Whitewashing the Fence

I’m re-reading Tom Sawyer.  It’s neither part of an assignment for my Ph.D., nor am I teaching it to my students at Flagler College.  I’m not even reading it for personal pleasure, although it is great fun.

I’m studying the great American classic because I need inspiration.  I got a snarky letter from my neighborhood association’s property manager, and I need to devise a clever response.

The letter says that the property manager’s job includes “monitoring the aesthetics of the community and enforcing the Covenants and Restrictions.”  Basically, I am in trouble because I have done nothing about the “courtesy” letter she sent three weeks ago pointing out that my fence gate needs painting.

Not the whole fence.  Just the 3-foot high gate in front of my house.

I walked outside and looked at the gate.  Sure enough, there were two half-dollar-sized spots where the paint had peeled off.  I looked across the alley at my neighbor’s house.  The railings on both the first- and second-floor balconies have been missing for three months.

I walked back inside and told my son I’d pay him to go to the hardware store, buy a quart of white paint and a paintbrush and take care of the gate.  He promised he would do it.  I threw away the “courtesy” letter and promptly forgot about the gate.

So did my Tom Sawyer.  But in fairness to my kid, he was busy packing to leave for college.   The gate didn’t get painted, and that, apparently, did not sit well with the woman charged with monitoring the aesthetics of the community.  Because I got a letter informing me that I was guilty of a “First Violation.”  I had failed, the letter said, to properly maintain my fence.

An accompanying sheet of paper was titled “ACTION TO SATISFY – 1ST VIOLATION.”  It had my name and address and the words “PLAN FOR REMEDY” followed by seven blank lines.

Here’s what I wrote as my PLAN FOR REMEDY:

I will sit in front of my gate holding a paintbrush and meditating on the painting process.  In time, a neighbor will walk by on his way to the beach and will say, “You working?”

“What do you call work?”

“That ain’t work?”

“Well, maybe it is, and maybe it ain’t.  All I know is, it suits me.”

When my neighbor begs to paint my gate, I will say, “Naw, the property manager of this neighborhood is pretty particular about this gate, so I’d better do it.”

My neighbor will begin pleading with me for the chance to paint my gate and will eventually offer to give me his surfboard in exchange.  I will hand him my brush with reluctance in my face but alacrity in my heart.  And while my neighbor sweats in the sun, this retired artist will sit on my front porch dangling my legs, munching an apple, and planning the slaughter of more innocents.

More neighbors will stop to look, but they will stay to paint.  By the end of the day, I will be literally rolling in wealth.  I’ll have the surfboard, a golf cart, a half-full bottle of gin, a pair of flip-flops, a cat with only four teeth, and a worn copy of Fifty Shades of Grey.  The gate will have several coats of white paint on it.  Unfortunately, every neighbor will be bankrupted by paying to paint my fence, so the neighbor with no railings on her balconies will have great trouble finding anyone to help with those repairs.  You might have to send her a “SECOND VIOLATION” letter.

I finished my reply, threw the sheet of paper into an envelope, and put a stamp on it.  Then I went out to my garage, rummaged around for a can of Krylon white spray paint, and maintained my fence.

I’ll bet that humorless property manager only read Huckleberry Finn in high school.

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