According to a cherished old adage, which I know is true because I just made it up, if you can’t stand the kitchen, turn up the heat.
That’s what my wife, Sue, recently did because she wanted me to take down the wallpaper that had adorned the kitchen for the past dozen years.
“It’s practically new,” I told her.
“It’s old,” Sue countered. “And ugly. I want it down.”
The last time I tried to remove wallpaper, in an upstairs bedroom when Sue and I moved into our house 20 years ago, it came off in pieces the size of lollipop wrappers. It took me three days. I could have saved a lot of time by using a flamethrower.
Thanks to those haunting flashbacks, I convinced Sue to hire Mike the Paint Guy.
Mike, otherwise known as Michael Beck of Island Luxor Painting, turned out to be a good worker who was having a bad week.
The day he was supposed to start, he had to take his father to the hospital. Then he had a flat tire. Worst of all, he had a calcium deposit in his shoulder that required surgery.
“The doctor said I have the body of a 64-year-old man,” said Michael, who is 32.
“I’m 64,” I told him. “My body is nothing to write home about, and neither is my head, but at least I don’t need surgery.”
“Maybe,” Michael said, “you can help me take down the wallpaper.”
“Sure,” I said. “I’m off the wall myself, so I’d be happy to assist.”
As Michael prepped the walls with a solution to make the paper come off easily, he asked, “What solution did you use when you took down the wallpaper upstairs?”
My response: “Beer.”
“Wallpaper is tricky,” Michael said. “Nobody uses it anymore. I’ve taken a lot of wallpaper down, but I haven’t put any up.”
When he got it down in the kitchen, he said, “Now I have to spackle. It will cover up the holes.”
“Spackle is also good for covering up wrinkles,” I noted. “I put it on my face before I go to bed.”
“You do look young,” Michael said, “so I guess it works.”
Next, he revved up an electric sander to smooth out the walls.
“May I try?” I asked.
“Help yourself,” Michael said as he handed me the whirring disc.
“This thing could give me a close shave,” I said.
“Yes,” said Michael, “but then you’d need more spackle to cover up the nicks and cuts.”
On one of the walls was a phone number. It was for a woman named Bernice, which also was the name of one of our deceased cats. I called, but the number was out of service.
“It’s dead, too,” I told Michael.
Now it was time to paint. Michael’s shoulder was bothering him, so I said, “You’ll have a brush with disaster. Let me help.”
As I did one of the walls, I remarked, “I’m on a roll!”
It caused Michael even more pain. But he worked through it and, almost single-handedly over the course of a week, and despite my feeble assistance, did a fantastic job.
“I love it!” Sue exclaimed. “Now I want the hallway painted.”
“You’ll have to wait until Michael is out of surgery,” I said.
“Then you can do the prep work,” she said.
“OK,” I replied. “Buy some spackle and an electric sander. And don’t forget the beer.”
Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Hearst Connecticut Media Group and is the author of four books. His latest is “Nini and Poppie’s Excellent Adventures.” Email: JerryZ111@optonline.net. Blog: www.jerryzezima.blogspot.com.