The stain does not take to the wood evenly. He thinks it has something to do with the polyurethane added to it. Also with the fact that the polyurethane is fast-drying. It leaves streaks behind the brush, clots on corners, forms tiny stalactites suspended from the bottom of the boards.
Woodworkers prefer natural oils like linseed and tung which have a hard-rubbed luster as opposed to polyurethane’s shine. Polyurethane is durable, water resistant, hard and abrasion resistant. It was cheaper at the hardware store too. That’s the main reason he got it. Later, he spends more money at the hardware store buying sandpaper and wood stain. This time without polyurethane. He sands the boards behind the house on the back stoop. He sits on the steps scrubbing a board with the sandpaper.
“How long have you been out here,” his roommate asks, stepping out the back door onto the stoop.
“Don’t even ask me,” he says and stops sanding, rolling his head from side to side to stretch his shoulders.
His roommate sits down on the edge of the stoop and he swings his legs over the side of the stairs to sit parallel to him.
“And don’t tell me how ironic it is that the time-saving stain is costing me time.”
“Don’t need to, you just did.”
“It is ironic, though,” he says.
“I know,” the roommate replies
“And I can’t help but wonder,” he continues, “that doesn’t it seem to be that way in life?”
“Yes?” His roommate answers, pulling a cigarette out of his pack and lighting it. He holds it out, saying,
“You need to calm the hell down.”
He takes the cigarette and moves the half-sanded board in his lap around behind him.
“No, seriously though, we develop technology, bond molecule to strange molecule, augmenting something we have found in nature to form a harder-working mutation.”
“Smoke that,” his roommate says, gesturing to the cigarette in his hand.
He continues, “We create something that accomplishes its goal with such dexterity and swiftness that it loses the feel of process we find in the natural. The sense that what you are enjoying has taken a long time to culture, to cultivate. That, that which is pleasing to your eye has been striving towards that aesthetic for some odd handful of time.” He stops and takes a drag.
“Are you stoned? Are you high, Claree?”
“Whatever, I’ve just been out here sanding for hours, just thinking about wood stain,” He says, rolling his eyes.
“Well, shut up and smoke that cigarette. You’re completely right but also out of control. You just need to stop thinking and be quiet.”
The night moves in around them as their silence gives it space. The thick black edging in at the pool of yellow thrown out by the back light.
His roommate stands and turns out the light, the grit of the concrete scraping quietly as he turns to reach the switch.
“Better,” he says, sitting back down.
Crickets call in the thickness of the backyard, interrupted by the whining of the tree frogs. The sound of the legs, one rubbing against the other sounds silver in the darkness, moving in a chorus of a thousand thousand.
“I was just thinking how the crickets sound like sleigh bells,” he says.
“Actually, me too. Now quiet and finish your smoking. “ His roommate says, a flame flaring in his cupped hand as he lights his own cigarette.