Monday, February 21, 2011

The Curb

"Honey, there's a guy at the door who paints street numbers on curbs. Do you want to get ours painted?" Gloria asked, walking into my study.

"Um, what?" I was thinking about, well, anything but painted street numbers on curbs.

"Never mind," she said. "I'm telling him to do it." She walked out.

Later, while Gloria was at the store, I was playing street hockey with Eli 9.6 in the cul-de-sac. While he chased an errant shot (mine), I looked at the numbers on the curb. They were painted in white inside a black rectangle. 13420.

Very, very nice.

"So, did you notice the the house number painted on the curb?" I asked Eli.

"No, I didn--hey, that looks pretty good," he said.

"It does, doesn't it?" I said. "He did an excellent job." I paused, and an idea passed into that small space. "Or did he?" Eli looked at me and started laughing, because he already knew what I had in mind.

We raced into the house and started fiddling around with MS Paint, testing various font sizes to match what was used on the curb. Within fifteen minutes, and after a couple of false starts, we had a reasonable imitation of the numbers used by the painter.

Well, two numbers. "43." In other words, our newly-painted curb was going to read "14320", not "13420".

This actually happens fairly frequently in real life--those numbers get reversed fairly often. We were just helping it along this time.

I printed out the sheet, and Eli taped the trimmed page over the "3" and the "4". For a quick job, it looked good. Plus, it was almost dark, which would help.

Then, we waited.

We debated whether to call Gloria and tell her that the painter had messed up, but given our history, she would immediately know we were up to something nefarious. That's a good word, nefarious.

After about twenty minutes, we heard the garage door, and shortly after, Gloria walked in. "Mom, can I help you with the groceries?" Eli asked.

"Sure," she said. She put two bags on the counter, then walked outside to join him. I followed.

I picked up two bags and casually said, "So, did the painter finish the curb?"

"He did," Gloria said.

"Well, let me just go take a look," I said.

"Me, too," Eli said.

I walked to the curb and pretended to look for a moment. "How much did we pay for this?" I asked.

"Why?" she asked.

Eli put his hands on his head. "Mom, he painted the WRONG NUMBER!" he said.

"What?" she said. She walked over quickly, but walked out to where we were standing (which was about ten feet way, to help our forgery look better). "Oh, NO!" she said. "He reversed the numbers!" She gave a rueful laugh. "Oh, well," she said, "I guess I'll just--WAIT a MINUTE."

We both tried to look less than guilty as sin.

"Did you two--" Eli burst out laughing before she could get any further. So did I.

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