It had been a long time since he had seen another human, and the last few he had seen had been scared, jumpy things, more like wild animals than people. The last people, mostly men, had jumped out of corners or from under burned out cars as he approached, their eyes wide, heads moving rapidly from side to side, screaming words he did not understand. He wondered if his turn would come. Not today. Today was a beautiful day. A breeze blew from the west, coolness was in the air, fall was coming. He had not seen another person for a long time. He looked toward the small fireplace in the front room of his home. He noticed, once more the clutter on the floor and the writing on the walls. He had not seen another human for a long, long time. He decided. First he swept the trash out the door and let it spread across the front yard. He borrowed a rusty red wagon from his next-door neighbors and went into town shopping for paint, patch and tools. The paint store remained almost intact; the looting had taken different directions. “Five gallons of your lime green interior,” he said aloud to the paint store.
“What’s that?” he listened.
“No the one without primer please,” he answered the paint store. He pulled the top off of a five gallon bucket of white paint and dripped a little green color, a little black and just a dash of yellow into it and stirred until it became the desired color.
“There you go sir,” he said to himself.
“Will you need brushes and rollers?” he nodded
“And some patch, “ he said as he loaded the materials into the rusty red wagon.
“Yes, please,” he answered as he loaded a sack of fast drying joint compound onto the rusty wagon.
“I’m in a hurry,” he added to reveal his need for the fast drying kind. And then he hurried out of what had once been a glass door but was now just an aluminum frame.
“Thank-you!” he shouted into the empty shop as he and the wagon exited to the street.
The work took very little time. After years of fighting to keep himself from cleaning up the mess in the front room it turned out not to be such a big mess after all. By the end of the day he had not only cleaned, patched and painted, he had shopped at the neighborhood houses and up graded his furniture, placed a small carpet on the mopped floor, and hung a picture he was sure was worth a good bit of money. Last, he rubbed the spray paint from the screen of the flat screen TV. He sat on his sofa and watched the blank screen for a while, picturing various sit-coms he had watched, he even laughed at some of the jokes. He remembered the last news show and clicked the clicker at the screen, he had remembered enough for one day. As night came he lit the wood he had placed into the fireplace. He knew the chance he was taking by putting a plume of smoke into the sky, but he hadn’t seen another person in a really long time. It wasn’t quite cold enough yet for a fire so he opened the front door and slid up a window. He lay on the carpet in front of the fire and pretended life outside hadn’t changed. He pictured a couple sitting in front of their TV, holding hands, children being sent off to their beds, giggling under the covers, an old man reading a thick book in the light of a single bulb. He fell to sleep lying there on the carpet with the door wide open, the light from the fire sending a glow out into the dark streets.