For the first time since I was a freshman in high school I wasn't working for Belmont Fruit during the summer. My old friend Kate had hooked up with a company called College Pro Painters which operated on a franchise model. The more houses you paint the more money you make. Kate had switched from Belmont the previous summer while home from Yale and had made much more money than she would have at Belmont. I made the leap.
I also read 'The Stand' that summer for the first time.
And it is the only time in my life that I have ever been deeply tanned.
The whole premise of College Pro Painters was quantity. If you have a motivated relentless team you can make a mint. We did not make a mint.
Our boss was a college student named Sean. Nice guy but not a great manager. I was used to being at work every morning at 6:15 at Belmont. Seemed to me if we wanted to paint as many houses as possible than we should be on the ladders at sun up. But we weren't. In fact, if we were painting by 9 it was a good day.
I started to get a bit of an inkling that I might have a death wish working. I sought out the highest ladder point, the places that other people didn't seem to want to paint. I dangled from rooftops dabbing trim with sponge brushes, clutching a bucket of paint in my teeth. I straddled gutters and hung unhitched over three story drops. In short I was losing my mind.
Everything seemed to move in slow motion. Cotton seemed to be stuffed in my ears as if I were some bottle of over the counter medicine never to be opened, never used for the purpose I was made for. I didn't take lunch with everyone. I kept painting. Whenever I wasn't on a ladder I did pushups and situps. I had a hard time wearing t-shirts because I felt claustrophobic with the slightest bit of pressure on my skin.
To make matters worse we were not being paid regularly by Sean for all the work we were doing. Resentment started to openly fester. Things came to a head when the paint store where we picked our supplies up informed us that we couldn't have any more paint until Sean paid up. Which meant that there was no way he could pay us what he owed us, probably $2 grand apiece for a team of 5 or 6 painters. Yikes.
We traipsed over to his frat house and knocked on his door. It was probably 9:30AM. At first he started to get mad at us for not being at the house. When we told him that we were going to run out of paint later that day and that we couldn't buy any more he changed his tune right quick. We demanded checks. He said he couldn't. It was one of the more tense moments I've ever had. Violence was definitely in the air.
I was deep into 'The Stand' and in a trance. King does that to you. He is just relentless. The story seemed to unfurl like some horrific flag over a kingdom of death. No matter how fast I read the whole story seemed, much like the way I felt all summer, to be moving at a frighteningly slow pace. As if you'd been drugged or shot with a tranquilizer dart.
I marched over to Belmont and asked for my old job back. The next morning at 6:15 I dragged my tanned shirtless body to work and delivered fruits and vegetables all day on familiar routes. I missed being out on those ledges though. I must admit.