musings of Meg can be seen at http://megsorick.com/
And the award winning novel Three Empty Frames at Amazon Click here