Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Paint

LB Sedlacek


I see the dog every day. Never the same time, but always on the road or at the edge getting ready to cross. He looks left, then right, waits for the traffic to pass, then crosses to the center passing lane. He waits again until it’s clear and crosses to the other side. Sometimes he runs, but he always crosses safely as pretty as you please. The dog is black with a white spot on his back and head. I’m not sure if he is a he, but he seems like one to me, somehow.

Slim spits tobacco out the window and points and grins, “See. There he is again. That dog. Every damn day. I think he’s watching us.” Tobacco juice drips down Slim’s chin and he wipes it on his sleeve.

“That’s crazy, Slim. Ain’t no dog watching us. He just lives along the road somewhere. He’s probably chasing squirrels or rabbits or something.”

Slim shakes his head. Spits out the window. A wad of chewed tobacco lodges itself on the side mirror. “That’s what I’d be doing if it weren’t for this. You know?”

I nod. Hold my hand out the window and make a left. A steady breeze poured through the windows and the faint smell of hay and manure lingered in the air.

Slim bangs his hand on the door. “Derek, man, when are you ever gonna trade in this heap of junk?” He spits more tobacco. This wad lands just over the door’s edge and oozes backwards making a snail tail like streak along the faded red paint.

“Guess I’ll trade it in when you quit spitting tobacco all over it.”

He laughs and slaps my shoulder. We parallel park in front of what used to be downtown’s Central Theatre. It took up over half the block and was painted white with red stripes. A box office window jutted out from the left side and there were four glass doors with brass handles. A paved cement ramp led from the sidewalk to the doors and it was decorated with a mosaic waterfall pattern. The theatre had been closed for ten years and had operated as a movie theatre and later as a live theatre production house.

“Looks like we got good weather today,” I say eyeing the traffic. A trickle of cars and pickups moseyed along Main street past the old post office, closed department stores, and decayed building facades that once offered haircuts, tuxedo rentals, and sundries.

“Yep.” Slim spits a wad on the sidewalk and tries to kick it into the gutter.

I fumble through my overall pockets producing keys after three tries. “Here we go.” The door swings forward with a loud creak. The smell of drying paint and bleach pounds against my temples.

“Stuff ain’t dry yet? It’s gotta be the humidity. This is the worst summer we’ve had yet. Too much rain. I can’t think of a time when it rained this much in South Carolina except when Hugo came through.”

Hugo was prefaced by Hurricane and every single summer since I’d known Slim, he always declared it was the worse one yet.

“Grab them buckets over there, Slim. We have to work on the lobby today.”

Slim hands me a green plastic bucket and I fill it with a gallon of white paint. “Here. You start by the bathrooms. I’ll do the concession stand.”

Slim slid his bucket with his feet, stopping every few seconds to lift it off the plastic where it bunched underneath.

The Central Theatre was the main meeting place in the fifties and sixties for teenagers, adults, and the big wigs of Greenville. No one was considered anyone, if they didn’t attend the new movies opening up on the weekends. In the seventies, the theatre began to show decay. In the eighties, it was closed and renovated and reopened for a few years then closed again. In the nineties, a guy from Detroit with a vision of cleaning up the uptown tried live theatre and it lasted for three months. He was killed in a skiing accident and so the theatre wound up with a distant cousin in Nebraska. The cousin lost it in a poker game to Slim and me when he came down to settle the estate.

“How’s it coming over there?” I wipe my nose with my sleeve.

Slim hollers, “Fine. How’s it?”

“Going good. Think I got paint on my nose.”

“Yeah? There’s a handkerchief under the counter. Molly sent you a fresh one.”

Molly was Slim’s fiancée. They had been engaged for six years waiting until Slim made something of himself before they would marry.

“Thanks.” I lean over and retrieve the white soft linen. I rub it on my cheeks and nose. “Molly, she’s great. Why don’t you go on ahead and marry that girl?”

Slim guffaws. His laugh echoes in the Boy’s bathroom and his voice sounds loud and spooky. “Why don’t you trade in that heap of junk?”

I sigh and glance out the doors. A purple Jaguar speeds along Main Street in a blur. “I always wanted one of those.”

Slim yells, “What?”

“Nothing.” I wad the handkerchief into a ball and throw it at the ceiling. I pick up my paintbrush and I don’t look up to see where the handkerchief falls when it lands.

***

LB Sedlacek's short fiction has appeared in such publications as Southern Hum, Silver Moon, The Unlikely Unknown, The Outer Rim, Cenotaph, Monarch Mysteries, Bovine Free Wyoming, Duct Tape Press, and ESC! Magazine.  LB's poems have been published in such places as Passport Journal, Would That It Were, Bent Pin Quarterly, Bear Creek Haiku, Heritage Writer, Word Riot, Edgar Literary Magazine, Transparent Words, and ART:MAG.

©LB Sedlacek

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2009