“Here we are!” Hannah chimed. A draft of warm, new house scented air billowed out. “I’ll get the AC running.”
College-aged Danni Murray’s eyes swept over the plain, white, utilitarian walls. The design team had nominated her to paint. She was good at it. She smiled and rattled the paint gun and can in her hand, already imagining an olive-colored feature wall.
“Are we all clear on what we are doing?”
A round of energetic ‘yeses’ answered.
“What can I do?” a whimpering voice asked no-one in particular. Christa, a tweenage volunteer, was along for the day.
“You wanna help Danni put up tape?” Hanna asked, smiling.
Within minutes, Danni had the paint thinned, the gun disassembled, loaded and reassembled.
“The tape is stuck… I can’t get it to come out of the… thingy…”
“Here." Danni snatched the tape gun and adjusted it. “Now it will work.”
She sent Christa back to taping and started laying a plastic drop cloth. She glanced sideways when the tape gun started making sporadic cracking noises. Danni paused on her knees to watch the volunteer. High on the ladder, she was struggling with the tape dispenser.
Danni frowned and began spraying the middle of the wall.
“I can’t make it stick, Danni.”
“Rip the used part off.”
The tape gun gradually started whooshing rather than cracking, so Danni moved on to other low-risk areas of the wall.
“It’s not tearing off now…”
Danni showed Christa how to cut the tape, and discovered that much of the taping job was on the wrong wall. The next attempt was not straight enough, but before Christa could redo it again, she cut herself on the jagged edge pulling fresh tape. Danni was left to pull down tape and put it back up, after a locating an elusive first-aid kit.
“ I could have had this done by…” She bore down on the tape gun, making it whoosh, hiss,then snap as she cut the tape at the floor.
Eventually she got back to spraying.
“Cool. You’re fast! I was only out a second.”
“I know,” Danni thought, biting her lip.
“ I’ll start taking some of this stuff off now.”
It was too late, Christa had already yanked a strip of wet, paint-stained tape halfway up the height of the wall.
“Don’t tough anything! Don’t move!” Danni groaned, grabbing a rag. “Give me your hands.” She bunched up the whole mess in the towel, and with trembling fingers, ripped the tape off .
“Now the paint is all sticking up off the wall! See how ugly that is? Why did you just do something I didn’t ask for?” She shook her head, wondering why Hannah had let her come.
“I’m sorry. It doesn’t look that bad!” Christa said, going back to whimpering.
“Lunch hour!” someone called.
“Great!” Danni said, throwing up her hand.
“What’s wrong?” Hanna came around the corner.
Danni whispered, “I’ve spent so long redoing Christa’s ‘help’, that I’ve only gotten half a wall done. I could have two and a half done by now, by myself!” Forgetting herself, she blurted, “I know you like kids, Hannah, but I’m not getting anything done this way.”
“I’m sorry Aunt Hanna… What should I do with this?” the whimpering voice asked.
Danni’s neck stiffened. Team members filing out of other rooms paused when they saw the silent threesome.
“Take it out that door and throw it all away. It’s okay. I can fix it.”
Danni blinked slowly and took a shallow breath.
“Danielle?” Hanna pushed her angular glasses up and crossed her arms over her clipboard.
“Did I tell you the time frame for this project?”
“No.” Danni dropped her eyes impulsively. “Can’t the girls leave any faster?” she thought.
“Don’t you get paid hourly?”
“How is it that you are only satisfied with your work if you paint a specific number of walls?”
Danni swallowed hard, her eyes wandering to the spot where the paint made that unseemly little lip. Her face boiled in spite of the air conditioner. “I don’t know.”
“Let me decide what’s important.”
When Danni and Christa got back from lunch, the ugly rim on the wall had been replaced by a seamless transition. Hanna had worked on it during the break.
Danni smirked and told her assistant softly, “I’m sorry for acting like my painting was important the most important thing.”
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