Sunday, September 21, 2014



Consider the power of the subconscious: I did pass a few years of my early childhood in a boarding school that had a large chicken coop in which we raised poultry for eggs, meat, fertilizer, and pillow stuffing. Probably because I was the poorest and weakest of the inmates it was my job to gather the eggs, bag the poop, and keep the place clean. This last chore included whitewashing it with a caustic solution of lime and water, using a large brush. Well, one morning an overly enthusiastic flourish of that brush when I was working on the ceiling splashed some of the burning liquid into my right eye. I can still hear myself screaming as I fell from the ladder, sending dozens of chickens into a wild frenzy. A hair-line fracture of my left femur and an acutely inflamed eye kept me hospitalized for more than a week. I swore to myself that I would never ever again paint a ceiling, no matter what the consequences. Over the years I did paint many apartments, but never a ceiling. I told people I had acrophobia and could not climb ladders. Xenia would not accept that. She was a wealthy, but nasty, short-tempered alcoholic: I stayed with her for the oldest reasons--poverty and desire. When she decided her apartment needed painting she said that I would paint the ceiling, too--or she would find some other young man who would. Well, when I could no longer delay the project, gritting my teeth, calmed with a bit of Jack Daniel's, and sweat running down my back, I started the ascension of Mount Everest, carrying a brush and a bright metal pail filled with beige paint. Now, ponder this: near the top of the ladder, for no reason (?) whatsoever I tripped on my own bare feet, fell off, and landed on the bucket in such a way as to buckle it into a jagged edge that stabbed into my right arch, leaving a gash that required three stitches. Xenia drove me to the hospital...and then started searching for a new young man.

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