The Yellow Wall
(A Bryce Going Story)
By Jeff Baker
When your I.D. is fake and you’re being paid under the table, you don’t ask a lot of questions. I was paid a week’s salary to spend a weekend painting a three story building in Lincoln, Nebraska and Mr. Gillman didn’t ask me any. I had a driver’s license that looked real and said I was Bryce Going and I was nineteen, and I’d been born in 1958 and I did have some painting experience so I took the job. There were a couple of other guys working on it too so I had some company. One of them, “Ernie” said he’d worked for Mr. Gillman before. That was about all I found out about the job, other than it had to be finished by Monday morning.
We started Friday evening and up ‘till noon everything went well and we had the top half and one side of the bottom painted the bright yellow Gillman wanted. One of the other men was standing by the ladder staring at the fresh paint. He took a couple of steps back and then fell over. We ran over and he was breathing and in a few minutes, he came to.
“Too much Sun,” Ernie said.
“Shouldn’t we call a…” one of the others started to say. Ernie glared at him.
“Too much Sun.” Ernie said.
I glanced up at the yellow paint. For a moment there were funny ripples on the side, like the funny rippling shadows my Uncle had said he saw during a solar eclipse. I closed my eyes for a minute. Maybe I’d gotten too much sun. Or maybe something strange was going on again.
We started in painting, made more progress. The three of us got everything done but the base of one wall, when Mr. Gillman came by and told us that was enough for the day, and to come back tomorrow and to go unwind at a bar or something. Even with the fake I.D. I didn’t want to go into a bar, so I walked down the street and grabbed a burger, and then started worrying about a place to sleep. Mr. Gillman let me store my bags in the building we were painting so I snuck back in as it was getting dark. I grabbed my bag and went to the top floor. It was cool with the windows open and once I made sure I’d locked the door I laid down on the floor, using my gym bag as a pillow and drifted off to sleep.
When I woke, it was moonlight and there were voices from outside. I went to the window and looked down. Mr. Gillman and Ernie were there, Ernie had a bottle of beer and Gillman’s shirt was unbuttoned. They kissed in the bright moonlight and Gillman pushed Ernie against the side of the building. I heard laughing. They kissed again. For a moment, I thought they might try to come in here, I hadn’t asked permission to hole-up in the building for the night. Then they walked across the parking lot, got into the car and left.
Next morning, I painted over the silhouette left by Ernie’s leaning against the fresh-painted wall. I thought the wall would have dried enough by the time he and Gillman had made out last night, but I must have been wrong. I’d finished and was starting on one of the other, unpainted walls when Mr. Gillman drove up. A couple of minutes later I saw the other two guys walking up, but I didn’t see Ernie.
“Morning, guys,” Gillman said. Getting an early start this morning, Bruce?”
“Bryce,” I said. “Yeah, I figured I’d better.”
“Well, here. I’m gonna play early Santa Claus and pay you three early.” He pulled out a wad of bills; we were all being paid under the table.
“What about Ernie?” one of the others asked. Gillman glared.
“He don’t work for me no more.”
And that’s the end of that, I thought.
“Oh, and one of you got a little careless,” Gillman said. “You need to paint over this wall here.”
I walked over and looked at where I had finished painting. There was a full-sized silhouette of a man on the wall, not just the smudged imprint of Ernie’s back. I walked over and grabbed the paint when I heard a gasp. I looked up: Gillman was staring openmouthed, wide eyed at the wall I’d painted over. I rushed over; the wall had changed. Now there were two figures on the wall, male silhouettes kissing. I looked at Gillman for a moment; he could have been the second figure. Suddenly he gasped in horror. I looked at the wall, the figures had changed. The shorter of them was recoiling while the taller had apparently just smacked him in the face. I heard a sound behind me; Gillman was running to his car. I glanced back at the wall; it had changed again. The smaller figure was lying crumpled at the base of the wall. The taller figure was holding a gun. The other two painters walked around the corner, asking where Gillman went in such a hurry.
I couldn’t tell them. The wall was back to being covered by my paint job, the figures were gone. We finished painting the other walls by late that afternoon. Gillman didn’t come back. I wasn’t surprised.
I decided not to stick around.
🙂 Good one, Jeff.
Thanks! I thought about evoking “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Then the story kind of rambled!