Oct 16, 2009

Writing Contest- Watching Paint Dry

‘Tis the season for writing contests. Who am I to ignore the bandwagon? Apparently not one of the capable…So without further ado, I present to you The First Official Public Query Slushpile Writing Contest (TFOPQSWC, for your anagram junkies). Here’s the scoop:

Most of us are familiar with the old clichés about watching paint dry. Many would have you believe it’s the most boring thing in the world. Sure, from a visual perspective. But how about a written scene?

Who among you thinks you can write an interesting scene about watching paint dry? Who can go above interesting and make drying paint exciting? Mysterious? Funny? Scary?

Post your entries in the comments section of this post. Entries must be between 300 and 500 words. I will pick the top three finalists – based solely on my own convoluted sense of quality, humor, excitement, or whatever other qualifying criteria I make up at the time. I will post those finalists and you will vote for the winner. And the prize, other than bragging rights? On your deathbed, you shall receive total consciousness…

Deadline for submissions: 5pm EDT on Tuesday, October 20. Finalists will be posted on Wednesday, October 21 and voting will be open through 8am Friday, October 23.


Jabez said...

Here goes:

Ramon X. G. Herrera, who liked to call himself “Colonel” Herrera, was a stickler for cleanliness. When he wanted to use Tom’s murder to cow us into subservience, he had his men soak the body in bleach for two days first, then wash it twice. Even then he pulled on latex gloves before he held the skull aloft, and he held it gingerly, like you would a dog turd. So it came as no surprise that when he carried out his executions, he insisted on standing the poor souls up against a freshly whitewashed wall.

Usually the executions were rare. He enjoyed interrogating us too much, and using our free labor – laundering his fatigues and his table linens, cleaning his tent, scouring the silverware (under close supervision, of course). And he enjoyed holding us as trophies, particularly the Americans like me and Tom, to prove his superiority to the Great Capitalist Dictatorship and its puppet government here. As if imprisoning a couple photojournalists and a score of illiterate farmers could prove anything.

But for a while things were nearly civilized. He only kept us collared at night. His fastidiousness kept him from violating the women, and deep down I think he realized the interrogations were a sham. He was just playing at war.

Then Tom spit in his face. Full on, and we all held our breaths as the thick glob of saliva trickled down the Colonel’s left cheek. He dabbed his cheek with his fingers and held them before him, strings of spittle drooping like tinsel. He stared for half a minute, and in that time we watched the revulsion and hatred creep over his face like a flower opening to morning light. He ordered Tom shot immediately, and afterward he spent an hour in his tent alone. Washing.

After that the interrogations intensified. He had us whipped, kicked, beaten. But of course we knew nothing. Finally he told us he would start executing prisoners until we informed him of troop movements. Once the first man fell, people started lying, telling him anything he might believe. He believed none of it. So we kept hauling away the bodies of the dead to be buried. And we kept painting.

The painting used to go fast, with twenty pairs of hands to help. Now there are three, me and the women. My back and shoulders ache from the shovel, but it’s the brush that seems heaviest to me. The wall is white, perfectly white, and sparkles in the light. When it dries I will be next. I stand and watch.

Lady Glamis said...

How paintfully exciting! I'll be working on mine and get it soon. I think... if I can come up with anything good. :)

TLH said...

Watching Paint Dry

Just a few days ago blood trickled down that wall in thick, gentle streams. Now a pale green paste sticks onto its surface like a monstrous vomit disguising the truth. But my wound will tell that story. Under that fresh paint Pa can hide his bright red sins, and under the collar of my blue satin dress, that glorious crimson is tucked away from prying eyes.

Perhaps one day the walls will talk in a low voice to a curious passerby who happens to notice that this fresh blanket of color is not quite like the other three walls of my bedroom. The green is more pale, more crisp. The ominous clean glow it gives off will surely attract attention, surely serve as a reminder to Pa that some wounds never heal, no matter how many coats of paint you throw on it.

That pretty pattern splashed on the old paint as if from the brush of some master abstract artist, a Da Vinci with a knife and a drywall canvas. My eyes fell on it like the masterpiece it was, with awe and appreciation. The pain was nothing; it didn’t suppress the smile that played on my lips. The lovely red hue lay on the wall so stark and calming, as I hit the floor I thought only of how much it looked like rain falling outside a window.

I don’t think I cried then, though I had those other times as I let the word “No” slip out in a quiet moan against his chest. That fateful night while I watched the blood drip down the old green, I didn’t feel the tears that might’ve fallen from my eyes in the same beautiful haphazard way.

But I weep now. As that sticky shine fades away from the new coat, so the memory of my pain fades away from this house and the people living in it. If people is even the word to use for them. They are no more alive than I am as they wander through the halls with their sour expressions.

I wait here in this room for the fresh coat to dry. The evidence is long since gone, but a sliver of my memory remains here behind that wet gleaming wall. Even as I pass away under the Earth, behind the new paint a piece of me will stay alive and glowing red. So I’ll stay here a while, in what was my home and my Hell, watching paint dry.


AjFrey said...

Erin Carmichael has wanted to finish her basement for the longest time. Roger had bought the materials and started the process but never finished it. The last step was to close off the walls, covering the itchy pink insulation, and paint it. The kind gentleman at Ace Hardware said that a latex semi-gloss would be the ideal paint for the job.

She stood back to admire her handy work. It was a vibrant shade. Canary yellow. It was Roger’s least favorite color. She begged him so many times to let her paint the kitchen the exact same shade, but Roger wouldn’t hear of it. And when Roger puts his foot down, she knew better than to argue.

She opened up all the doors and placed a small box fan in the middle of the room to allow the paint to dry a little faster.

The sound of the fan circulating brought her back to her childhood. Erin and her older sister, Janet, loved to talk into the box fan they had in their room. It made their voices sound so distorted, and it was the best way to tell ghost stories. That was before Erin knew what real fear felt like. Now she could easily walk into a pitch black bathroom at night, look into the mirror, and try to conjure the ghost of Bloody Mary. Wouldn’t faze her a bit.

Erin sat down in her blue housecoat and slippers with a glass of wine staring at the bright yellow wall. Minutes ticked away, and the wet shine dimmed. She poured herself another glass and walked over to place her finger on the wall. The paint was still gummy. A little imprint remained where she had touched.

She sat back down in her chair for two more glasses of her favorite Merlot. Roger despised wine. He only drank beer. “Wine was for people that thought they were better than everyone,” he would say.

Once more she walked over to touch the wall to check the consistency. It was no longer sticky. Pride fell upon her in a rain of confetti. She had accomplished two grand things today. She now had her beautiful finished basement. And Roger will never hit her again. He will stay forever wrapped in yellow. Next on her to-do list, call and report him missing.

Laurie T. said...

Daddy’s Car

God, her palms were sweaty. The smell of paint made her head pound but it was a pain she had to endure. The Mustang sat inside the body shop. Sweat beaded across her forehead. Daddy must never know I took his ‘weekend car’ out for a ride. Daddy must never discover the “favors” she had to do for Brad. Her stomach churned and she glanced down on the speckled floor. Throughout her seventeen years she made mistakes. Some were winners. None were this bad.

“Like it, baby?” Brad asked, his voice husky. He cleaned his fingers on a rag covered in dried paint. “That Red Candy color’s smoking. Your dad’ll never suspect the work you had done.”

She tried to give him a real smile. He stepped closer. Flecks of paint called his day old stubble home. They looked like blood drops. Kayla practically gagged then coughed. She mumbled “thanks,” endured his touch across the small of her back. Her eyes fixated on the drying car. “I got some more stuff to do,” he said.

The sounds of the screaming brakes haunted her days. Night played host to the sudden crunch of smashing branches. The jarring shake and twist as the car careened down the embankment filled her ears. Seconds became minutes—fragments of time she had lost. The party was great Friday night. Jess was hot. They hooked up. Jess was also an excellent kisser and even better accomplice. All girls should be so fortunate.

A machine kicked on. Brad sprayed something. He stunk of paint fumes but he could cover up scratches with magician's confidence. Her cell phone buzzed. She flipped it open. The screen read “JESS.” She told him the car was almost ready. He said he’d pick her up in an hour. The thought of eating out disgusted her. She didn’t tell him.

Red Candy paint dried on her father’s new car. His baby. Sunlight glinted off the metallic veneer, highlighting the pin stripe.

No sleep, no food today. Kayla got around on determination. Some might call it panic with her parents returning home tomorrow. Ran up her credit card getting the headlight replaced, the dints hammered out, this specialty paint touched up. Brad knew skilled friends who owed him favors. Jess covered the cost of a new windshield. They didn’t want the insurance company getting involved. Her nervous fingers swiped at damp bangs. Turning off the machine, Brad waved her in.

Her heels clicked. Paint vapors assaulted her nostrils. She almost tripped. Slowly walking around the car she admired the new coat. Shiny. Perfect. Now no one would know.

She’d done it. Kayla sighed and glanced up at the windshield. Something shimmied across the front. She gulped. A face formed in the glass. The face of the homeless woman she hit Friday night while she was inebriated, Jess’ hand was between her legs and she was driving/texting/sipping. Laughing.

A new paint job couldn’t keep her ghost at bay.

Rick Daley said...

These are great so far, but I need more! Spread the word...

AjFrey said...

Rick- I posted info about the contest on Critique Circle.

Rick Daley said...

Thanks AJ, I appreciate the help getting the word out.

Jan Melara said...

I sit on the floor, naked, and wrap my arms around my shins to expose as little skin as possible to the freezing air. Before resting my forehead on my bent knees, I sniff the air. It smells of paint. They must have a pretty good turnover in this place. A light high above me never seems to go off, making it impossible to sleep. Not that I could ever sleep here, anyway. I look up, directly into the light. Even the wire cage that protects the bare bulb has been painted stark white--very recently it seems; a single drop of paint falls to the cold concrete by my little toe. Muffled screams come through a small grill in the metal door. I hug myself tighter and squeeze my eyes shut. How long until my turn?

Anguished moans punctuate the sound of something heavy being dragged down the hallway beyond my door. Hunger pangs tear at my stomach like a pack of starving wolves. My head pounds—I have a migraine from the smell of the drying paint. My god, they haven’t even touched me yet and I’m already in agony!

A scraping sound comes through the grill in my door. Angelina screams, “No, don’t, no! No! Please! Oh God!” Then a solid, wet sound—as if someone punched a side of beef—seems to hang in the air. A sliding sound comes, then grows fainter and finally fades away altogether.

The light dims. Screams drift into my cell from somewhere not too far away. The light dims and brightens again and again and each time, screams invade my cell. I put my hands over my ears. The screams become animal-like grunts. My light bulb dims and stays that way long enough for me to count to fifteen. I wait for Angelina to scream. I count to a hundred and fifty, then two hundred, but I hear nothing. Maybe I missed it because I covered my ears.

Another soft swooshing sound comes near and nearer. The same scraping I heard before and then a loud crack. I imagine Angelina’s head hitting the white concrete floor. Another scrape and a loud, metallic slam.

Masculine laughter, then another scraping sound. A slice of the hallway beyond my door comes into view. I scream.

Donna Hole said...

If you’ve ever painted a wall, you know the end result is not always what you saw in the samples at the store.
Lighting, both sun and that from an ordinary bulb, and the causal placement of furniture of varying colors affects the specific outcome of the color applied to a room.
The color I chose was a pale, sky blue. A cloudless blue after a rain storm. Looking at the play of light on the sample, sometimes it was a glossy metallic-hued blue, sometimes the color of the sky after a nice wind and rain storm, and sometimes, it almost looked an antique white.
Now, I’m no great shakes as a decorator, but I’ve discovered that every time I return home I need to change something to soothe my restlessness. I absolutely have to do something to make it MINE, at least for the moment. This time, I chose to paint the dining room.
Like, I ever eat there. I don’t cook, and don’t bring home take out, so I haven’t even bothered to buy a table and chairs for the room. But still, it needed painting.
After days of looking at every shade of blue imaginable pasted to various sections of the wall and ceiling, I settled on this cloudless blue color. Not the official nomen, but, its what I could remember.
Because, though I was enjoying a break, my next job was in a balmy, cloudless climate for the time of year, and I needed that pseudo location to put me in the proper frame of reference for the upcoming job.
So, I picked the color - the exact same as the room I expected to complete my assignment in - and spent a soothing several hours painting the walls of my refuge. And as I sat and stared at the shifting shades as it dried, I worked through the subtle issues of the next job. Or the last job, as the two were connected. As I watched my chosen paint dry, I pictured a room, and furniture, and the mark standing just here, or there, amidst his family, his friends. His cohorts.
Yes, the drying paint told me a story, set up the scenario perfectly.
And after much contemplation, I decided the metallic, sky blue wouldn’t work in my dining room. It was too soothing, too complacent. I could grow lax and comfortable in such a room.
And so could my mark.

Lady Glamis said...

Rick, I announced your contest on my facebook page, twitter, and on The Literary Lab. I'll announce it on my personal blog on Monday. And I'm working on my own piece. Woohoo!

Glass Dragon said...

It started just like an alien invasion movie. One minute we were eating our Cheerios in ignorant bliss, and the next thing we knew there were so many spaceships in orbit they blocked the sun. It was like Independence Day, only with no Jeff Goldblum and Will Smith to save us. They probably died when Hollywood was hit, anyway. So, yeah. We were screwed.

Everyone had their own ways of coping with impending doom. A few of the neighbors packed up and ran for the hills. Mom packed up Grandma and headed for church. She tried to get me to come, but I figured if I had to die, I wanted to die at home. So I gave Mom and Grandma a hug and a kiss each and told them I’d keep an eye on the house while they tried to get God to run interference.

After they left my eyes fell on the cans of paint sitting by the garage door. Mom had been trying to get me to paint that door for months now. She’d finally given up and was going to do it herself today. Before Armageddon interrupted breakfast, anyway. Just that morning she had said to me, “If I wait for you to do it I’ll be dead before it’s done!”

Dead before it’s done.

I shivered. Then I picked up the paint roller. Why not? It’d be great to prove Mom wrong just once before the end.

Mom had already done all the prep work, so I got right to painting. After a while I got a creepy feeling like I was being watched. When I turned around to put more paint in the tray I saw something that stopped me cold.

There were three of them in the street, just standing there. Watching me.

No. Not me. The door. Their eye stalks were pointed at the garage door, straight at the panels I had already painted. They were watching the paint dry, and they were fascinated!

More and more showed up to watch as I painted. The street filled up with waving tentacles. They clustered on the neighbors’ lawns and rooftops. A few ships hovered overhead. I had never been so scared in my life, but I kept working. When I started a second coat I swear they all went, “Ooooh!”

When I was finished I sat on the driveway and watched the paint dry with them. As the last tacky spot hardened in the sun a collective sigh went through my alien audience. Then they took the paint and left. And I mean they took ALL the paint they could find and left the planet.

When they came back they helped rebuild the cities they’d trashed. When they found out we could make more paint, they opened trade negotiations. Humans are now major players in the intergalactic marketplace.

I saved the Earth by painting a door. Mom was so proud.

Oh, and Jeff Goldblum’s okay. Don’t know about Will Smith, though.

Brenda said...

Fun contest. Love the prompt.

True Test

We had to break down the door. It flew inward, crashing against the wall. I reached my hand around the door jam, palm open, to prevent it from slamming closed when it bounced back. No sounds came from the room and I wondered if we were too late.

I made eye contact with Carstairs and Mulligan, crouched on the other side of the doorway, Glocks held ready in the two handed academy grip. They nodded back. I did a silent countdown with the fingers of my left hand and gently pushed open the door. They sprang into the room, gun barrels sweeping before them.

There was no need.

Philton Wargle, esteemed literary critic for the Times, sat on a plastic garden chair in the center of the room, swaddled in duct tape. A board immobilized his head. His eyelids were taped open. His abductor stood by the window, folded arms compressing her breasts against her chest. She scowled but made no attempt to escape or defend herself.

I nodded to the EMT's and they strode into the room ahead of me.

“How long has he been like this?” the older paramedic asked as they began cutting through the tape that held the board in place.

The woman pinched her lips together and glared at him. I crossed the room and pressed my fingers against one arm of the large X painted on the wall. It was very slightly sticky. I pushed a swollen blob of paint at the bottom of a drip. It collapsed, staining the tip of my finger bright red. Kneeling beside the paint can on the floor, I checked the label.

“At least five hours,” I said. “Is he conscious?”

“Barely,” the younger paramedic replied.

Carstairs and Mulligan cuffed and Mirandized the suspect while the paramedics cut Wargle out of the chair and lifted him onto the gurney. I squeezed my eyes shut in sympathy when they pulled the tape off his eyelids.

“Wait,” he whispered as soon as his mouth was free.

He struggled to raise his head, squinting through the beads of blood where his eyelashes had been. It seemed impossible that he could see anything after such an ordeal, but he somehow focused on his abductor.

“Miss Mudwort,” he croaked. “I stand by my review. That was exponentially more enjoyable than reading your novel.”

Bahnree said...

Rex finished making the last sweep with his paintbrush, scraping the hard bristles against the old wood of the fence. He stepped back and looked his work. He frowned and glanced back at the house, a one-story building with peeling blue paint. In front of it was their only tree, an old willow that spread a thick canopy around itself and reached to the ground. His mother had said he had to help with dinner as soon as he finished with the fence, but she couldn’t see him through the tree.
And the paint wasn’t dry yet, so the fence wasn’t finished, the twelve-year-old decided. Still holding his brush, he picked up a stick and started scraping into the hard-packed dirt at his feet.
“Rex!” his mother shrieked from the house. “Are you done painting that fence yet?”
“I told you I would come in when I was!” Rex shouted back, scowling. His voice lowered to a muttering. “Damn fence. I don’t give a shit about it.” Cursing gave him a little thrill.
He plopped down on the warm grass below the tree and stared up at it. The leaves were thick and green, but parched-looking: Rex thought it looked as thirsty as he felt. He scrubbed his paint-covered hands on his red flannel shirt: it was already covered with splashes and dabs of white.
Rex glanced at the fence again: the paint still shone wetly. It reminded him of their art class at school. Stupid old Dane had painted a ship on the sea: the teacher, and more importantly Betsy, had praised it. Rex had just drawn his father’s hat, a battered old Mariners cap.
Dad, Rex thought. Dad wouldn’t make me paint fences and make dinner. He’d take me to a game. And I could take Betsy.
Rex growled and stood up. The fence looked less shiny now, a dull useless white. Betsy hadn’t spoken to him for a week, Dad wasn’t coming back, and his mother would be shouting for him again any minute. Rex turned his back on the fence and walked toward the old blue house.

Sandra Leigh said...

Watching Paint Dry

Sunshine cascades through floor-to-ceiling windows. Indomitable, resolute, it renders incandescent the paint I lay on, spray on, smear on my canvas. I love paint, the smell of it, the creamy feel of it, its glorious colours. Sometimes, exhausted from painting, I lie down, there on the studio floor, and I watch the paint dry. Yellow is especially fascinating. I watch its surface harden while beneath it, the sunlight is trapped, still liquid, still warm.

I lay on the floor on that day, five years ago, watching the paint dry - red paint, on that occasion. Red holds light, as yellow does, but the light hides behind a bloody veil, and you have to look carefully to see it. That's what I was doing when she knocked at the door. I lay quietly, hoping that the intruder, whoever it was, would leave, but the knocking continued.

Finally, I opened the door. She stood there, shivering in the weak autumn light. She looked familiar, but I couldn't place her.

"Who are you?" I asked. "What do you want?"

"I'm cold."

Against my better judgment, I opened the door wide. She headed straight for the sunlight, like a cat, and curled up in the chair I had been using as my model. She eyed my paintings of the rocking chair and the table. "Where are the people?" she asked.

"What people?"

"The people. You have a studio full of paintings, but there are no people in them. There's nothing in them except the stuff in this studio."

She glared at me. "You don't remember me, do you?"

"No. Should I?"

"I think so." Standing, she began to undress. Soon a pile of clothing lay at her feet.

"Remember me now?"

A tattoo covered her abdomen -- a sunburst, in brilliant yellow, gold, red. But all around it, the skin was puckered and scarred. Yes. I remembered her. Long before I painted on canvas, I painted on people -- under their skin. This woman -- a girl, then -- had been my last human canvas.

"What do you want of me?"

"You owe me."

"No. The courts decided that it wasn't my fault."

"Screw the courts. You used me. You experimented on me. And look at me now."

She was right. I knew that. For years, I had tried not to think of her. I had stopped tattooing, cut off all human contact, retreated to my studio.

"I can't undo what's been done. What do you want? Money?"

She faced me. Sunlight, streaming through the window, bathed her in golden light. "Paint me."

She saw my confusion. "Paint me on canvas. Make me beautiful again."

So I did. And I do. For five years now, I've painted her from every angle, in every light. She has grown beautiful in my eyes, and in her own. Every morning, she sits for me. Then, every afternoon, we sit on the floor together, and we watch the paint dry.

Lady Glamis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lady Glamis said...

Sorry, forgot the italics in the last post.


White. Not a bright white, more cream than anything. Gran doesn’t like things too bright. Like the clouds, she always said. Those aren’t white – they’re ev’ry soft color you can imagin’ all shiftin' back and forth reflectin’ everything down below.

I look up at the sky, at the clouds, at the colors shifting. She’s right.

I look down at the fence, at the fresh coat of paint holding back the peeling wood and fifty other coats of paint from fifty other summers I’ve never known. It’s my turn to sit here on the grass watching creamy white color-filled drops congeal on my toes and ankles. It was my turn to paint the fence, and now that it’s finished I realize this is probably the first time anybody’s done it alone.

Gran won’t see this white, this cream, these colors drying on her rotting wood surrounding the house she grew up in, married in, had my mom and dad in. The house where she made chocolate chip cookies gooey with sugar and too much salt, overly sweet lemonade chilled with freezer-burned ice, roast beef so dry it looked like strings of jerky.

Gran, where are you? I’m here, I painted. Where are you now?

It was never the cookies or the lemonade or her house filled with the smell of baking apples. It was never her floral couch that smelled like peppermint and dog hair. It was this fence holding us together, this paint reflecting color, this time spent waiting, laughing, holding hands as the others ran their brushes up, down, up, down, up down as the clouds drifted up above.

You’re my fav’rite gran’baby, Gran would say as she patted my small hand with her soft, wilted fingers. I think you understand me the most, li’l girl.

I look up at the sky, at the clouds, at the colors shifting. She’s right. The colors there dance across the sky. Soft yellows and purples, the colors of her couch, of lemonade, of vibrant life now fading to white.

Anonymous said...

If she never picked up another paintbrush, it would be too soon. She sat back on her haunches, exhausted, whispers of sweat on her forehead beginning to trickle lightly into her eyes. Wearily, she lifted her left hand, the paintbrush still held tight in her right, and wiped her face. The smears of red on her forehead and left cheek matched the spatters of red in her blond hair and the fresh, deep red of the wall in front of her.

She was tired, so very tired; her entire body ached. Her legs gave way and she felt her spine harshly jarred as she fell backwards. The brush in her right hand fell to the floor, staining the old weathered wood, as she instinctively reached out for support. She didn’t notice the paint on the floor. Not that she would have cared.

With eyes half-closed, she stared at the wall, mesmerized by the deep red color, the color of fresh blood. It slowly began to dry in places, dry to a deeper color than it had been when wet. Suddenly, she caught her breath, her body frozen in place. The paint . . . no, it couldn’t be. But it was! Look, the red wetness was beginning to flow, to gather, to form a shape upon the wall! What was it? A human form? No, it couldn’t be, it was just paint! But yes, there it was, the outline of a human form, as if someone had pressed their body against the wet wall and left their image in the paint! As the paint flowed to that one spot from every corner of the wall, the form took on more detail. The face, a man’s face, but not a kind or gentle face. Small beady eyes, hooked nose, lips thin and pressed tightly together. A menacing face. A frightening face! Thick neck, wide shoulders, big hands, the kind of hands that could easily crush a windpipe. Stocky build. A fighter’s build.

She couldn’t move, she couldn’t look away, she was barely breathing. Please oh please somebody help me somebody save me from this, this, being that . . .oh my god! her mind screamed. The paint is alive! It’s stepping off the wall! Its hands are stretched out, they’re almost touching me! They are touching me, I can feel the wetness around my neck, I can’t breathe! It’s talking, this being is talking, oh my god!

“Hey, Jenny”, her brother said as he shook her roughly. Her eyes flew open, she struggled to her feet and looked wildly around. Her brother, not noticing her panic but rather looking at the red wall, said, “It looks really good, Jen. It’s drying nice and evenly. I’d say you did great! Thanks for helping me out. C’mon, let’s go home. I bet you need a good night’s sleep.”

Sleep? And maybe dream? Of beings made of paint? No, thank you.

BA Boucher said...

Interior Design

It took four years and a brutal divorce to get to this point. I got sick of blaming her. She is not done blaming me. I need to open the windows and get some air in here before I pass out from the paint fumes. My head throbs.

The phone is ringing. Five will get you twenty that it's the realtor. I keep moving back the sell date. Little fixer projects keep compounding. Cabinets need hung, tile needs grouted, rooms need a fresh coat of paint.

Especially this room.

I've finished everything I could think of, all installations are plumb and ablaze with new paint. The house looks better than when we bought it.

All except this one room.

I remember that day we got the house. Janice was so happy and her head was dizzy with excitement of what it would look like after a few years of hard work. It was OURS. I looked at it more with apprehension, I'm an office drone, hard work is as alien to me as an intake manifold gasket. I smiled and carried our daughter inside. Maybe we would make this work.

Little Izzy picked out her bedroom and said, "I want a princess room!" My little girl got everything she wanted. I spoiled her but she deserved it.

I got every single can of Pink Pastel Princess paint I could get my hands on and covered that upstairs room. Pink ceiling fan, pink trim, pink light switches. Izzy loved it.

And now I sit on an empty industrial size bucket of Alabaster White, alone in an empty room, in an empty house.

I've bought every different shade of white available and sat watching it dry. Eggshell, Off White, Bride White, Cream, and every combination I could gather. The realtor said the only way to sell a house is to paint all the rooms neutral. If the prospective couple had a boy they wouldn't be able to picture him in this pink room.

So I've been trying to cover and erase the memory of my daughter's wishes. But every time that white coat dries, the pink can be seen. It refuses to be let go.

I scraped the walls with sandpaper, and the pink shows.

I laid seven coats, and the pink shows.

I put up white wallpaper, and it fell to the ground.

Four years I've tried to whitewash this room and for four years I've seen that paint dry to a bleeding pink. My wife told me I was abandoning my daughter.

My daughter was the greatest gift I've ever received, and I could never abandon her or let her go.

The phone rings again.

The pink fades in on the wall.

If I can't cover the pink, how am I ever to cover the bloodstain near the floor?

Reesha said...

Meghan sat on a stool. There wasn’t much more she could do. She had painted herself into a corner.
In one hand, she held a paintbrush with red paint. The bucket had been sealed and thrown across the room, landing a lucky shot in the garbage can.
Meghan might not have been the smartest kid on the block, but she was patient. She had to watch the paint dry anyway. It was the only way she could know if her plan would work.
An hour ticked by. Meghan amused herself by painting a cat face on one hand. She smudged paint on her cheek to see what it felt like when it dried. She picked her nose.
Another hour blew past. The floor began to take on a matte look. She sat up straighter and even stood on the stool to see the floor at different angles.
“Damn it!” She yelled, and jumped off the stool. She could still see the message. The paint was darker where the blood had been, and the words ‘Meg shot me’ were clear amongst the splatter of other dark spots. Her plan wasn’t working.
Meghan stomped around the corner leaving red footmarks, still clutching the paintbrush in her hand. She opened a broom closet and confronted her ex-boyfriend.
“You think you’re clever, don’t you, writing with your own blood?” The corpse stared at her with parchment skin and open eyes.
“If I can’t paint over it, I’ll just burn the house down!” She undressed, jumped in the shower and washed the paint off.
“They’re not going to catch ME red handed.” She heard a car winding up the long, gravel driveway.
“They’re here!” she whispered, as if she was at a surprise birthday party. She ran to the kitchen, gathered an armful of wine, alcohol, and cleaning supplies. She shattered them on the red floor. Rushing outside, she grabbed lighter fluid and the propane tank from the grill and threw them inside.
She dragged the unfortunate corpse from the closet too and added him to her collection. He was heavy, but not enough to dissuade her. She ignited two candle-lighters and threw them in the center of the wood floor. Flames instantly licked at the corpse.
She ran downstairs and found the fireworks they had been saving for the 4th.

Upon hearing a spectacular bang, the police entered, pointing their guns.
Blue and purple sparks shot everywhere. They were stunned. They heard laughing.
Outside through the sliding glass doors they saw a naked Meghan dancing just beyond the flames.
“He killed himself!” she shouted gleefully. “He killed himself!”
The floor fell and crashed. Released from the spell of the naked girl and the sparkles, they rushed down the stairs. One radioed for a firetruck.
They could still hear her laughing through the hole above them. No one really cackles. But Meghan’s crazed laugh would echo in their minds for decades as a witch’s gloat.
They could see half the corpse’s face, jawbone visible in pirate-flag fashion.
They were haunted by the scene for the rest of their lives. They saw the word Meg, heard the witch above, and both thought it looked like the corpse was watching the paint dry.

Reesha said...

Wow, Jabez. I love your entry.

Lady Glamis said...

What's with all the blood and paint? Interesting...

John said...

I just saw this contest and whipped up something in 15 mins. It sucks, but whatevah!

The purple-faced man took a step back and regarded his work. It was good. Damned good. Muted conversations, the low rumble of a crowd rose in volume, cresting into adoration. Together, their voices roared in unison.

"Grape Ape! Grape Ape!"

Cutsauce Peckwater looked up at the forty-foot mural, at the liquid purple gleam from the damp paint. The Order of Grape Ape would rise to prominence and rule above all others. Forget Yogi Bear, JabberJaw, Hong Kong Phooey, the Go-Go Globetrotters, and the wanna-be posers.


Cutsauce spun. Maxwell Bitmiffen stood inside the temple doors. He wasn't wearing a shirt. Just a purple bowler, matching bowtie, and pink shorts supported by green suspenders.

"What business do the followers of Magilla Gorilla have at our holy shrine?" Cutsauce asked. He snapped his fingers. The others of his order lined up alongside him, each dressed smartly in a green half-length jacket with popped collar, a green bowtie, and a green ball cap.

"Magilla is the true lord of the apes. Your shrine shall perish in holy flame." Maxwell stepped inside the cavernous temple. His followers crowded in behind him.

"Your ape is a moron. Remember when he tried to repair that man's sports car and instead wrecked it? Remember how long Mr. Peebles tried to sell that worthless primate?"

"You should speak. The extent of Grape Ape's capabilities are saying his name and propelling Beegle Beagle's poor excuse of a van along public highways."

Cutsauce felt the burn in his cheeks. Scarlet filled his vision. "You have sealed your doom." He raised his fist high in the air. "Grape Ape! Grape Ape!"

The temple echoed with the roars of his people as they repeated the holy name. Cutsauce charged. Maxwell charged. The men rammed into each other and grappled. Their followers formed a circle and watched.

Maxwell slapped Cutsauce. A red handprint blossomed on the struck cheek. Cutsauce loosed a flurry of slaps and claws, finally managing to land a blow atop Maxwell's head and dislodging the bowler. Maxwell stopped. Dropped. Rolled. He snatched up the bowler and slammed it back into place.

An explosion rocked the temple. The great mural of Grape Ape crumbled. Purple paint rained down on the mob. A chunk of mortar glanced off Cutsauce's neck. A larger block landed atop Maxwell's legs. A can of purple paint crashed between the two men, disgorging its contents.

Cutsauce tried to move. He couldn't feel anything below his neck. Maxwell was pinned. He cursed and screamed. Most of their followers had fled or were buried in rubble. A man clad in leopard print pants entered.

"Bam Bam!" he said, before turning and leaving.

The purple paint spread along the floor and crept toward Cutsauce's face. He couldn't do anything. Move anything. Maxwell stopped screaming and lay his head on the floor. Together, the adversaries relented to their fates and watched the purple paint dry.

Margaret said...

Hi, I'm a lurker here, but thought this prompt sounded fun!

Quickly—quietly—I opened the kitchen door and crept in, crept like a ghost. Oh how quietly I came in! You should have seen me. You would have been proud of me, of how quietly I came through the kitchen door.

One foot, then another. It took so very long, but I dared not move more quickly. Mother would be resting, and I couldn’t disturb Mother.

Up the stairs, one after another, oh so gently in my socks. I would have to walk past Mother’s room. Its mouth was open and in the darkness I could hear Mother breathing, in and out, in and out. I walked more softly then her breath.

Three more steps—two more. I was in the room, past the doorframe. I shut it, not a hinge squeaking, and gently I pressed the wood against wood. Lock. Safe!

I opened the bag and threw aside the cotton balls and vinegar for Mother. There it was, wrapped in a small glass bottle. Candy apple red, sticky, shiny, beautiful.

I unscrewed the lid which turned into a tiny brush, sticky and red. I gently combed it on my fingernails, messy, but I got the hang of it. It touched the skin on the tips of my fingers and felt so cool, so refreshing. So beautiful.

It felt like hours. I grew anxious after each finger. She would wake up soon, wouldn’t she? I brushed more quickly, and missed a few spots, but it doesn’t matter. I was on my right pinky, the last one, when she banged on the door. My brush slipped and I got polish on the nightstand.

“Yes, Mother? I’m coming.”

She knocked again and raised her voice a little.

I knew what I would do. I would open the door without hesitation. I would show her my hands, show her the candy apple red fingernails, show it right to her face. She would gawk and scream, but I wouldn’t care. I would show her the bottle too, show her the receipt, how I bought it with my own money. Then I would put it in my pocket and go out the front door, showing the world my brightly colored nails while Mother still screamed and screamed back home.

A third knock.

I opened the door and stuffed my hands in my pockets. Mother was leaving for work and I was to have all the dishes polished like new before she got home. With that she turned around and left.

After washing the dishes, I would have to go back and buy nail polish remover. But first, I waited for the paint to dry.

Rick Daley said...

Thanks everyone for participating! There are some fine entries here, I enjoyed reading all of them. I will post my top three picks tomorrow.

I could not resist submitting my own entry. This isn't open for voting, but I hope you like it nonetheless:

The artist stared at the white corner of the canvas. Its paint-free surface begged for a splatter of color. He pulled a long, thin brush from the box on the table and swept the bristles over his palette, showing no concern for the mix of colors he created. Once the brush was dripping he stepped back across the room and flung it like a knife-thrower toward the canvas.

The cat hissed as the paint brush skipped past its bed and skittered across the cement floor, leaving an ugly rainbow streaking in its wake. The cat went back to cleaning its fur, trying to remove the remnants of the previous throw, which was no more accurate in regard to the canvas but dead-on if the target was the cat’s ass.

The artist looked at the wet paint, its moisture slowly releasing into the air as the colors affixed themselves to the canvas. His smock. The floor. His cat.

He grinned as a new method popped into his mind, a fantastic way of applying paint to canvas.

He waited for the paint on the canvas to dry and then he kicked over two full cans of fresh paint. A river of yellow joined a stream of blue and created a sea of green that flowed across the floor toward the cat, who was wise enough to get the hell out of there before the artist finished this work with his master-stroke.

The easel tipped over and crashed to the floor when the artist grabbed the canvas off of it. He walked across the room and closed one eye to take aim, then he flung the canvas and its wooden frame like a Frisbee toward the pool of wet paint.

The canvas flipped over in mid air and landed in the mess paint-side up. As the f-bomb burst forth from the artist’s lips a single drop of green paint splashed onto the open corner of the canvas, falling straight down and creating a perfect circle in the middle of the white space.

He watched the spot dry, certain that his latest abstract masterpiece would fetch his seventh straight six-figure sale, and at long last, he would be a millionaire.

Jabez said...

Reesha: Thanks a lot!

jbchicoine said...

This is what I get for being away for 5 weeks—I missed my big chance! Just the same, I can’t wait to go back and read all these entries.