I could see the wife peering in the window of the door to my wood shop. However, from her angle, and with the dimness of the shop’s interior, she could probably only see my basic shape and little detail of anything I was working on (wooden boards on a wooden floor). Unfortunately, there was no way she hadn’t heard me drilling the screws into the supporting crossbeam of her birthday present as she made her way across the yard to the shop.
The wife knocked on the door. I cursed, knowing I was busted, and went over to unlock the door and open it a few inches.
“Why did you lock the door?” she asked in a tone that suggested she was amazed not to find a meth-lab under construction within the shop’s interior.
“To keep you from coming in,” I said.
“What are you doing in there?” she said, trying to push the door open. I held it firm.
“You don’t get to know that, yet,” I said.
She narrowed her eyes at me. “I don’t?”
“Are you working on a surprise?”
“For my birthday?”
“Yep,” I said. “Amber’s not the only one who gets to surprise you.”
The wife looked thoughtful, annoyed and pleased all at once. She went back to the house without having a peek. However, the fact that I was busted in mid-assembly on this birthday gift meant one major thing: there was no backing out of this now; I was committed. The wife now knew I was working on something—something that involved not only power tools but likely wood—and she would be expecting an end result as her surprise. If I was truly going to see this thing through, I realized I had better make with buying a horse decal and quick.
That afternoon, I did a bit more searching online and finally found what appeared to be the perfect horse decal. It was, again, a bit more expensive than you’d really care to pay for something you were just going to wind up peeling off and probably tearing to shreds in the process, but it matched my dimensions and the style I wanted. And, if it worked, it would create an effect I would be hard-pressed to recreate by hand. I ordered it.
The cat being out of the bag that I had a secret project in the shop, I didn’t even have to do any sneaking to work on it over the following days. Not that there was much work to be done on it without the horse decal. As for the wife, I didn’t think she would actually go out to the shop to have a look around, but I decided to make it annoying for her if she did. In addition to keeping the shop locked at all times, I stationed tall items in all lines of sight from sweety-accessible windows.
While the wife was in the shower, a day or two later, her sister Amber told me that the wife had been grilling both her and Ma as to what I was making.
“Does she have any idea what it is?” I asked.
“No,” she said.
This kind of surprised me. I had actually been shocked that the wife hadn’t immediately guessed what I was doing based on the sound of me drilling screws into wood to begin with. Given the day she’d had to think on it, though, it struck me as amazing that she hadn’t put together the number of pretty obvious clues lying about, many of which I knew she had seen and/or heard. Somehow she had not, though.
“She’ll figure it out,” I said. “There’s no way she won’t.”
The sister and mom-in-law left on Sunday, October 27.
On Monday morning, before the wife left for work, she asked me if her surprise present would be ready by the time of her birthday, two days away. I told her I hoped so, but that I was still waiting for part of it to arrive. Her eyes gleamed evilly at this.
“What are you waiting on?”
“Something very important without which I can’t do the rest of it.”
“It’s something you’re building?”
“Will I like it?”
“I hope you love it,” I said.
I could see her studying my face for any clues. Then I saw her expression shift in a very dangerous way. “I know what it is,” she said.
“You do?” I asked.
Now I studied her face and saw there was a degree of certainty to be found there.
“I’m astounded it’s taken you this long,” I said. Still, I wasn’t going to give anything away without proof.
The wife seemed to think for a few more seconds, then said, “Do some friends of ours have one like this?”
Er. This seemed odd. Cause even though we are friends with the owners of the gallery in which the original inspiration for this gift was for sale, her phrasing somehow made me believe she was thinking of something else. I didn’t know what, exactly, but it didn’t seem like what I was creating.
“Nope. You don’t know it,” I said. She declined to speculate further.
Later that day, the horse decal was delivered. It came in three sheets–head, rear and tail. The head portion, however, fit perfectly with the image I had in my noggin. I followed the instructions to carefully apply it to the boards. After that it was just a matter of starting the painting process.
I was determined to use some of the extra house paint we had stored in the shop, but the splatter paint effect I was able to get by dipping a brush into them and flicking it at my wooden canvas was not exactly the effect I had hoped for. It was too drippy, chaotic and difficult to control. Granted, I wanted that look as well, but I decided instead to use some of the 20 cans of spray paint we had to achieve a more controlled effect. For the benefit of those of you who are not taggers, if you depress a spray paint nozzle ever-so-slightly it will spit out a spatter of paint as opposed to the standard spray. With some practice, you can control the thickness of the spatters to a degree. When applied from a sufficient distance, this gives a nice speckled effect. I started with beige, dark blue, red, black and gray (including the last of a small can of Testors gunmetal gray primer I’ve had since college). It started to look pretty good. I gave it a few hours to dry and came back to do some more. I was careful to wash all the paint off of my hands, and had worn my painting clothes so as not to cause any questions any noticed spatters would bring.
On Tuesday, while the wife had the day off, I went back out to the shop to work some more. This time I added some gold spatters, though only sparingly. I wanted something that would catch the light. I didn’t have a lot of time, though, because we were having some of the cast of Dracula: A Rock Opera over to eat stew and watch bad vampire movies. I eventually left things to dry and returned to the house. And this was when my life changed.