A Reason to Watch Paint Dry: Hub Challenge

Greetings

This is my response to a challenge issued by Ann Carr here on HubPages to take a boring word or words and write an engaging hub about it. I chose watching paint dry. I saw the challenge on Billy Holland's contribution and proceeded to read about it on several other posts that I will provide links to following my attempt.

I really enjoyed writing this one and look forward to doing more in the near future. I also must provide a shout out to Billy for inspiring me to get started writing fiction again. These challenges really help get the creative juices flowing. Just to note, the character Dymond's name is pronounced the same as "Diamond."

Here We Go!

Now

A slight breeze rushes by sending the aroma of clipped grass, wet cement, and paint in the direction of the house. Sitting on the stoop, Joyce coughs slightly gazing out at the freshly painted mailbox not 20 feet in front of her. The tickle in the back of her throat just won't leave. Clearing it does not work. The coughs do not work. The paint odor, a strong odor does not help. The grass smell definitely does not help. It tickles. Joyce had to wait for the paint to dry on the mailbox.

Cough. Cough. It is so irritating this cough she has. After hours of work, the mailbox is finally completed, so the cough should disappear, but it is still there. Cough. Cough. Deep breath. Grass and cement. Paint. Cough!

"This is getting ridiculous," she mutters slowly rising from her stoop. As she turns her head to enter the house in defeat, her eyes rivet on the mailbox and will not disconnect. "This is asinine," she whispers coughing a little. The coughing is torturous because nothing comes out.

The last round of coughing causes her to lower herself to her post on the stoop again to watch the mailbox. Her instructions were to paint the thick wooden post white and watch it dry. That is it. The rain made that assignment more ridiculous to her, seeing as the sun is obscured by the clouds.

Joyce finished painting the post an hour ago, and the woman said that it should have worked by now. Cough. Cough. "Please, let this be over with."

Seven Days Ago: What Had Happened Was...,

A week ago, Joyce excitedly told her husband about the quaint little cottage in Manchester, a small town in the burbs outside of Concord. Living in the city has its advantages, but Joyce and the hubby grew tired of the traffic and the loudness. Hubby, Dymond, searched for weeks for a suitable second home for him and Joyce to get away infrequently from their condo in the city when the stress grew too much.

She had found it! "Dymond," Joyce yelled into her cell phone excitement bursting. "you have got to see this cottage in Manchester. I almost overlooked the add, but a notice showed up on my phone about it."

"Hey, what's going on," Dymond responded laughingly. He knows that from Joyce's behavior that whatever it was she found negotiations for it were in play and they would have it by the end of the day!

"Babe, it is perfect!" It has a white picket fence and well-kept lawn! Oh, It has shade trees and a small garden--the stoop! It has a stoop!"

Clearly, this was the place. There was no use trying to tell her about the cabin he wanted to look at in Woodledge. No, she is too happy about this cottage. Life had been hard on them. They lived together for four years before they married four months ago. Dymond discovered that he might not be able to have kids naturally, a blow to Joyce who wants at least two kids and they argued on and off for weeks following the news.

Joyce wanted a place for them to get away from the normal. A place with little tech around and few reminders of the scare that pushed them into marriage in the first place. It was all too much to handle alone!

"Joyce, I will be there as fast as I can. Text me the location--nevermind. I pinged your GPS. I am on the way."

"Good, the seller is also on the way with the contract! I am so sorry, hun. I am drawn to this place. I think it will be our refuge."

Presumptuous, but fine he thought. The right to get offended no longer belonged to him. Dymond was lucky she wanted to be in a relationship with him at all after what he had done to her. In the corridors of his mind hung the shame of what he forced his wife to do--especially in light of the news of his possible problems with fertility.

"Wow, Joyce!" It was all he could muster in response. Joyce kept chirping about the cottage as Dymond resolved to love the place no matter what. The car was fully charged and ready to go when he left his office fifty flights up. His thumbprint opened the door to his car and in he went transferring his phone to the car communication system to continue listening to Joyce rave about their new cottage.

There was no fighting it. Dymond planned to spend the rest of his life paying Joyce back for what he had done, including giving into her every desire no matter how much he might resent it. Of course, she had no idea that he did such a thing. She blamed him for nothing, though she could have.

See, she was pregnant, the scare that pushed them to tie the knot.

Source

It's Yours!

Dymond could not believe his eyes when he arrived at the GPS location! The cottage reminded him of the cabin he wanted in Woodledge! The grounds were neat and simple with a white picket fence and the driveway to the structure looked as though it was newly poured. The trees where perfect and the inkling of resentment at Joyce's choice left with each step he took toward the house.

The only problem with it was the old ratty mailbox. It was an eyesore for the entire view. "Definitely have to replace that," he said to himself as he opened the cottage door.

It was a done deal! The man who owned the house accompanied the realtor and did the transaction there on the iPad with thumbprints to seal the deal. The funds changed accounts and the records list Joyce and Dymond as the new owners.

"This is a historical site," the former owner said to them before he left with his realtor. "Please, preserve as much as you can. But of course, it is your place now. So... Good day." The man smiled and gave them an earnest look for a few more seconds as if he wanted to tell them something, but decided not to.

For the next two days, Joyce and Dymond ordered furnishings for the cottage, turning it into the great escape they wanted. It does not have any of the tech the condo had, the smart condo. They actually have to adjust the climate controls with their hands! There is a gas stove and fireplace. More importantly, there is no nursery.

In the Present...

Expletives fill Joyce's mind as she regards the bane of her existence, that stupid mailbox. Cough. Cough. Oh yes. Bane was the correct word for that mailbox, at least in the present.

It was a mistake buying the house she thinks. If ever I had known something like this could happen to us, I would never have wanted to get away from Concord, from the city, from my condo!

A whiff of the wet pavement causes her to dry-heave for a few seconds before the smell of the grass and paint result in her breakfast crawling partially up her esophagus and down again to her utter despair. Yet, her eyes remain riveted on that mailbox watching the paint dry on the post. Cough. Cough.

"I'm sorry." Cough. Cough. "Can you hear me? Please!" Cough. Cough. "It should be over!"

Disturbed! Two Days Ago

"What do you think Dymond?" Joyce had finished decorating the cottage. Long linen curtains adorn the windows throughout the abode, which consists of two bedrooms, a living room, one large lavatory and an open kitchen and dining area. The place is large enough to entertain a small group of ten or so, but small enough to be cozy. The shade in the rear of the cottage made the backyard a great place to grill and relax for Dymond--especially with the new grilling machine!

"Just like we wanted," Dymond answered. "I have to be honest, though. There is one issue with this place that I want to fix."

"What's that?"

"Have you seen that ratty mailbox?"

"Yeah. I thought it added character to the cottage--a reminder that it has a history."

"History?" Dymond furrows his brow in resigned disgust. It's not like they plan to use the mailbox for mail, but he wants a better looking one than the rusted breadbox that sits on that termite infested post!

"You want it gone don't you," Joyce declared reading his mind. "Look, I have decorated the entire cottage, and you have not requested anything besides the grill. I suppose we can restore the mailbox."

"Restore? How about replace? I already bought a new post to replace the riddled one in preparation."

Joyce gave him a knowing look. "I wondered what that thing was for when you brought it in yesterday." She took his hand as they wandered toward the bay window to peer at the old mailbox, chipped paint and slanted.

Dymond's patience failed him as he saw what he could only describe as the last grotesque vestige of the cottage! Hugging his wife sweetly for being so understanding, he exited the cottage to confront the mailbox. As he stood before it, he hesitated to act as Joyce joined him for the event. Something about the piece of junk caused him to pause.

"Are we doing this or what," Joyce chided. "I will start by raising the flag to surrender." As she attempted to raise the little metal You-Got-Mail flag, it snapped off with an intense popping sound, which startled them both!.

"Well," humored Dymond impressed. "I suppose you are stronger than you realize, babe."

"Yikes, I didn't mean to break it, the old thing. I suppose it is coming down anyway. So, finish the job, man!" Cough. "I must have something in my throat. Get to it!"

With one hard kick, Dymond dismounted the mailbox from the post and proceeded to remove the post from the ground.

Later that night, Dymond and Joyce united in matrimonial pleasure for the first time in their new abode as they drifted off into slumber in each other's arms.

Gone. Yesterday

Cough. Cough. The morning started out horribly for Joyce. Dymond had left for work already without waking her she supposed, and her stomach ached, and her head hurt, and every smell killed her softly. These feelings reminded her of what she was trying to forget. She remembered being pregnant with Chelsey. That's what they named her. Cough. Cough.

Joyce discovered she was three months pregnant when she went to her check up six months ago. Dymond immediately proposed to her and they married a month later. A month into the marriage Joyce became severely ill and in extreme pain so intense she was placed in a medically induced comma.

The placenta at some point after her last physician's visit ruptured and caused a slow leak that aggravated an infection that was killing her and Chelsey! It was the worst turn of luck. Dymond was left with the decision to save his wife's life or risk letting the pregnancy continue and treat the infection and reattach the placenta--a very risky and new procedure with a high mortality rate.

If Joyce were not in the comma, she would have wanted to save the pregnancy because it was too early for the baby's birth. However, Chelsey could survive in an incubator, though she was at risk having been deprived of oxygen at being detached in the womb. Dymond chose to save Joyce first and put Chelsey in an incubator being four months premature.

Chelsey did not make it. She was gone withing 24 hours following the procedure. Joyce held her for four hours in her hands before the medical staff could pry the tiny body away.

Cough. Cough. Tears formed in Joyce's eyes as she remembered. Despair gripped her as she thought about the finality of it all. Dymond had discovered later that it was a miracle that he had impregnated her because of his virtual infertility. Thinking about it only caused Joyce pain. Over the past few months in recovery, she had managed to push the trauma away, but for some reason, cough, she could not stop thinking about it. Also, the possibility that they may not get pregnant without medical aid troubled her. Sleep beckoned her, and she lay back in her bed and had an intense dream.

A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes

Clouds roll past as if the day has sped up in a time lapse video as Joyce walks toward the cottage which now sits on a hill surrounded by trees. The sky in the distance glows pink and orange as the image of a woman moves about in the cottage. Joyce feels as if she floats toward the cottage to see what goes on inside and it opens up like a dollhouse so that she can see the woman toiling away meticulously maintaining the home.

A man enters the cottage with flowers and kisses the woman who suddenly becomes ill falling into a bed that appears out of nothing. Surrounded by people, the woman reaches out towards a post with a mailbox that her husband planned to give her as a birthday gift. He had painted the metal box to put on the post gleaming bright with flowers of varying colors as decoration.

The woman coughs uncontrollably as a doctor dressed as if he came from the 1950s shakes his head towards the husband while walking away. The wife, coughing, points to the mailbox and then her husband. Joyce can hear her thoughts. The woman wanted her husband to plant the new mailbox before she died so that her home could be complete and she could rest.

After the mailbox is in the earth, the husband hastily painted the post white to match the color of the cottage. In his grief, he had forgotten to paint the post before placing the mailbox on it. Content with the mailbox, the wife closes her eyes and ceases to cough.

The scene changes to the wife resting beautifully in her coffin as the family mourns. Everyone turns to dust before Joyce's eyes save the deceased wife whose eyes open. She climbs out of the coffin and walks toward Joyce with vengeance in her dead gray eyes. Without moving her mouth, the woman speaks.

You have ruined my home. As you have destroyed my memorial, so shall all that you love be taken away, including your life. But if you restore my memorial, all that you lost will be restored to you.

"I did not destroy your memorial."

The mailbox. Your husband uprooted it. You did not destroy it, physically, but you assented to its destruction which is the only reason you were not taken away. You will die of consumption as I did unless you restore my memorial.

Immediately Dymond appeared in Joyce's thoughts. "What of my Dymond." Joyce understood more than what the woman spoke as not only words came from the woman, but feelings and thoughts. Dymond is gone. She felt it. The only way she can get him back is to rebuild the monument, the mailbox.

You must complete it when the sun rises. You must attach the box to the post, put the post in the ground, paint the post white, and watch if dry just as my Love did for me. At the right hour, all will be restored. If you do it wrong, I will come for you!


Immediately the woman lurched toward her with a ghoulish howl erupting from her agape maw, which snatches her out of her sleep to a dark predawn morning.

Now

Cough. Eyes red from staring and crying. Dymond's car was still in the driveway, but he was nowhere. A bright light flashes and Joyce falls unconscious.

"Joyce! Joyce!" Dymond attempts to awake his wife who he found passed out on the stoop. "Joyce, wake up baby. Are you okay."

"What...?" No cough.

"Joyce, I am taking you to the hospital."

On the ride over, Joyce tells Dymond what happened to her. Not able to account for where he was yesterday, he said nothing. He knows that he missed a day.

"You are a bit dehydrated Joyce," the doctor informs. "I want to give you some fluids and run some more tests, but you seem fine." Joyce knew that restoring that mailbox must have cured her coughing; the curse is lifted, and all is restored!

Dymond nodded in her direction as she eyed him for support as the doctor exits the room. "Dymond, it worked. Please tell me you believe me. Please tell me you remember something."

"I have no memory of yesterday. I went to sleep and woke up with you gone from the bed. I found you on the stoop and seven messages on my phone. I missed a day."

"Oh," the doctor interrupts popping back into the room. "It might be too early to tell, but your estrogen levels are high. You appear to be pregnant." Out of the corner of her eye, Joyce sees the woman from the cottage smiling but looks to find no one there.

Quoted From John Hansen for Ann Carr's Challenge

So this is your Challenge!

Choose the most boring object or subject you can think of and write an engaging, entertaining, fascinating hub about it. You can make your own choice or write about one of the following:

  • watching paint dry
  • a blank floorboard
  • monotonous music
  • airport runway
  • lying ill in bed with bandages on your eyes and no music
  • a wilted leaf in a pocket

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed and will leave comments. This is not a closed work. If you have suggestions for making this better please let me know. Also, Join the challenge.


© 2016 Rodric Johnson

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15 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 5 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

Let me just say that you are very good about setting the scene. The opening paragraph was excellent. As for the story, I never saw the ending coming, so a job well done, my friend, and a challenge met with gusto!


Rodric29 profile image

Rodric29 5 weeks ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thanks Bill. I appreciate your encouragement. I am thinking of using the other prompts to write other short stories. Apparently, I work better if I have an assignment.


Jodah profile image

Jodah 5 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

Well, Rodric, you certainly took the bull by the horns, so to speak, and ran with it. You certainly made quite an interesting story out of "watching paint dry." Unlike me, a man of few words, in my response to the challenge with a piece of flash fiction, you went to the other extreme. Good job.


annart profile image

annart 5 weeks ago from SW England

What an intriguing story and a great response to my challenge. Thank you for taking part and thank you for such entertainment, well-told. I'll add your link to my hub.

Bill is certainly a great mentor; I'm proud to call him a friend and he's so good at advice and support for so many.

Looking forward to reading more of your hubs.

Ann


Rodric29 profile image

Rodric29 5 weeks ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thanks Jodah for reading. I was afraid that I might have gotten carried away with the story a bit. I almost decided to do chapters and make a book. I appreciate your feedback and praise.


Rodric29 profile image

Rodric29 5 weeks ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thank you also, Ann, for reading. I was a bit star-struck to hear from you. I wasn't expecting the originator to chime in. I am humbled. It warms my heart to get comments good or bad to my hubs and feeds my ego! No news is bad news mentality.


annart profile image

annart 5 weeks ago from SW England

You're welcome. Star struck? Careful, I'll get a big head! I don't see myself as anything like that. However, I always, always read hubs which generate from any challenge of mine - apart from courtesy it's great to read them and realise that I started it all!

On that note, if any reading here have written one that I've missed, do tell and I'll rectify that; it also means I can add the link to my hub which issued the challenge.

Ann


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 5 weeks ago

Rodric, I love this, a good addition to the Hubbers accepting this challenging.

Blessings my friend


Rodric29 profile image

Rodric29 5 weeks ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thanks for being the catalyst Ann. I am glad I participated. I have not felt so involved in several years! I was thinking about giving up on the social aspect of HubPages because of all the changes, but with these challenges, I am reconsidering.


annart profile image

annart 4 weeks ago from SW England

I think we can ignore the changes and just keep writing and it doesn't do us any harm. I just like the writing and interacting with lovely people here. I'm not bothered about the 'niche' sites or whatever else there is. Sometimes I do the questions but not often and I never do forums as there are a few nasty people on them and I don't do confrontation.

Just keep writing, Rodric, and we can keep enjoying your work.

Ann


manatita44 profile image

manatita44 4 weeks ago from london

A very interesting and surreal kind of story. I sort of lost it in the middle and then it became stronger and ended excellently! A great story. Precis a little in the second third and add some more clarity, perhaps. The plot and ending is superb!!


Rodric29 profile image

Rodric29 4 weeks ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thanks, Ann. I suppose Hubpages wants us to all become magazine writers. I am not happy with it, but I have tried doing a niche. It made me not want to write as much. I notice I write more since I did the first challenge with Bill about the barn, train, and mountain images.

Since most of my hubs are about religion, I get a few nasty remarks from others. One reader told me to delete the nasty comments, but only those who hate my religion tend to comment. I rarely get some who agree to take the time. Religion is a taboo subject.

With stories, I can open up more without fear that others will get offended. You cannot really challenge fiction!


Rodric29 profile image

Rodric29 4 weeks ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Thanks, manatita44. I am so glad you read it. I thought I was starting to do too much with the story after a while. The last thing I wanted to do was to sound confusing to the reader. I know once interest is lost, the reader stops reading. I plan on going back to improve the interest of the story. I want it to be consistent all the way through.

I have been publishing things quickly lately. I usually take about five days on an article so that I can make sure editing and voice are at the best. I did not for this one.

I tried something different with this one. I usually find a way to put Christ in my stories. I don't think I will change too much from this. I decided to use a ghost this time. It was a bit unnerving for me. I stepped out of my element. I think it has a universal appeal when I put less of religion in it, but I am also aware you are supposed to write about what you know. I don't like mixing fiction with Christianity often because I want my stories of faith to be real stories.

I am glad you liked the plot and ending. I will try to develop the center better. Peace.


annart profile image

annart 4 weeks ago from SW England

I think if a religious themed hub is balanced, or gives facts rather than opinion, then there is little to argue about or criticise. Having said that, there are always those who will attack because they have no tolerance or understanding. Ignore them; they are sad people.

You're right that fiction cannot be challenged.

As for the niche writing and the opting for editing etc, I've opted out of that on my settings section. I write what I want to write, the way I want to write it and I don't trust the editing anyway. It becomes 'not mine' so what's the point?

Ann


Rodric29 profile image

Rodric29 6 days ago from Phoenix, Arizona Author

Sorry that I waited too long to respond Ann. You are right about ignoring the sad people and writing what we want to write. It takes the fun out of writing when I cannot express myself the way I want to.

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