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Grey Sparrow Journal and Press, as of January 31, 2018 will move to

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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Saturday Morning Chores


by Troy Tarcisius Rodrigues




         My friend, Steve, was the laziest boy I knew. Then again, I was the laziest boy he knew. I’m not sure how we became friends; maybe we were both just too lazy to go out of our street, but eventually, his folks got to know my folks from our school and church. Each Sunday, the two of us would both sit in the last pew and get some sleep until communion, shattered from whatever strife we got into on the Saturday. 


That Saturday in August, after I finished my list of chores:

  • Rake the leaves,                                              
  • Sweep the veranda,
  • Mow the lawn,
  • Pick up Buster’s poop,

         I went to Steve’s house. His dad wasn’t there, which was good. But neither was his mum. I hadn’t seen her for awhile, but when she was there, she’d always surprise us with a new kind of biscuit she had made.


“Hey Steve, aren’t you finished yet?”


“Ugh, I have to paint the wall.”


“What? Let your dad do that.”


“No, I can’t,” he laughed. “He wants it done by eleven. He’s coming back then.”


I looked at my watch, “That’s only an hour.”


Well...can you help?”


“No. Do it yourself.”


“Come on.”


We began coating a two-meter brick wall in the back yard with the remainder of their salmon-pink interior house paint. I learned to use a roller for the first time, and it was easy, once I got the hang of it. Between the two of us, we were done in fifteen minutes.


“He wants another coat,” said Steve.


“What? How will he know?”


“Remember who we’re talking about. He knows everything.”


That was true. Steve’s Dad had a way of getting the truth out of you. Once, he took all of us-- Steve, his younger brother David, and me-- out for a game of cricket on the hottest day of the year. After a few hits, he nipped out for a smoke, and we all went to get a drink at the refrigerated drinking fountain. Out of nowhere came this big hand, and slapped Steve away from the chilled water, “I told you before not to run off!” He slapped Steve again, “Did you listen,” and again, “...why don’t you listen to me,” and again, “...why do you do this to me!”


I was never sure if Steve liked his Dad. I only ever asked him this once, in the sixth grade when his Dad went missing for three days. He just changed the subject. No one ever talked about his disappearances, unless it was behind the family’s back.


“Hey guess what?” Steve said, “I got this spray can from the store.” He began shaking it. Click-click-click went the ball inside.


Yeah, just a little – we can paint over it. We got to do a second coat anyway.”


We began our graffiti session in an asphalt black spray that Saturday morning:

  • Sex Pistols Rule,
  • Boy George sucks,
  • David sucks,
  • and
  • everyone else we knew either sucks or loves Boy George.


         There was one large space of salmon-pink remaining – slightly right of center. Steve took his time writing the block letters in the empty space. He finished the first word.


“Who’s Debbie?” I asked.


“Just this girl.”


“Is she in our school?”


“Nah, you don’t know her.”


How come he gets all the girls, I wondered–he’s so lazy. He continued to the next line and marked up the plus sign.


“So is she your new girlfriend then?”


He gave me a strange look and laughed, “No.” He continued putting the finishing touches on the plus sign. Debbie plus who? He then went to the third line and started with J, then an I, and then, an M.


Debbie plus Jim. Who are they?” I said.


“Just some people.”


“Anyway we better get started on the second coat to cover it all up,” I said.


“We still got plenty of time–ten minutes. Let’s get a Coke.”


Both of us sat on the half-broken garden bench near the clothes line, admiring our work and laughing at the things we wrote, especially about David.



Twenty minutes passed and we heard his station wagon pull up, which made me panic. “Shit, Steve, let’s start on the second coat so it looks like we’re working.”


Steve was calm, “It’s okay, plenty of time.” He gave me a smile.


I heard his Dad rustling around the garage; he was one door away from the backyard. I kept thinking, don’t go through the door. Please, don’t go through the door. No sounds, just silence. And then I remembered who Jim was. I forgot because everyone called him James.


“JESUS CHRIST! – what have you done you little shit!” his Dad’s voice boomed out. “I send you to a good school, and this is what I get!”


I put down the roller. Salmon-pink droplets drizzled over the grass, as I tried to creep out. I could not help thinking how much bigger people seem just before they’re about to beat the shit out of you.


“I bet you were a part of this!” he said to me. “You and your parents and everyone else in that church can get – ”


“ – What? Me? I don’t even know Debbie,” I said, not realizing how stupid it was.


“He’s got nothing to do with it! I wrote it alone,” said Steve.


“Why did you do this Steven, hey...TELL ME!”


 “YOU FUCKED AUNTY DEBBIE...and now my mum’s gone! You ALWAYS do this to us!”


“You don’t understand. It wasn’t that simple,” said Steve’s Dad.


“How could you do that to Mum? She never did anything to you. She cried for– ”


“Just listen,” said Steve’s Dad. “We were having problems long before that...we just didn’t want to involve you and your brother until we were both sure.”


“YOU’RE A BLOODY LIAR!...LIAR! She took David and left me here–with you! YOU BETTER WATCH IT!”


“Please Steven, just listen to me...please– ”


“Bloody liar...I’ll kill you, BLOODY LIAR!”


          This went on:

  • back and forth,
  • accusation and explanation,
  • closer and closer,
  • father and son.


          Then, in one unrecognizable instant, Steve lost control.


          It was soon followed by silence for the rest of the afternoon. I packed up the debris into one pile, draining the leftover paint in the roller tray into the paint can, and washed off with turpentine.


            That Saturday morning I thought about a list of new things I learned:

  • spray cans can break windows,
  • paint poles hurt like spears when thrown at a father,
  • grown men also hyperventilate when they cry; and
  • headlocks become hugs quite easily.


            We left the second coat for next Saturday.