The truck pulled over to the side of the road, its tires crunching through the dying grass. The driver looked out the passenger side window, shaking his head. Why can’t these kids find anything better to do? he thought, not looking forward to leaving the comfort of the air conditioned cabin. He tried to peer through the windshield in an effort to actually see the heat, as if focusing his eyes would reveal something new.
He killed the engine and opened the door. A wave of warmth instantly enveloped him, and he asked himself why didn’t I take care of this sooner? He reached into the bed of the truck and removed a bucket of oil-based gray paint and a roller smooth and worn from overuse. Because these kids only did this last night, and this morning I had to fix some potholes that the boss had been bugging me about for weeks, that’s why. And I would rather be painting over some stupid graffiti in the middle of the day than standing over fresh asphalt.
He walked over to the bridge embankment and surveyed last night’s damage. There were three separate messages sprawled in an uneven hand across the concrete. The first one merely said Expect Resistance. Resistance to what?, he wondered. The second one was longer, stating in one line above the other that Marx and Orwell were so right. This System does not work. He tried to remember if he knew who Marx and Orwell were, and made a mental note to ask a buddy later at the bar. The last one, further apart from the others but in the same shaky handwriting said Think for Yourself. That one, the man thought, was fairly self-explanatory. Even so, he stared at it for a long time, reading it over and over again.
For over six months, the man and the graffiti artist had waged a silent battle over the embankment. It’s surface was covered in slightly darker rectangles than the natural concrete- the local hardware store failed to achieve a perfect match no matter how hard it tried. Sandblasting proved to be too onerous and noisy, and so every few days the man would drive out to paint over the random passages scrawled on the wall.
The man began painting over the words, his mechanical and mindless strokes slowly erasing the scribbled words. It took longer than he expected. I need a new roller, he thought, a new one would be able to get in between the rough spots with fewer strokes. I need to remind myself to ask the boss if I can get one. Methodically working from left to right, he had covered two out of the three messages completely when he noticed that his bucket was running out of paint. He scraped out what he could with the roller, but he realized he would need more to finish.
He threw the bucket into the truck bed and leaned against the side, looking over his work and working out a plan of attack. The hardware store is open until five. If I hurry, I can make it there, get a new bucket of paint, and then be done by… six? six-thirty? On a Saturday? Forget it- I’ll finish it Monday. How bad can this Orwell guy be? It’s just a name, after all.
Left among the drying shades of gray was the phrase Orwell was so right. System does not work. Pulling away, the man looked at his efforts through the rear view mirror, making note of the script behind him. Not so bad, he decided.
Not bad at all.