“Did you tell him you stole the parts from Przbylski’s?”
“SHUT UP FIN!” Fish and I yelled, only Fish smacked Fin upside the back of his head.
“Ow! What’d you go and do that for?” Fin asked rubbing the back of his head.
“Cause man, if my Dad found out what I did, I’d be in deep shit. So leave it alone. As far as anyone knows we bought this stuff. Now, let’s take this frame to the back yard and paint it.” Fish ordered.
Fin and I grabbed the white primed bike frame and headed toward the back yard. Fish followed behind us with some rope, rags and the cans of paint. We set everything up next to the clothesline that rand from the oak tree to a home made five foot tall wooden “T” that had three lines of rope attached to it.
Fin and I flipped the frame over and held it up to one of the clothes lines while Fish tied the frame to the line with the extra rope he’d brought out. Once the frame was secured Fish tossed me a can of paint and said “Since it’s your bike you get to do the honors. Try not to leave any holidays or drips. Shake the can up real good too.”
“Ok.” I managed to say as I popped the plastic top off the can and started to shake the can vigorously.
“C’mon Fin, let’s go get some sandwiches and some drinks. Skip, we’ll be right back.”
“No problem.” I answered and watch them disappear into the garage. Once they were out of sight I turned to the bike frame that was slowly spinning in the afternoon sunlight. It didn’t look like much, just a white frame that still looked a bit dusty in a sad sort of way. I couldn’t help but think of all the hopes and dreams the three of us poured onto this piece of metal. Dreams of riding to Lambeau field, the mall and arcade, the comic book store, record store, head shops and of course the camp grounds. To me, this bike represented a level of freedom I’d not had in a long time. The freedom to get away from the neighborhood, the bullies, the cliques and all the shit I had to deal with at home.
I smiled to myself as I reached out and stopped the frames slow rotation, lined up the paint can about six inches from the front forks and pressed down on the nozzle. The blue mist of paint spewed forth and did what it was made to do. Make something beautiful out of discarded trash.
I took my time, tried not to get any runs or leave any holidays and in almost no time I had the frame coated in blue paint. Once I had finished I sat down a few feet away from the frame and stared up at my handiwork. Not too shabby, I thought, as the frame began to slowly spin on the rope.
I hadn’t been sitting there long when my buddies showed up carrying three cokes and a half dozen bologna and cheese sandwiches.
“Got her painted?” Fish inquired.
“Only one coat.” I responded “It’s drying now. I figure after we eat we can do another coat.”
“Man, you got drips all over the place on this thing.” Fin complained. “Aint you ever spay painted before?”
“Only graffiti on the overpass.” I said “I don’t think it’s that bad of a job.”
“Don’t worry about the drips, we can sand them down and paint over them.” Al told us as he handed me two sandwiches. Fin sat down next to me, frowning, he handed me a coke. “You’re making extra work for us Skip.”
“Fin, you really need to work on your shitty attitude. Look, this is supposed to fun and every time you open your mouth you’re complaining about something.” Fish said pointing at him with his finger on his right hand as if to emphasize his message. “You just see bad stuff everywhere. Lighten up.”
“Easy enough for you to say” he responded through bites of his sandwich “You’re not the one who has to sand the frame again.”
“Ok, Fin, FUCK YOU! Skip and I will sand the damn frame and you can paint it when we’re done and we’ll see how perfect of a job you do.”
“Fine.” Fin yelled and then took a big swig of his coke. I think he did that just so he wouldn’t say anything he’d regret later. Fin and Fish, it was pretty well known, had been enemies when Fin first moved into town and it took months of me talking to both of them to get them to even hang around with me at the same time. The rivalry between the two had never seemed to go away even after a year of being friends. Each one wanted to lead the other one and neither wanted to follow. Hell, they even competed against each other for girls. If Fin liked a girl, Fish tried to get that girl to notice him and vice versa.
We sat there for the next ten minutes eating in silence with only the occasional burp breaking our silence. It seemed the fight had put a damper on the day and even the birds had stopped chirping in the trees. When I had finished my sandwiches and soda I stood up and walked into the garage, retrieved from the work bench some sandpaper and walked back out to where Fish and Fin sat. They were glaring at each other like a black hat versus a white hat in one of the Western Roundup movies we watched.
“Look guys, I messed up the paint so I’ll sand it. Besides, it’s my bike so I should do most of the work.” They both stared at me as I went to work sanding the forks, down tube and anywhere else I saw dried up runs and drips. Whenever I thought I’d finished sanding down a bump in the paint I’d run my hand over it to test the smoothness only to learn I hadn’t rubbed long enough. My hands quickly became covered in a fine blue dust.
After about 15 minutes of working I looked over at my buddies sitting on the grass, Fish was smoking and Fin looked as if he’d been kicked in the gut. “Skip, you want to take a break and have a smoke?” Fish asked, but he wasn’t looking at me, he was looking straight at Fin and shaking his head. “Sure man. Thanks.” I said and sat down between my two best friends. Fish handed me the smokes and matches, got up and went over to the bike frame and started sanding some of the drips I’d missed.
“Heck, another fifteen minutes of work then we’ll wipe her down and add a second coat.” He said and turned his back to us as he steadied the bike with his right hand and started sanding with his left. I looked over at Fin, shrugged my shoulders and handed him the pack of Marlboros and the matches.
“Light up man.”
“I don’t feel like it. I think I’ll go home.”
“Fin, man, you’re acting like a total baby. C’mon, just have a smoke and by the time you finish it we can start painting again.”
“I suppose.” He said and took the smokes and blaze up one.
Fish tuned and looked at us, smiled and went back to sanding.
“I just hate doing more work than is needed.” Fin offered.
“Look, none of us want to do more then we have to. And I really thought I’d done a good job until you guys came out here. But you don’t see me complaining about it do you?”
“Nah, but you don’t complain much. Except when shit is really messed up.”
“And this aint messed up is it?”
“Nah, I guess not.” Then he got up, walked over to the where Fish was working and grabbed the front forks of the bike to steady it for Fish.
A few minutes later all three of us were wiping the paint dust off of every inch of the bike with the rags Fish had brought out earlier. Once we had gotten all the dust off Fin grabbed the can of Krylon I had been using, shook it up and said “Stand back, it’s my turn.” And he began painting with gusto. Fish and I stepped back and watched. “Guess he’s feeling better? Huh?” Fish commented.
“Yeah, I suppose he is.”
“Well, let’s get all this trash picked up before my ol’ man freaks out.” He suggested. I looked around and saw that besides our crumb filled paper plates; there were empty soda cans, cigarette butts, worn out sand paper sheets, the bag from the hardware store and some napkins. I tried to figure out how all this crap got on the ground and where it came from but Fish started grabbing the trash so I jumped in and helped him.
We got all the trash up and took it into the garage and tossed it in the trash can. By the time we got back to Fin he was standing back from the bike admiring his handy-work. “Not bad if I say so myself.” He said with a grin.
“Nope, not bad at all.” Fish offered. “Couple more coats like that one and we’ll be doing assembly work.”
We sat there for a few minutes in silence literally watching the bike frame spin and the paint dry. Then Fin walked back over to the frame, stopped it from spinning and tested the paint to see if it were dry. Apparently it was because he started shaking the can of paint, making the marble inside the can rattle, sending out a dull clacking sound across the yard and causing dogs a few houses down to start barking.
Fin was halfway through the second coat of paint when he ran out and asked for the second can. Fish retrieved it and handed it to Fin. “You’re doing really good Fin.” He said and walked over to me so we could both watch as Fin busted his ass in the waning afternoon light.
Fin finished painting and walked over to where we were sitting, he held the can of blue Krylon paint in his right hand. His fingers had a dusting of blue paint on them and there was some overspray spots decorating the front of his “I’m a Pepper” T-shirt and jeans. He was grinning as if it were his birthday. “Man, that was fun.” He said as he sat down next to me. “When that coat of paint dries, I’m gonna do the next one if it’s cool with you guys.”
“I’ve got no problem with that.” I said.
“Me neither.” Fish commented
We sat there in silence, literally watching the paint dry on the bike frame. I don’t know what my buddies were thinking about; I don’t know really what I was thinking about. But I do know that regardless of how battered and bruised I was, how insecure Fin was, and the guilt Fish may have felt for stealing on the day his father said he was proud of him, we were all pretty happy and satisfied with ourselves and how much we had accomplished on our project over two days.