“Paint drying,” is all I needed to say. They both rolled their eyes.
Katherine hadn’t seen the sign yet and she made the words that she was very impressed. She had a big smile that she turned to Jim Farwell and then me. She pulled up her fancy shawl and went to touch the shimmering gold paint. “Don’t,” I told her, “It’s wet.” She scrunched up her face and frowned at me and touched it anyway. “Cat” (I’ve called Katherine Cat since we were in middle school together) can be at least as contrary as I can, and around me, she likes to show it off. I shut off the last whirring hair dryer so we could talk. Farwell had one of the brightly colored dryers in his hand and was looking down its barrel, “What’s with all these?” he asked looking round to all of the dryers positioned around the slabs.
“Chris is going to have the cherry picker delivered to the parking lot (behind Charley’s) as early as possible, could be as early as 7:00. He’ll come by around then and load these guys on his flat bed around then and we will meet up in front of the Saloon. We should have at least four hours to do your thing.”
“We shouldn’t need that much time,” I answered, pointing to the large lag bolts and washers I had already purchased for the mounting of the slabs.” Days ago, Chris and I shared ideas about the mounting.
Katherine puts her arm around me and tells me to get some sleep.
“You look like hell.” she confides in me.
“Yeah, well, these things need two more coats of paint. I’ll probably be working till Chris comes by.”
Katherine stood up abruptly and said “These look great just the way they are. They don’t need any more paint. Go to bed and get some sleep.” As always, she was acting like my big, protective sister, even though she was a year younger than me. Cat was into what looked good and I was into being professional, what was going to be best for the client, longevity.
As usual, Jim diverted the conversation, “You know, Ed . . . ,” he starts, and then he says the absolutely wrong thing to say at this particular time in this particular place, “it’s not really that important that we have the sign for the parade, I just thought it would be cool, you know, a bunch of local people going by and have the new sign to show off.”
Immediately, like the Wizard, pulling knobs and pressing buttons behind the big mechanical face, located in the Emerald City in the land of OZ, my hand, all by itself, reaches under the thick layer of sawdust covering everything in the room and finds an ax. The arm raises the ax high into the air. Now the Wizard pulls the cord to make a high pitched, yelling voice. The voice says “if you don’t promise to hang this sign, tomorrow at dawn, this ax will make all this work into big pile of redwood toothpicks, . . . , and I’m NOT kidding!” I look around and to my astonishment, this arm and this voice were only connected to me. Where is that damn little wizard who is pulling the strings? He’s making me look crazy as a loon.
Cat is looking at me in astonishment, her eyes so wide they would have fallen out of her head had she looked down. Jim slid the ax handle out of my hand and said quietly and calmly,
“Yep, we will hang the sign tomorrow. Do the two more coats. But, please try to get a little rest. See you in the morning.”
They left, Cat shaking her head, and as they walked away I could hear Jim telling her how I took a week off work to finish the sign on time, so on and so forth. I sat in the sawdust wondering where that malicious little wizard had come from and where did he go. I was at a loss for an answer and I was at a loss for what to do. Now, automatically, I turned on the blow dryers and proceeded to add two more coats of sign painter’s paint. Chris came by in the morning, all the paint was dry, we loaded the signs on the bed, drove across town and met Jim in the parking lot.
Chris maneuvered the strangely mobile cherry picker around the corner and in front of the Odd Fellow’s Temple. I found that I couldn’t look up. When I did, I swooned and my knees gave way from the effects of extreme vertigo. I had the “spins” so bad, I had to get across the street and lace myself into a tree to keep from passing out.
The sign got mounted, Mountain Charley’s enjoyed even greater success and I went on to bigger and better things.
Within ten years, Jim sold Mountain Charley’s. The sign disappeared from the exterior wall, under the sunburst, and I sometimes wondered what might have become of it. The old place went through good times and it went through some bad times. But I never ever went back there. I didn’t want to tarnish the really great memories I had of it.
But, last November (2011), Jim’s son, Joe Farwell, signed the lease so that the family was once again in charge of the Saloon. As soon as I heard about this new state of affairs, I did return to the place and congratulated Joe. We entered the Saloon and it was dark and dingy and rundown. It was hard to absorb it all. We looked from wall to wall and tried to see it with eyes that had seen the place in its glory days. But as we turned to the back wall, my eyes adjusted a new way, in astonishment. Above a newer, second bar, hung the two slabs. All I could do was laugh. Joe told me they had been there for a very long time on that back wall. As Joe refurbished and restored the entire place, for awhile, the two slabs sat on the floor, the carpenters and electricians working around them and stepping gingerly past them. Then the slabs disappeared again, but this time into Joe’s garage.
Whether the old sign is to be demolished or restored, I realize now that these two old pieces of potential patio floor may not have spent fifty years on a high outside wall, as we all expected, but they saw a lot more of lively human culture than any of us could have ever imagined.
To see more post by Ed Bellezza go to : www.lgartbridge.wordpress.com