I know that my house is supposed to be cheap, but I figure it should at least look better than a homeless man's collection of clothes poorly sewn together. Distraught, I approach the crude structure and run my hand against the cheap fabric. I could have built a house like this for free! I circle the building until I find the door, which had Willy's face stamped on the door.
I am just about to push the door open when someone suddenly springs out of the tall grass. "Ay, what are you doin?" the figure gruffly says. Startled, I finally realize it's Willy, who has just woken up from a snooze. "You been gone all day! I been waiting for you to come break the workshed!"
Nothing he is saying makes sense. I scratch my head and drunkenly reply, "Workshed?"
"Yeah, the workshed! Jardiniero didn't tell you? I build my houses under this here workshed so I can work in privacy. Then when I'm finished, I put my seal on the door and you have to come approve the house before I leave. All you gotta do is smash the shed with a shovel and I can leave," Willy explains, massaging his forehead.
Feeling even more useless, I ask, "And where do I get a shovel from after sundown?" He hands me a decent all - metal shovel and gestures toward the workshed.
"You can borrow mine for now. Forgot you haven't gotten one yet." Following his command, I give the flimsy shed a good whack and sure enough, the walls collapsed in a cloud of dust. The dust clears and it appears as though the workshed that was previously before me has vanished. Now I am face to face with my new home.
It's a plain off-white concrete flat with a red clay door. From the front, there are two identical square windows on either side of the door. I turn to thank Willy, and see that he has already begun to walk up the village trail.
"Hey!" I yell after him. He stops and turns to face me. "Thanks a ton for building me this!"
"Look, Brian," Willy shouts back. "I gotta be at the bar for blackjack in fifteen minutes so I can't hang around. If you ever wanna come have a few drinks with me or some bacon sandwiches, my shop or the bar is where you ought to be. I'll see ya around some time, Guv!" With that, he was bustling towards the village in no time.
Longing for rest, I open the door to my new home. I haven't had time to buy any furniture for my house yet, so I figure I'll just sleep on the floor. I flip on the lights and am fairly pleased with what I see.
I walk into a pale yellow entryway furnished with a coat rack, welcome mat and wall mirror. I see myself for the first time In almost a week; My cheeks are covered with unshaven fuzz and my eyes are bloodshot.
Deciding it's time to move on, I walk into a room on the right that appears to be a living room. There is one plaid armchair that looks extremely welcoming and comfortable, and a small television mounted on the wall. A small side table sits next to the chair and has a remote on it.
I enter a hallway and enter the next room: a dining room. It has a square wooden table with two wooden chairs. The placemats are soft yellow rectangles that match the curtains rather well. A small bowl of blackberries lies in the center of the table, so I grab a handful and devour them hungrily.
Continuing the tour around the house, I find it also has a kitchen, a bathroom, a laundry room and a bedroom. The walls of the bedroom are painted a pale lime green and the bed has a spotless white comforter. Exhausted, I plop down onto the bed and kick off my work boots. I am about to drift off to sleep, when something catches my eye. On the sleek black nightstand rests a set of paintbrushes, an assortment of paints and a blank canvas. Attached is a note.
Jardy told me you like doing art things, so I got you some stuff from the art shop. Enjoy it while you can, because you once you start your garden you'll be working full time.
I run my fingers across the canvas, ecstatic. How much I miss running my fingers across that rough fabric. I sample all the paints on a paper plate I find in the pantry. I even rub the dry brushes against my face, each soft brush so welcoming. As I am reminded of my old life, I am also reminded of Rebecca. Oh, Rebecca. How I miss you.
Sitting silently, alone, on my bed, I dream about where I would be right now if I was back in Philadelphia. Finally, I snap back to reality and crawl under the covers of my bed, deciding to make a painting of Elizabeth in the morning.
The sound of laughter was ringing in my ears. Echoing. Like a chorus of little children. I was running in the water. Rebecca was only a few yards away. I picked up my pace and ran faster, sending bits of sand flying. The laughter grew louder, throbbing throughout my whole body. The faster I ran, the farther away Rebecca became. The laughter was killing me now. I stopped and covered my ears, when a humungous wave came and toppled me over. I was fighting to get to the surface, but I couldn't do it. Salty water filled my nose and mouth and I couldn't breathe. Soon I tasted blood. I clenched my eyes shut as tight as I could and quickly opened them.
I am laying in bed and I realize that I am buried underneath my covers and nearly suffocating. I throw the covers to the ground and realize it's already morning. I must have bit my tongue in my sleep; that seems to be where the bloody taste is coming from.
Feeling only barely more awake than last night, I trudge into the kitchen and get myself a glass of water. Now it was time to make my painting. I pull on my clean pair of clothes and being smearing streaks of paint onto the canvas.
I work for hours, perfecting every contour of Rebecca's face. Her perfect brown eyes, her thick brown hair, her beautiful cheekbones; all perfected. When I finish, I prop her portrait against the wall and admire it for about ten minutes. I feel so much better now that she's here with me.
Then, I decide to go into the bathroom and take a quick shower. The shampoo Willy left in my bathroom smells like a crisp apple; my favorite. I get out of the shower and dry off, returning to my bedroom. I sit and adore my painting for a little bit more, when I decide it's about time I should go see what Jardiniero is up to.
I slide on my work boots and am just about to lock up and leave when I hear a thud from my room. Could it be some sort of pinata? Didn't I lock the windows last night? Or maybe some intruder? Cautiously, I tiptoe back to my room and peer in the doorway.
"OH MY GOSH! SWEET JESUS!" I yell, tripping and falling onto the slick hardwood floor. How did she get in here? In my house? "Just what the hell do you think you're doing? What makes you think you have the right to just go in whosever house you please?" I shout, standing up.
"Hahahaha! Maybe those work boots are a size too big, eh?" laughs Elizabeth, bending over to pick up my painting that she had knocked onto the ground. I assume it was what had made the thud.
"DON'T TOUCH HER!" I shout furiously, scooping up Rebecca and cradling her in my arms. There was no way I was going to let this red haired freak of a woman come anywhere near my painting.
"Oh what's wrong, you don't want me to touch your pretty painting of your little girlfriend?" teases Elizabeth, and crosses her arms as if she really doesn't care. I don't say anything, but I glare at her as I carefully put my painting back in its rightful place. "It's actually quite good, you know."
"Well… Thanks. I used to be an artist back home, you know," I reply, trying hard not to smile. I always love it when people compliment my work, but I can't forget how much I hate this woman.
"Mhm, yeah," She says rather rudely, and simply walks out of the room. I follow her angrily. Why would she just leave with no explanation at all? I hate her for her rude behavior.
"Just where do you think you're going?" I demand, stopping dead in my tracks in the hallway. She stops too, and turns and faces me.
"Oh, now you want me to stay? I thought you wanted me to leave?" she retorts, smirking, and leaning against the wall.
"I do want you to leave! And get off my wall!" I spit back at her, fuming. I feel my face turn red. I have never met someone who annoys me more than Elizabeth. Without saying anything, she turns and heads toward the door again. "Wait a minute!" I say, as she opens the front door and stands in the doorway. She raises her eyes at me and drums her fingertips against the doorknob. "Why did you come into my house without asking? And how did you get in?" She steps outside, still leaving the door open.
"It's my job, Honey. I have to go around and find out what people are passionate about, so I can make their mask. As for how I got in, I have a ton of the locks that Willy uses on houses in my storage unit in the shop. Picking the lock was no problem. I have to go now if you want your mask in time," she explains lazily, and leaves, shutting the door behind her.
"Oh, don't you call me honey!" I shout even though she has already left. I stomp to the door and fling it open. She wasn't going to leave with me dissed. "And don't call me honey, and don't-" I stop shouting. Elizabeth is nowhere to be seen and there are no footprints in my now bare dirt yard.
Well, good. Now I don't have to deal with her anymore. I walk over to Jardiniero's house to see about getting myself a garden plot. I knock three times, and then just let myself in.
"Oh good, you're here," says Jardiniero, wheeling over to me. "Here, have some." He hands me some bread and honey, then wheels over to his desk.
"Um, Jardiniero?" I inquire, not trying to sound rude. He turns and looks at me, waiting for more. "Are we going to go buy me a garden plot today? It's already almost noon, and I want to go get a good look at the place before sundown…"
"Oh, I have something different in mind for you," he says, returning to his work, reading a book open on his desk.
"What are you talking about? I thought I was supposed to be a gardener?" I reply, distraught. I hope he's not going to make me be a garbage man. I wait for minutes, repeating the question several times, but Jardiniero does not even turn and look at me. Lost for words, I look out the small round window into a field in front of Jardiniero's house.
It probably wasn't even considered a field; it looked more like a wasteland. The earth was dry and cracked, and sickly yellow grass barely grew in segregated patches. Old ruins of buildings and yard scenery was smashed and sticking out of the ground at odd angles. It looked like a ghost town; an abandoned playground that was no longer flourishing.
"Wow," I say, trying to break the silence. "I would hate to try and turn THAT into a garden." Surprisingly, Jardiniero turns around and wheels over to the window.
"Oh, that?" he asks. "That's yours."