Friday, April 4, 2014

Excerpt from: KEY TO LOVE

Lucas stood inside Whitman’s Paper and Paint Store, surrounded by the pungent scents of vinyl wallpaper, turpentine, and paint, and wondered how he had allowed himself to be tricked into abandoning his work at the garage. Then he remembered it all had come about with Elise’s urge to redo the bedroom at the farm for Todd. 
          Actually, it had started with her persistent wheedling about the bare kitchen cupboards and the need to grocery shop. It had been an eye-opening experience in itself, and he finally admitted to himself he had discovered how the phrase “shop till you drop” came into existence. Woman pitted against marketable commodities. In less than forty-five minutes, she had filled a grocery cart with more food than could possibly fit into the cupboards and refrigerator and which barely fit into the trunk of the Trans Am, now parked outside.
          Though he had to give her credit, despite her unflagging obsession to use every minute to its advantage, she was as competent and efficient at managing details as she had professed. Over the past few days, she arranged to have the electricity at the cottage turned on and already had a contractor on the job, replacing the cottage’s slate roof. And lists. Lord, the woman could make lists. On anything. From napkins to the margins of a candy wrapper.

However, nothing had prepared him for Whitman’s Paint and Paper. It was like stepping onto another planet.
“What are we looking for again?” He watched her leaf through the pages of a pattern book with a speed that defied logic. She was standing before a long rectangular table in the back of the store with two dozen books piled haphazardly around her. Shelves circling the room held hundreds more. “Blue dogs?”
“No, white wallpaper with blue paw prints and with a corresponding blue border with dogs. I know it exists, I just don’t know where.” Her eyes never left the book she was working with. “It has to be in stock, too.”
“Run this by me again. How do I tell if it’s in stock, and what shade of blue?” Lucas rubbed his bleary eyes with the palms of his hands.
“Ah, French blue, something like this.” She paused only long enough to point to a flower so small the average person would need a magnifying glass. She flipped the page before he had a chance to commit it to memory. “Don’t worry about the stock, the store manager will check on it.”
Lucas scowled. Every pattern had begun to look like the next, melting into a haze of swirling tones. God, he needed an aspirin and a beer. If she kept this up, he’d be too dizzy to eat the hundred pounds of food jammed into the trunk.
“Can’t we do this tomorrow? I really need a break here.”

“No time,” she mumbled. “Pedmo is coming on Monday.”
“Monday?” A little bell of alarm went off in his head. “Since when?”
“Since the meeting. It must have slipped my mind.” She never raised her head.
“Maybe we should get someone to help us,” he suggested.
“I did.” She waved her hand toward a circular table where a thin man with fuzzy gray eyebrows was rummaging through a stack of books that would put a library to shame. “I snagged the manager on the way inside while you were rearranging groceries in the trunk.”
“You’re absolutely sure this wallpaper exists?” He squinted at her with a skeptical look, and she nodded, her fingers nimbly turning the pages of yet another book.
“Uh-huh, I saw it once when I was selecting paper for a day care center our agency was contracted to renovate.”
“Oh, terrific. There are at least five hundred books here, and we’ve been through what? Two dozen? I imagine you have someone lined up to hang the dang rolls?”
“Uh-huh, you and Fritz. But only if you’d stop talking and help me find it.”
“Me and Fritz?” His voice came out in a hysterical wail. “Get serious, Liz, I’ve never wallpapered a room in my life.” Hell, he couldn’t wrap a Christmas present unless it was packaged in a box with four crisp corners and there were yards of paper to waste.
“Neither has Fritz, but he’s watched my mother do it many times. I have to interview some nurses from Home Health in the morning, otherwise I’d help. Anyway, it’s just one wall and pasting a border around the ceiling. It’s a piece of cake.” Her hands continued flashing through the pages.
“Piece of cake? Are you sane? Unless Fritz has flashbacks, we’re doomed.” Lucas slumped down wearily onto a nearby chair and cupped his face in his hands.