By Kathleen Clauson
When Ray Wakefield finally snapped, he painted everything blue. The house, the lawn, the fence, and just about anything paint would stick to.
According to Eddie, the whole thing started one Friday night in early October when his parents were arguing. His mother, Isabel was complaining again about the way their house looked… again. Lately this had been almost a daily discussion.
Isabel was the chair of the planning committee for the Festival of Lights, quite an important responsibility for an equally important community event. At the end of the month, Isabel was inviting her committee for a luncheon.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she whined. “This is the most important meeting of the year. I guess I’ll have to rent a meeting room at the Hampton. That will only cost a hundred or two. Ray, are you even listening?”
“Of course, Isabel, do I have a choice? You’re practically screaming at the top of your lungs. I’m sure even old Mrs. Belstadt can hear you.”
“Very funny, she’s deaf.”
“Well, there you go. See how loud you are?”
“Ray, I’m ashamed to even invite anyone over here. The house needs to be painted inside and out. The paint is peeling so bad it looks like it is shedding its skin. Our neighbors will think we live in the slums. Ray, why don’t you get off your dead ass for once and do something around here?”
Eddie heard his dad mumble something like, “I need a beer.” That set his mother off even more.
From upstairs Eddie heard his mother say, “Ray, let’s face it. You don’t respect me at all, even though I am chair of an important community event. You are just like your father…a useless no-good drunk.” Eddie’s grandfather was a Johnny Walker man who died after he was hit by a car one night when he was staggering home from the bar.
Eddie heard glass shatter. The door slammed and his mother began to cry. Eddie ran downstairs to see what had happened and he found his mother trying to salvage recognizable pieces of blue glass. She was sobbing so loudly, she didn’t hear Eddie as he tiptoed through the shattered glass . He tried to help her, but she snarled at Eddie like he was a part of the conspiracy.
The collection of blue glass was his mother’s most prized possession. She had fancy vases, blue glass candy dishes shaped like rabbits and cats, hand-blown paperweights, lovebirds, and all sorts of blue shapes. Now just about everything was on the floor in a blue sea of broken glass.
Isabel Wakefield was usually a quiet, patient woman, with soft wavy hair that never seemed out of place. Her dresses always looked crisp and freshly pressed. Their house was spotless. In fact, most people wouldn’t believe she was even capable of raising her voice.
She was a part-time bookkeeper at Sonnenschein’s Bakery on Lincoln Avenue. Eddie’s dad was a construction foreman, a big solid-built guy, once quite handsome, whose hands looked dirty even when they were clean. Lately one of his fingers was black and blue from work and his fingernail looked like it was going to pop off.
Even though she ranted and sobbed, Eddie helped his mother sweep up the glass until midnight. She finally took a small triangle-shaped blue nerve pill and went to bed.
Eddie’s father stumbled up to the back door about three in the morning. The door was locked, probably on purpose by his mother. Eddie ran downstairs to unlock it and help his dad into the house.
“Son, you know I love you, both your mother and I love you,” slurred his dad. “But I can’t keep going on like this. If I move out, I want you to come with me. What do you say?” His dad’s blue eyes were red with tears. ‘
"Dad, I don’t want you to go.”
“Of course you don’t, but you’ll see it will work out better. You’ll still see your mother.” His dad lit a cigarette and dropped it on the floor. Before it could burn the linoleum, Eddie picked it up.
“Whatever you say, Dad. I want to be with you.”
“You go to bed now boy. We’ll talk more tomorrow. Just in case things get rough, pack a suitcase. I’ve had one packed for a year.”
“What do you need, son?”
“Did you break her glass?”
"Eddie, you won’t believe this but your mother was so upset she threw her blue cookie jar at me. It missed me, but hit her glass.” T
he next morning Eddie heard the door downstairs slam around seven. At eight-thirty his mother called up to him to ask him if he was hungry for breakfast.
“No, I’m just going to sleep in.”
“Ok then, well I’m helping with the church bazaar. I’ll be home about six.” Eddie heard his mother’s car pull out of the driveway. He rolled over and went back to sleep.
Around ten, Eddie heard the door of his father’s truck slam. Eddie crawled out of bed and looked out to see his father unloading gallons of paint and ten minutes later, he leaned a ladder against the other side of the house.
Without scraping the old paint, Ray sloshed blue paint, literally, over everything, the porch, the siding, eaves troughs, even windows.
Eddie ran outside after going in the bathroom and the light shining through the paint made the whole room blue.
“Dad, what are you doing? Mom will kill you.”
“She’ll put me out of my misery.”
His father stopped painting for a minute and pulled a twenty dollar bill out of his wallet. “Eddie, be a sport and run down to the hardware store. I need a couple more paint rollers. These are just about trashed.”
Eddie went to the hardware store, the same store where his dad bought the paint. “So you’re doing a home improvement project this weekend, I take it,” said Mr. Jensen, the store clerk.
“Yeah, I guess you could call it that,” Eddie told him. Mr. Jensen went to the back to get more paint rollers. Evidently his father had bought all of them up front this morning. He bagged them up and Eddie walked home slowly.
By the time he got there, the entire house outside was covered with neon blue paint and he didn’t see his dad anywhere.
He went inside and his dad was rolling paint over everything. Refrigerator, kitchen table, chairs, sofa.
“She said she wanted me to get off my ass and paint. This acrylic doesn’t stick to the metal too good. You need primer to do it right, but it’s now or never.”
Ray used all the paint he had and nearly everything was covered in blue wet paint. His truck was packed and stuck to the kitchen table was a long letter he had written to Isabel.
Ray looked at his watch. It was almost six. “Eddie boy, you’d better put your suitcase in the truck. Don’t forget your book bag for school.”
Eddie and his dad sat in the truck, waiting for Isabel to pull in the drive. By then a few neighbors were standing in their front yards, looking at the bright blue house under a cluster of red-leafed maple trees.
When Eddie’s mother pulled in the drive, Eddie could see her mouth wide, ranting and raving at the top of her lungs.
As Ray and Eddie drove by, they turned up the radio to drown out her shrill voice.