So shame


Grandpa shakes his head at the painted letters. The red color is unnaturally bright against the rough, black lava rocks.

The “C” makes a large, loopy arc from the very top of the hip-high wall, to the very bottom. It’s almost like they tried to cover as much as they could with one letter. At the foot of the wall, there’s even some paint on Grandpa’s meticulously cut grass.

The “L” is thick, like a bold letter, as if the person painting it scornfully went over it, and over it, and over it again. The imperfect, scraggly surface of the old wall is hardly an ideal surface for straight “L’s”. This time they were very thorough, they must have really wanted to annoy the old man real bad.

Grandpa shoves an old toothbrush between two rocks and scrubs until his fingers are raw. The worst is when the paint gets into the nooks and crannies of the wall. Neighbors say he should just tear it down and buy a laminate fence—they’re paint resistant. Or just paint the whole wall beige. But to do that would break his heart.

You see, menehunes built this rock wall. Grandpa says, when he was a boy it just popped up in the middle of the night and has been a marker of our property ever since. It’s the perfect height for sitting and watching the neighborhood. And once, when the valley stream surged and flowed over, the wall protected the house. When Grandma forgot to put the brake on the car, the wall prevented it from rolling through the yard and running over the dogs… and the kids.


That bold “L” is going to take a bit longer to scrub away. Grandpa is tired but he keeps scrubbing because it’s easier to clean when it’s fresh. His back is sore from bending. I tell him I’ll take over. He sighs and sits in his favorite spot along the wall, practically indented with his shape. I scrub all the way to the bottom like Grandpa does, where the wall and the ground meet and blur so that you can barely tell where the wall begins and the ground ends. It really does look like it just sprang up out of the earth.

It’s ancient, and crumbly… kind of like Grandpa. It makes me angry that people keep vandalizing our old wall but Grandpa takes it all in stride. This is how I learned patience, resilience… and pride. To you folks who paint these dirty letters on our wall, don’t you learn? … so shame!

Talk story

  1. Bamboo Buckaroo says:

    ab, can you join us tonight at 6:00? Don't know if you got the emails I sent to your two addresses.

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