Minor Repair

By Marcus Pactor

ure, I expected repairs. The property came cheap. This hole, though, makes me wonder bad news. Like, did someone put a kid through the wall? It’s a gaping slash of a hole, but I can see an ovoid head shape at the top. Southeast of that is the ovoid shape of a shoulder. Scary. The location behind our bedroom door suggests premeditation. Foreclosure might have rattled the last owner’s brain. Or he plain hated the kid. I don’t deny it might’ve been a dog or similarly sized pet.


Home Depot man says you just drywall the bitch. Cut out a square and—


I put up a hand. Our house is historic, I say. No drywall. So I buy what he tells me, including putty knives, plaster, patches, a gang of P’s. I’ve got handyman gear, at least.

Slip steel wool into the hole. Put two patches down, one southeast of the other. Lay on the plaster thick. Sand it. Layer it again. You keep on till it’s done. Imagine what that kid saw inside the wall. Darkness worse than what’s behind my eyes or yours, darkness way worse than cave dark or even dead dark, because you’re alive, and it’s Daddy shoving you in. Chew-you-up darkness. No kids for me, thanks. I’ve always said that, and now my feelings are justified, if offspring can drive men that far. Dogs too. You keep them.

Eventually, I learn not to sand till the plaster dries. Otherwise it smears over the sandpaper and doesn’t get smooth over the patch. Let it dry. Then sand. No matter what you do, plaster will crack, on occasion. Apply more. Let it dry. Sand again. Hope it comes out smoother. The goal is unbroken flatness. It will take a while. Repetition is necessary and inevitable. Lean back. Examine the product. Drink a beer. Drink several. They’ve been earned.


Ponder something long enough and it becomes symbolic. Oh, God, I’ve long distrusted symbols. Here’s an obvious one, this hole. For the orgasmically deprived or shallow professor of modern America, the sexual frustrations of marriage are captured by this hole. They advise filling it in. That’s what men do, when possible. Listen, schmucks. My girl and I are engaged. In dreams we ride golden doves. We consummate love daily. I do that while you circle jerk. Understand?


The lit-crit scholar of more sentimental feelings might suppose the gaping slash hole reflects an abstract hole in my heart. Type up the argument, ratchet up the word and syllable count for maximum pedantry, cite three feminists, two Marxists, throw in a Barthes quotation, and stir. Then invite pals over for wine coolers. They’re soft-touch bastards. I’d like to fit one of their heads into this hole, if it were still open. But the patches are in place. I’m putting down another layer. In twenty years, maybe more, scientists will be able to calculate geologic time in my layers of plaster, down to the day or even the beer. This is the six-layer beer, the five-layer beer, all the way down to the primitive first sober layer. Anyway, my heart is intact. Everything’s rocking, life-wise. We’ve bought the house. We’re headed for marriage. Happiness abounds. Want to find suffering? Go find the previous owner. Give him a hug. Bankroll his therapy. He needs it, I bet.


Sometimes I sand so finely, trying to get the plaster even with the wall, that a patch’s tight steel grid work is exposed. I layer on more plaster. While it dries, I drink. The pattern’s well established.


On the Internet, I learn a new term: feathering. It creates the illusion of smoothness. To feather, you angle the sandpaper just so. It’s a matter of control, patience, and repetition.


I can’t leave it alone. From the start, property value and aesthetics were prime considerations. Also, I was afraid of rats sniffing it out, crawling inside our wall and into the bedroom, mistaking our faces for cheese. After she turned over at night, I faced the hole and imagined the last owner’s ghost. I wondered if and how and when it might possess me. That’s over now. The hole’s gone. Now there’s a Rorschach splatter over the gaping slash. The splatter’s white, not black, but everybody gets the drift when I allude to Rorschach. Eight or nine beers of layering later, I’m saying, Hon, let’s paint over the thing and be done.


But my girl, whom I love to desperate terror lengths, widths, and depths, the contemplation of her loss is the blackest contemplation on record, my girl is not satisfied with my feathering. She says my work looks like wrinkled, ruined, scorched skin, reminds her of Freddy Krueger’s face, kind of, not exactly, the metaphor’s imperfect. But, she asks, do you see all those shallow craters?


She’s not ready to paint, in other words. My work’s not finished. Fine, I say, but no more layering. That’s over. Just feather, feather, feather. Drink at intervals. The repetition has been revamped: now with more monotony. I envision smoothness. Or the illusion thereof. A white, smooth plane, representative of nada.




Marcus Pactor lives and works in Jacksonville, FL. His short story collection, Vs. Death Noises, won the Subito Press Prize for Fiction and will be published in October. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous journals, including Conte, The Dos Passos Review, Fourteen Hills, Quiddity, River Oak Review, Timber, Firestorm, and Knock. His poetry is forthcoming in the Minnesota Review. See more of his work at www.marcuspactor.wordpress.com.

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