Helen Whittaker and Quentin Paquette

Helen Whittaker — Tap and Soap

Inspiration piece

Quentin Paquette — At The Basin

Response piece

The overhead light hesitates a few seconds before finally lighting.  Even then, it flickers now and again.  The unpacking will have to wait, I can’t put off doing the laundry any longer.  I open the top of the washer, and am about to put the first load in, but can’t ignore the crud left behind in the washer.  I push the stack of boxes aside so I can get to the sink.  Now, where did I put those rags?  This one’ll do: I get it wet, wipe off the sides and edges of the washer, and hang it over the side of the sink.  My hands are still wet, but there’s no towel – I’ll have to try to remember to put a towel bar up in here sometime.  But right now, there’s laundry to do.
It’s still fun to play in the rain once in a while.  Maybe not as much fun as when I was a kid and could just drop my stuff in the laundry and wait for it to magically appear back in my drawer all clean and dry.  Can’t just toss these muddy cleats in the back of the closet anymore either.  I absentmindedly flick the switch for the light; it’s been disconnected since I went to look at the cause of it’s problem – I found it.  I still can’t understand why anyone would think it was okay to rig a light like that and just leave it – little bits of cardboard jammed in the slots to hold the tubes in, wiring connections duct taped together – I’m wondering why there wasn’t any actual chewing gum involved.  I move the work light to the washing machine, click on the harsh halogen light, and remove the board bridging the sink where it usually sits.  The hot water comes out extra hot.  When I’m done, the cleats are nice and clean, but my hands are covered in grass and mud.  Still haven’t gotten around to putting any soap in here.  I’ll do it right after I pack my boots with newspaper.
Grey light reflects in through the open back door.  The shovel is standing leaning next to the door frame.  I stomp off the snow clinging to my boots and gaiters, and sweep it out the door.  The floor is wet from melt both from my boots and from what’s starting to drip from me.  I lean heavily on the sink while I bring each foot up to unfasten my gaiters and pull off my boots and socks.  The socks go straight into the washer, as will the rest of my work clothes.  I use my sweatshirt in place of the still-absent towel to dry the sweat from my hair.  The extra heat from the work lamp is welcome, but not enough.  I turn the cold tap on and rub my hands under the water until it stops feeling warm and starts registering as cold.
I shouldn’t be surprised anymore.  Eventually I should start anticipating that anything worked on previous to my arrival here will be a little off.  The ceiling grid in here is not quite square – I’m not sure how cutting the acoustic tiles to fit was deemed easier than getting the grid done right in the first place.  The aluminum grid will probably flex enough, I just need to be able to push it from the right angle.  So, holding the new fixture up in one outstretched hand, and grabbing the opposite corner of the grid with my gloved hand, I swing my right foot off the stepstool and over to the sink.  It slips just enough for me to get a rush, but then the tread of my sneaker catches on the straight upper edge.  A little wiggle, then a little push, the a couple of cursewords accompanied with a full shove,… there.  Now just to finish up the wiring, put the tubes in, and close it up.  A few minutes are necessary to celebrate, flipping the switch up and down, watching the light go on and off.
I really should make some sort of a schedule to try and help me stay ahead of the laundry.  I’m finishing up tying my work shoes, and I’m nearly all ready to go, except I’m just in my t-shirt, my tie is already tied and hanging over my forearm.  The morning light filters down the stairs to the laundry room where I’m leaning against the sink savoring my coffee, waiting for the dryer to finish with my shirt.  Come to think of it, never mind the laundry, I should make some sort of schedule so that I have time to finish my coffee at home in the morning.  I remember once looking for a travel mug overseas and not being able to find one.  Seems like rushing off with your coffee in the car is not a universal experience.  Holding the ceramic mug in my hands brings another whole aspect of enjoyment to the experience.  I check on my shirt, and it’s dry enough.  Putting it on right out of the dryer extends the feeling my hands were getting from the mug.  I check my watch, I’ve got a few minutes left to think about what I might work on around the house when I get home this evening.
I drop the pan in the sink and start the water running, remembering to turn the cold tap before the hot to keep from getting scalded.  I pull the roller off the handle and drop it in the pan to rinse while I start with the brushes.  The sink gets spattered, and somehow some of the spray ends up on my Chucks.  Oh well.  I finish getting the paint out of the brush and start wringing out the roller.  All the new colors of the rooms are recorded here on the side walls of the sink.  After I’m done cleaning up the equipment, I turn to my hands.  The abrasive soap gets the paint right off of my skin, leaving a little under my nails.  I rinse them off well and dry them on the legs of my jeans.  I really need to remember to get a towel bar for in here.
Everyone’s left and gone home, but I can’t go right to bed.  I’ve brought all the empties in here and am rinsing them out in the sink before putting them in the recycling bin.  I haven’t put the light on, I’m just working by the light from the passageway.  The back door is still open to remind me to go back out and check the fire once more before turning in.  The door starts to open in, and I hear you saying, “I figured you’d still be up.  But thought you’d still be sitting by the fire.”  Oh, no, I’m in here by the sink where it all happens.  “Where all what happens?”  Um, all the stuff that doesn’t usually make it in the stories.  “Are all of those empty?”  No, there are a few left in the cooler.  “Well, why don’t we take two of them back out here by the fire where something that might be part of a story might happen.”  Great idea.  Can I get you to do me a favor?  “Sure, what?”  Tomorrow, remind me there’s no towel in here.  “Still?”  Exactly.

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