“Only a couple of hours after work.” I still itched from shoving the insulation into the cavities. For the week that followed after that weekend where Andrew was divorcing Alice and getting a job and Kent told me he was getting ready to go work in America, I had been dropping in after work, getting changed quickly into a sperm suit, and jamming insulation into the walls.
The ceiling would be done once the gyprock was in place.
Now, Saturday morning, I had the whole workforce there to smash through the gyprock for the entire house and do the cornice setting. All four brothers, Kent, myself, and mother to be feeding us.
John with his peppering of grey in his hair, scratched his head. “And the back room with the bottom row of sheets on it?”
Oh yeah, that happened. “I did it.” Both Andrew and Kent stormed off site and I was left to do things on my own. “That did take extra fucking long because I was working on my own. But now I have you guys, we can smash through the rest of the house and get the ceiling up today.”
Tony chuckled. “Focus on one thing at a time.” Squatting down, my brother undid the pot of green gloop and poked a scrapped into its centre. “Let’s do the walls. Andrew, where’s a tape.”
And off we went.
Cut holes for electrics.
Open planned lounge, dinning, kitchen done. Into the bedrooms we ventured. Being smaller didn’t make it any easier. “Kent, turn.”
“I am, it won’t fit through the door.”
“Fucking turn more.”
“Who cut this thing?”
“John, cut it fucking smaller next time.”
“Shit, watch my fingers.”
It went on like that for hours before I was delegated to. “Lori,” Tony’s face was dripping with sweat. “Go mix up some glue. You’re doing the setting.”
“What? But there’s still the bathroom and the other two bedrooms to gyprock.” My voice was echoing now in the house again. Weird having walls and not being able to see into every room at a glance.
“We’ve got it. You need to get started on the next part.” He kindly explained. That was Tony, kind and patient when shit had to get done. “Six people in tiny rooms don’t work. Too many bums in one place.”
“Yeah.” I took my mask off, since I wasn’t going to be in the room with the insulation exposed. And off I went to get my bucket of water, old ice-cream container, and bag of setting cement. Carefully, I measured it out and added water, mixing my ass off to get the right consistency. Not too runny, not a fucking sculpture, just right to slop onto the walls to cover the two sheets of gyprock butting against each other.
“Hurryup,” I muttered to myself. “Hurryuphurryuphurryup.” Racing back, I placed the strip of paper tape on top of the glue and pressed it into place, running along the entire length of the wall. Over that I slapped more glue on with my trowel and smoothed it off.
Over the screw holes too, I went.
Then my container disappeared from my hands. “I’ll mix a fresh lot. You need to do more.”
I glared at Kent as he knelt and started to mix a fresh batch. “Well I was the only one out here doing it so I made what I could manage.”
“Tony kicked me out of the room so you get me to help. We can handle more than what you made.” Up turned his face and he grinned at me.
That hadn’t really happened for a while. I missed seeing him enjoy himself. “Question.”
“What is it?” His bicep bulged as he mixed.
“What is so terrible about this town that you get antsy and have to leave?”
His arm didn’t stop mixing but he didn’t respond right away. Kent lowered his head. “Too much family history here. Everyone knows me and dad and they all have opinions and they can’t help stopping me on the street to tell me about it or to have a long and boring conversation about what has changed since last they saw me and it isn’t worth my time.” Slowly, his head came up and he pinned me with his gaze. “Why are you happy to settle down in this place?”
Fuck. Be truthful? Or fluff my way through an answer? “Honest?”
“That be nice.” Happy with the consistency, he stood and held out the container.
I scooped it up with my flat trowel and slapped it onto the wall. Kent moved to my other side with the tape and started to roll it out over the glue.
“I’m liking this a little too much.”
“You mean the renovations?”
I nodded. At the end of the wall, I hurried back to the start and began to coat the top of the paper tape. “Yep. Admin is great and steady. But this…” What could I say about it that showed how much I loved it.
“I know what you mean.” With his own trowel he scooped out glue and worked ahead of me. “Why don’t you do an apprenticeship?”
“I can’t focus on one aspect. I like doing it all. But I can’t do it on my own because I don’t have the physical strength to do some of the shit a bloke can do.” In that moment, I realised I had really thought long and hard about it and talked myself out of it. What the fuck? “But… I think I might… do this again.” There, I said it. It was out in the world.
Kent smirked. “I suspected as much.”
“Shut up,” I bumped him with my shoulder. “First I have to make it through this reno without defaulting on my loan or going into any more debt.”
“How’re the books balancing right now?”
“Don’t ask that question.” I cringed. “You don’t need the nightmares.”