Scraping the Fence

There's four of us in this old house, Meriwether, as its called on occasion, after the name on the historical marker out front. I like to say (well, just starting this afternoon) that I live with artists and vagrants--sort of. My three housemates are various visual art majors; I'm the writer that lives in the attic. Terribly romantic, no?


There's a cast iron fence that encloses our itty-bitty front yard--a rusty, patchwork cast iron fence. Our landlady said lower rent if we cleaned and painted it, and we said "why, of course!"
We are artists and vagrants after all. That type is generally starving*. Anything to save a dime.

So we're all four out in the yard on a overcast Saturday afternoon, armed with wire brushes and scrapers and good attitudes. We team up on a segment of the fence: two inside, two outside, attacking the iron posts with a vengeance, moving onto the next section only when we all agree to call it good.

We're chatting and scraping and laughing, and occasionally crying out in pain as a thumb gets smashed or knuckle scraped. The overcast sky lets loose some rain every now and then, but we keep working. On the front porch, the teacher-boyfriend of one of my housemates is grading papers and keeping us supplied with music.

I learn about the neighbors, the girls telling me the nickname they've come up with for the old man down the street, half deaf, who's always mowing his lawn. Old Yeller they call him.

We're all four so close together I'm almost afraid of my scraper slipping and gouging the eye of my partner 'cross the fence. I decide to scrape down, instead of up.

A man walking down the sidewalk carrying business cards asks us if our dad is home. Do we look that young? We look to the teacher-boyfriend on the porch--does he look that old? We're college students, we tell business-card man. He moves on.

We wave to people who drive by, some smiling at the sight of us, some looking away with a sour face after our display of friendliness. "They're thinking, 'those silly girls, working in the rain'" my sister says.

Old Yeller stands in his front lawn at the end of the block, hands on hips, just watching in our general direction. We turn and watch him back.

We're beginning to wonder why we're getting the attention of the neighborhood.

Teacher-boyfriend on the front porch points out his simple observation. They're not amused at our work in the rain, nor the laughing at our ambition for taking on such a gnarly old fence. The fact is, we're all four still working as a unit, one fence segment at a time, standing close together. Four men would each take a different side of the fence, and work alone. It's the female logic that's been amusing the neighborhood.

There's nothing wrong with giving people a little entertainment.

*I speak figuratively of course; we are not, in fact, starving.


  1. Thank the LORD for the writer amongst you all!

    1. Otherwise... we'd forget to tell these stories when we call?