A Day Off

It was my first day off during the new year. It began like my days off did nowadays. I woke at 3 because that was what time my medications were taken on weekdays and my organs would be expecting those same medications at the same time on my days off as well. I wandered around in the dimly lit tiny house finding a cup and water. Then i let Cashew out in the yard. Sili had to wait until we were officially awake as she would not potty on cue. Cashew, ever seeking a job, had learned all these new and exciting verbal cues. If i said “potty” she squatted and peed wherever she was. If i said “dog run” she ran to the dog run and waited for me to open the door. If i said “to the house” she ran to the porch, went up the stairs, and waited for me to open the door. I took her out and said “potty”. She looked very interested in something on the side of the house. She hesitated for a moment, looked at me like “really?!” And then popped a squat. All the while she had her ears back, her head low, and she kept facing the darkness to the side of the house. All of a sudden i was jolted out of my drowsy stupor by a yelp in the darkness, on the side of the house Cashew had been watching. There i was, machete free, in my long johns, barefoot, and half asleep. I was really getting sloppy with security. I didn’t even notice the coyote right next to us in the dark but Cashew had. I rubbed my forehead, “well, if it was gonna do anything it would have by now.” “Idiot” i thought to myself. “You’re getting too complacent.” I saw that Cashew was finished peeing and quickly said “house”. She obediently ran up the porch steps, still eyeing the side of the house. I followed her in and closed the door. I locked it, turned out the lights, and crawled back in bed. Cashew cocked her head and whined. She had done what i asked when i asked it. Now she wanted license to go chase the coyote. I said, “No, leave the coyote alone. We’re going to bed.”

The alarm went off again at 8. I groaned. Once upon a time it was my job to teach a woman with one hand to clean, change, and clip her colostomy bag in order to return home. It was my job to teach a woman who survived a stroke to eat with, write with, and brush her teeth with a hand that was once flaccid. I even taught a man to line the toothpaste tube and the toothbrush up on the bathroom counter, use his residual limb to hold the toothbrush in place, and use his chin to squeeze the toothpaste tube against the counter to place toothpaste on the toothbrush. During more recent times my job was simply to be in 5 places at once doing 5 different things and i achieved this with coffee. Some of the aids i worked with achieved this with red bull or monster but i had watched them have heart attacks in their twenties and thirties and i felt that a steady diet of energy drinks was a certain recipe for early death. So i had my organic instant coffee. I had 4 to 8 tablespoons of instant coffee daily to achieve what was expected of me and when my day off rolled around going back to sleep at 3 had its consequences. At 8 am i had a splitting headache; caffeine withdraw. I hurried to put a pot of water on the stove. The two pots in the house were in use. One held garlic mushrooms and the other pumpkin spice tea. I put the tea on the stove. It was technically water…just pumpkin flavored water. I thought, “i’ll make pumpkin spice flavored coffee.” Starbucks charged big money for that kind of thing around the holidays. It took a whole hour after drinking the pumpkin spice coffee for my headache to fade away. I sat in the rocking chair in my long johns with the curtains drawn and the lights off, clutching my coffee mug and waiting for the caffeine to kick in and give me some relief. When i finally got up it was nearly 10. I decided to get the all purpose multi-surface caulk out of the shed and finally make the tiny house scorpion-resistant before august rolled around and they returned in full force. I had been saying all winter that i was going to do it but now with some of our days reaching 72 degree temperatures, i figured i had better make good on my promise. If i waited too long i would be sealing the scorpions in, not out.

I did find the caulk in the tool shed but there was a problem. I cut and cut and cut again. Each time the tube was solid, not hollow. Suddenly i realized, it was not the tube…it was the caulk. Somehow there wasn’t a seal where the can ended and the spout began. I was used to cutting the tip off, then poking a 3 inch screw down into the spout to puncture the foil seal and allow the caulk an escape route down the spout. This caulk had already made a run for it long ago. I didn’t know if the tube had malfunctioned or there was a hole in it somewhere but the whole tube was a solid cylinder of dried caulk. I put it in the car. I would have to go to town and run the errands first, stopping to exchange the tube for a new one at home depot, and return to the project later when i had a viable tube of something i could work with.

I ended up stopping at the post office, home depot, goodwill, an atm, a bank, and 2 grocery stores. I pulled money out of my account at the atm. Then i entered a random bank and they changed the large bills to smaller bills for me. At home depot i was able to exchange the tube of caulk for a different one of similar value. I chose a different brand, hoping this one was not defective. Goodwill was next to one of the grocery stores i visited. I decided to pop my head in and take a look at the pants. I kept my eye on the pants rack sometimes looking for pairs that short people had already hemmed. It turned out to be a fruitful stop. There was a pair of black “blue asphalt” jeans hanging on the rack near the front of the building. I loved blue asphalt jeans as they were usually short enough for me and fit perfectly. I tried them on. They fit just like my blue ones. I bought them for 5 bucks. At the grocery i bought a kombucha telling myself that if i achieved a very productive day i could have a kombucha in the rocking chair after everything was finished. I almost had a bag of salted rice cakes with peas and yellow lentils in them for a snack but i didn’t quite budget well enough and had to ask the cashier to have someone put them back for me. The deal was that i could buy them if i kept the total grocery bill under 50 dollars. I did not. It was tough to do with a pescatarian gluten-free diet. Coconut water cost much more than gatorade or soda. Organic apples more than conventional…gluten free english muffins over twice as much as the regular kind. Another time.

Upon returning home i put the groceries away, deposited the dogs in the dog run, and turned to my new tube of caulk. This can had not been exposed to oxygen and the caulk was still pliable. I cut the tip of the tube off, poked my 3 inch screw down the tube to puncture the foil seal, loaded the caulk gun, and i was back in business. I put a plastic glove on one hand and grabbed an old toothbrush and a wad of paper towels. Then i set to work plugging up all the holes the scorpions had come in through last summer. I used the caulk gun to put the caulk roughly where i needed it to be and then went over it with a gloved finger to smooth it down afterwards. Sometimes if the hole was too big i would end up using the caulk to create more wall material, at which point i wouldnt smooth it down but would build upon it until i closed the gap. The guy at home depot had asked me whether i wanted caulk in white, clear, or gray. He had said, “which do you think would match best with your decor?” He had also mentioned the words “color scheme” at some point but i had stopped listening. I was laughing internally to myself. I didn’t care about decor or color schemes. I wanted something that was water proof, would dry fast, stick to multiple surfaces, and last long. Beyond that, as long as it wasn’t neon orange, i didn’t really care about color. I didn’t need the caulk to hide its existence so i could live comfortably within the fantasy that walls just naturally stretched to meet objects placed in them and the whole thing was one perfectly fit piece. I didn’t fancy the clear because i’d used it before. It was hard to tell when and where it was separating from the surface because you could see through it. I rather wanted something i could see so i could tell what needed to be done with it.

Everything was going well until i got to the air conditioning/heating unit. There was a big rectangular hole in the wall where the tubing had been fed through to the outside. No amount of caulk stacked atop itself was going to close that hole. It would simply fall in. I knew that without attempting. I grabbed my keys and went to the car. In the back seat was a roll of duct tape. I tore off a piece and covered the hole in the wall. I tore off 3 more pieces and plugged one large hole and 2 little ones surrounding the a/c / heating unit. The white caulk on the beige walls was okay in my book but the random lines of silver duct tape on the wall was pushing it. I remembered that i had some beige spray paint left over from coating the hooks in the bathroom. I went to the tool shed and fetched it. I shook it thoroughly and test fired the can in the yard. It made one beige dot and then sputtered and squeaked, pushing out what appeared to be a tiny length of beige silly string. The spray cap was clogged. The hardware store was 30 minutes drive away and this was a nearly full paint can. I was not going to waste it. I took the lid of the spray can apart, removing the mechanism responsible for turning the paint into a fine mist as it exited the can. I soaked it in a cup of hot water for a few minutes and then used a super thin and pointy picture hanging nail from my toolbox lid to dig the dried paint out of the spray mechanism. I said a little prayer to God, put the pieces of the cap back together, and test fired the spray can in the yard. The grass was beige. It worked! Back in business once again, i stood on a step stool in the house and painted the duct tape on the wall beige.

It seemed i was finished with the interior of the house. I didn’t see any more areas to plug up in order to keep the scorpions from gaining entry. I moved to the outside of the house. There was one area around some cords that i plugged up. Everything else looked fine. I still had half a tube of caulk left. Once it hit oxygen it began to harden. It could not be saved for another day. It had to be used or wasted. I was not accustomed to wasting anything on the homestead. I would find something to use it on.

My mind first turned to my leaky tool shed. On the way to it i passed the tree boxes and realized that mending them was a better use of the caulk. The rain, ice, and fluctuating temperatures had warped the wood and caused it to both swell, shrink, and curve. There were gaps in it that couldn’t be fixed with more screws. It didn’t need to be fort knox. I just needed the three wooden boxes to limp along until the end of winter, which we had several more months of. Certain leaves close to the gaps in the boxes were beginning to frost and the caulk would likely help prevent that.

Once i was finished with the boxes the tube still wasn’t empty. I decided to use whatever was left on the warped part of the toolshed roof. It wouldn’t be enough to fix the problem but it would at least cut back on the amount of water getting in when it rained. I wasn’t too worried about it since it had a concrete floor and it only leaked in the front. Knowing this, all the stuff i wanted to keep dry was in the back of the shed. Perhaps i would finish what i started with the toolshed during the next project that required caulk.

I took the compost to the pile, took the trash to the trash can in the shed and then took the trash can to the intersection for pickup the following morning, put soap in the washing machine for the load of laundry i’d be doing at 4 am the following morning, watered the plants, and washed and rinsed the dishes in the bathtub in the yard, setting them on the porch railing to dry and then taking them into the house. After all this i sat down and drank my kombucha. In that one moment i could rest and life was good.

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