History of a Smiley

I began life as a collection of droplets inside an aerosol can of all-purpose, fast-drying enamel for interior or exterior applications. It might surprise the knee-wader to learn that the individual droplets were known to one another. Old Spraddlefat kept the rest of them entertained with sparkling spurious speculations about end use. He liked to jibe that they were going to coat the fender of a Chrysler K-car in a rural slum, that a tagger named McTaggart would deploy them on a concrete bridge abutment or—the prospect that perversely excited many—a neoclassical building of 091Indiana limestone. Spraddlefat’s cousin, Lamitad, a glass-half-empty type, lamented that their purchaser might never use them and they would languish on a basement shelf alongside other cans, not only of spray enamel but also quarts and gallons with the remaining odd quantities of primordial paint or parvenu stains, never having the chance to react to oxygen or glitter in the sunlight. As things turned out, they were acquired for the handsome sum of $3.98 and carried home by a woman who wanted to adorn her toolshed. She kept them on her kitchen counter for a week before conveying them out to the yard and putting them through the paces. Taking it from those who endured, avoiding the agitator ball during the mixing process isn’t easy. The casualty count is unclear, but their number remained legion and they more than provided adequate initial coverage and a second coat for durability. Things weren’t easy at first, though. The remnants of a last can were sprayed on a test panel. (Imagine ending up there—what ignominy!) Poor bonding was indicated, so the droplets had to wait, to outlast a lot of sanding, which is like traveling to the carnival at the county seat in order to find the Gravitron down for repair with the key replacement component being airfreighted from Altamira: one asks the ticket taker if it’s OK just to go ahead and puke while one is fully prepared. Finally this woman—Hepplinger H. glimpsed the mail and adduced she was Maria Elena Fellow, American College of Surgeons—got the right grit of sandpaper and prepped and masked the surface. Those among the first three percent released through the nozzle took it as personal commendation, a summa graduation; yet, esprit de corps was preserved; overall morale soared, with wave after wave rushing forth as through a flume at Leadville. Indeed, there developed some inevitable runs, which were rued. Maria E.F. lightly sanded them before the second coat, and the new application was perfect. Yet the firstcoaters hazed the incoming class, calling them neophytes and making them scrub the toilets, with a few challenges issued about trying for revenge in beer pong, but that sort of razzing soon gave way to fraternal egalitarianism as all bent themselves to the task of tumefaction. (How very, very deep was the aspiration of being an excellent coat of enamel.) Not until Maria displayed the results to visitors was it realized a smiley had been formed. Yes, of the schmaltzy Seventies happy face variety. Some expressed disgruntlement about this. Hepplinger H.’s friend from the old days, Gruber, had a fine arts background and deplored his current state, calling it contumelious. And an old anarchist bomb-chucker, Tad Czolgosz, derided the whole thing as a sick bourgeois plot, preferring even a forthrightly commercial application.

060At any rate, here I am, in it for the long haul.

Until sun-fading occurs.

Or a tornado hits.

Or a big rig careens off the highway and knocks the shed to smithereens.

Several times a day, drivers honk and wave.

I beam back.

Felicitously.

Genuinely.

The discordant voices have died down.

Every pustule of paint resigned to its fate.

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