Ii now hate the color yellow!   It started innocently enough when I decided that, as a struggling artist, I could save myself some money by painting the dump boxes that would go into stores to display my first book – which if you hadn’t heard is called ‘Laugh It Off’.

It is the funniest book in the history of the world, if I do say so myself. Because dump boxes are nearly impossible to come by my neighbor helped me out by knocking together a half-dozen out of particle board, and all that remained for me to do was to paint them. The decision about what color the dump boxes should be was made for me.

Because the cover of the book is yellow, like the beach sand where I spend most of my summer days, it seemed obvious that the dump boxes should be yellow too. So, off I drove to my favorite True Value Hardware Store and rushed in before they had a chance to lock the doors. Not that they have ever done that to me before, but I think they may have tried.

I told the gentleman behind the counter that I needed to paint an unfinished piece of furniture and he asked if he could advise me as to how I could get the job done. At first he told me that I should hire a painter but then realized that I was determined to do the job myself. He then asked me what type of primer I wanted.

“Primer?” I responded. He then gave me a quick explanation that, in order to successfully paint unfinished wood, one had to prime it before painting it.
“Great!” I said.

It wasn’t enough to paint the dump boxes once. I had to paint them twice. He took me to the back of the store and asked me what color I wanted. I told him I wanted the color yellow. He gave me an odd look and handed over what looked like 100 different cards displaying three different shades of yellow on each card. I stared dumbly at the pile of color strips as he asked me again which color yellow I wanted.

In these situations I always rely on the concept of fate. I closed my eyes and picked a card at random. My dump boxes would be radioactive yellow. The hardware guy collected all of the necessary materials for me to complete the task into a cardboard box, (he learned years ago to never give me a paper bag); he put tinted primer, a paint brush, paint, and a mixing stick.

He asked me if I need a tarp and can- opener but I told him I had plenty of old newspapers and an old screwdriver. He also asked if I needed paint remover but I told him I planned to be extremely careful. As I was leaving he told me he would see me later on in the day. I wondered what he meant by that. Later on in the day I found out.

When I got home I spread some newspapers on the garage floor, set a dump box in the middle to allow for plenty of splatter-room and told my wife she should start making dinner because the job would soon be done. She then stared at my pants and asked how I got paint on them before I even opened the cans. I couldn’t answer because I didn’t have a clue. However, I was now ready to open the can of primer.

What I couldn’t understand was why the manufacturer of this particular brand of primer decided to store their product under pressure. I questioned this the second I opened the can and the contents exploded over me. I washed off my glasses and went back to the task at hand. The primer went on surprisingly well. It was tinted yellow in order to make the radioactive yellow paint look better and go on easier. At least that was what my favorite hardware store guy said.

After leaving it to dry for about an hour I went back to apply the paint. The outside of the dump box was easy but the inside shelf, where the books were supposed to go, took a little more time. After I finished the first box I stepped back to admire my handiwork and noticed one little inside corner I had missed. ‘No problem’, I thought. I dipped the brush back in the can and brushed it on where I was sure the spot would disappear. I was wrong!

I tried to cover the spot six times without success. Was there some sort of force field protecting this particular spot on the dump box so that no paint would ever cover it up? Did I discover the center of the Universe, and was God was telling me not to paint it yellow? I decided to attack the spot with a fully-loaded paintbrush. I shoved the brush deep into the paint can, right up to the handle, lifted it out quickly to hang onto the biggest glob of paint and threw it at the bare spot.

I not only missed the spot completely I added a brilliant yellow racing stripe to my wife’s new red car. I also managed to spatter our snowy-white cat with yellow polka dots that no sticky tongue will ever be able to remove and, of course, I always wanted a yellow lawn mower. I told my wife it would brighten up what was usually a dismal task. Defeated, I conceded that the unpaintable corner of the dump box was some kind of particle board sinkhole that would never be covered up.

I tried to look on the bright side. People would only ever see that bare spot when the shelf was bare and all the books had been sold – and I could hardly complain about that. I then moved on to the second dump box only to notice that the brush was leaving behind little pieces of itself as I attempted to smooth out the finish. At first this wasn’t a major problem because I could just pick off the bristles, but the more I painted, the more bristles were left behind. After a while I was astonished to have any brush left at all.

There was another mystery of the Universe I discovered that afternoon. When I thought I was more than half done with my task I noticed that the can of paint was only one-quarter empty. This encouraged me because I was confident I had enough paint to complete the task but when I was three-quarters finished the job I ran out of paint. How could this be? Have the paint manufacturers developed a new kind of false-bottomed paint can, I wondered. That was when I made my second trip to the hardware store and the hardware guy was waiting for me with a fresh can of paint on the corner. I guess it’s true that he knows me better than I know myself.

I finished painting all the dump boxes and by that time the first one had dried and could be moved to a corner of the garage to await transportation to the store. Unfortunately, when I lifted up the dump box, there was loud tearing sound as it took most of the newspapers with it. I spent the next hour carefully unpeeling newspaper strips from the bottom of my beautiful new bookcases. However at last the job was finally done and, for a microsecond, I was actually proud of myself. I called my wife out to admire the half-dozen brilliant yellow dump boxes that would soon be displaying my books around the Seacoast.

At that very moment a swarm of flying ants flew in through the open garage door and attached themselves to all six dump boxes like they were giant fly strips. My wife came out, walked around the bug-speckled dump boxes, and left without saying a word. For a second I actually considered painting over the ants and wondering if anybody would notice. The house was dark and quiet and my dinner was in the refrigerator when I finally finished picking all those ant corpses off the dump boxes and re-touching the paint.

I would have to get rid of the racing stripe on my wife’s car in the morning before she got up!

The End
Did Hemingway have to paint his own dump boxes?
By J. G. Fabiano
Jim Fabiano is a teacher and a writer living in York, Maine, USA
e-mail him at:james.fabiano60@gmail.com