I wrote this short story specifically for a writing contest on The Public Query Slushpile. The writing prompt was watching paint dry.
Erin Carmichael has wanted to finish her basement for the longest time. Roger had bought the materials and started the process but never finished it. The last step was to close off the walls, covering the itchy pink insulation, and paint it. The kind gentleman at Ace Hardware said that a latex semi-gloss would be the ideal paint for the job.
She stood back to admire her handy work. It was a vibrant shade. Canary yellow. It was Roger’s least favorite color. She begged him so many times to let her paint the kitchen the exact same shade, but Roger wouldn’t hear of it. And when Roger put his foot down, she knew better than to argue.
She opened up all the doors and placed a small box fan in the middle of the room to allow the paint to dry a little faster. The sound of the fan circulating brought her back to her childhood. Erin and her older sister, Janet, loved to talk into the box fan they had in their room. It made their voices sound so distorted, and it was the best way to tell ghost stories. That was before Erin knew what real fear felt like. Now she could easily walk into a pitch black bathroom at night, look into the mirror, and try to conjure the ghost of Bloody Mary. Wouldn’t faze her a bit.
Erin sat down in her blue housecoat and slippers with a glass of wine staring at the bright yellow wall. Minutes ticked away, and the wet shine dimmed. She poured herself another glass and walked over to place her finger on the wall. The paint was still gummy. A little imprint remained where she had touched.
She sat back down in her chair for two more glasses of her favorite Merlot. Roger despised wine. He only drank beer. “Wine was for people that thought they were better than everyone,” he would say.
Once more she walked over to touch the wall to check the consistency. It was no longer sticky. Pride fell upon her in a rain of confetti. She had accomplished two grand things today. She now had her beautiful finished basement. And Roger will never hit her again. He will stay forever wrapped in yellow. Next on her to do list, call and report him missing.