A Man For All Seasons
A sequel to
A Cottage In The Country and The Emerald Lighter
by Malcolm Taylor
I’m not someone who is normally lost for words, indeed, given an argument, I’m usually the one who tries to find and deliver the last one! On this occasion, however, I was rendered speechless and reeling from the sheer logic and chutzpah of his response; hoist, as it were, on my own petard. You shall be the judge.
I was introduced to Marlon last winter by a fellow Brit who recommended his painting skills, as after four years of withstanding the extremes of Tobago weather our house was badly in need of a face lift. A slim, fit young man, he arrived wearing a body hugging green overall and sporting a wide grin. I liked him instantly. He had a no nonsense approach as he whizzed about examining cracks and grooves in the paintwork as he prepared his estimate. “I rub all this down you see and fill in all these cracks here. I’m your man when it comes to doing a proper job, not like some of them other guys uh..uh.. you know what I am a-saying?” Having seen the workmanship of some of ‘them other guys’ I nodded in agreement. “I mean some of them others”, he continued, “don’t even rub down the paint, they just slap it on top of the old stuff, man, you better.. uh.. uh.. believe me.” I found his slight hesitancy of speech quite charming. I’ve since come to appreciate that this hesitation only occurs when he is either under pressure to come up with an answer, when he is on unfamiliar territory or when he is trying to find the right words with which to express himself. Knowing which of these modes he is in at any one time is quite an art; his mind works like quicksilver.
Marlon’s estimate was extremely reasonable and I accepted. “How long you going to be here Mr.T?” he asked. “About another three weeks.” “Oh, no problem then we’ll start on Monday and be finished before you go. That’s one thing I must warn you about”, he said earnestly, “never have any work done unless you are staying here. It’s .uh..uh.. a big mistake to trust people to do the work when you are away ‘cos they won’t do it properly and they might not do it at all! (a roar of laughter) Yeah, yeah man, it’s true… you hear what I’m a-tellin’ you?” Having had a lifetime of such experiences I knew only too well, and agreed with him heartily.
Together with his helpers, James and Airrion, Marlon set to work with vigour. Of course not all the day was spent painting and Marlon particularly, as the leader of the gang, managed to find plenty of time for a ‘lime’. It wasn’t long before he learned we had decided to trade in our ageing Terios for a slightly newer vehicle and before you could say ‘large rum and coke’ he made me an offer. It was five thousand dollars less than I had anticipated but had the advantage of being “Cash man .. cash ….I’m telling you Mr T I can bring it tomorrow – no problem for me at all, not at all (beat) uh..uh..you think about it and let me know.” He went on to explain that not only was he a painter but that he also had a legitimate car rental business, adding that his girlfriend could drive it around when it wasn’t earning him money. Smart cookie, I thought. My wife and I decided that it would be silly for us to refuse his offer bearing in mind that we would be heading for home within the next two weeks and were anxious to buy another vehicle before we left. There was an added attraction - Marlon had offered to introduce us to a dealer in Roll-On-Roll-Off cars in Lambeau. “James Sebro a very good friend and a very honest guy, you know, he won’t sell you a bad vehicle.” Bearing in mind that we’d recently had the unfortunate experience of putting a deposit down on a brand new discounted Terios at Toyota, only to be told two days later that the vehicle was no longer for sale and our deposit returned, we took Marlon at his word, sold him our Terios and acquired a Hyundai Matrix from James at Bros Autos. We were delighted with both deals.
Meanwhile, back at the house, the painting progressed apace – sadly though not quite at the pace originally envisaged, and by the time we were ready to depart there were still three windows to be completed. However, having become a friend of Marlon’s during the short time of our acquaintance I had no reason to disbelieve him when he said all would be completed ‘Within the uh…uh..next couple of days. We left, happy & pleased with what we had managed to accomplish in the short time at our disposal.
As soon as we return home to London we always wish we’d never left Tobago. We miss the sun, the sea, the birds on our terrace, and particularly the people of this lovely island. You can imagine then how we anticipated the spring and the return to our lovely newly painted house. “This is the life’” I said to my wife as we approached the front door, “But hang on, look up there, those three windows still haven’t been painted …….”
A quick phone call and Marlon was round in a trice. I pointed to the windows. “You said they’d be done as soon as we left’” I remonstrated. He looked at me sadly, head cocked on one side. “What did I say to you the first day we met?” he asked. “You said never have any work done unless you are personally here..” I trailed off. He smiled sympatjhetically “Exactly so” I groped for a response “Uh…uh…”
© Malcolm Taylor 2007
I hope you enjoy my other articles -
Cottage In The Country and
The Coconut Season