He sat in the firm wooden chair staring at the peeling paint on the shutters. Hadn’t he just painted them last summer? He remembered specifically going around and around with her over which shade of green to use. He’d had his hopes up about something dark and classic, but she really loved the aqua blue. There was no discussion after she said what she wanted. He made his way to the paint shop and returned the green in exchange for the blue and painted the house in silence.
“That’s much better” She said with her hands on her hips, as if she’d done the work herself.
He looked at her sadly as she walked back inside, and then set about cleaning the brushes and leaving them to soak in mineral spirits.
“Bitch.” He said under his breath, and then looked around to be sure she hadn’t snuck up on him and overheard. He had to tie up the dog to stop him from drinking the paint thinner. Stupid dog.
The fields across the road were blooming with sunflowers and roses he recalled. Huge sunflowers, really big suckers, and those ugly wild roses.
He looked out the window at the entrance to El Dorado Ranch. It had to have been more than twenty years ago. El Dorado has been here for at least that long, and the divided highway even longer.
He remembered the road before. It was a dusty little one lane road which lead from San Filipe town out to the beach. People always drove too fast down that shitty road. If another vehicle was coming along the other way, you had to pull over to make enough room for them to pass. How come no one heading into town ever pulled over? Why did he always have to stop and start the whole way home? People weren’t any better then than they are now.
His finger flicked a chip of paint from the warped wooden frame.
When he first arrived here, the light had been magnificent, and the shadows made his property look like an oasis. People would stop on their way to and from the beach to buy fruit and cold drinks. It was a side line, but he’d enjoyed all the people. People were always so much nicer when they were having a vacation. Now the light had less color in it. People weren’t as friendly and didn’t wear enough clothing.
He hadn’t expected her to go. She had said that she loved him, and that no matter what happened she would stand beside him. He was glad at the time, but didn’t believe her, and she knew it. He’d been walked out on more than once, and while he was good at welcoming folks into his home, saying goodbye was another matter.
When his brother came out to stay that time after the divorce, he’d been out on the front porch with his arms wide open when his car drove up. Dumb fool always drove a rag top Buik with white-wall tires. He would bounce around on the dirt road so bad, by the time he arrived he needed to lay down. His tires were a mess too. A Buik wasn’t much use on a dirt road. A Buik wasn’t much use on any road for that matter. Still, he’d been happy to see his brother.
“He-he-heeey” He’d shouted so loud it made the dog bark.
What ever happened to that dog? Right. He remembered. It was dead.
Nope, now it was the El Dorado Ranch. Not as nice as they said it would be. And the highway ruined everything. Now he had to drive more than a mile along the frontage road just get onto the highway to go anywhere. But he didn’t go anywhere too often, so it was really only the idea of having to drive that mile which left him feeling chapped and frustrated.
In the room, the sun had begun to set over the development across the highway. The warm red of the rooftops began to turn dark, and light came streaming in through the window. A soft breeze blew the long hairs of his eyebrows. Smelled like dirt. He always loved the smell of dirt.
He wiped his eyes, blew his nose, and put his handkerchief back into his pocket.
Later he ate a bowl of soup and some soft toast at the little table in the kitchen and was irritated by the sound of the shutter flapping against the house.