[dropcap]R[/dropcap]alph was a decent fella. He smoked like a fish, and he cussed so that the hair on my neck curled – but he was decent.

We worked together, as house painters. If you’ve ever painted, you’ll understand painting an eighty-eight-year-old woman’s living room is possibly the worst torture conceived by man. When we finished rolling her room, the woman hobbled out to inform us her walls were not as “minty” green as the sample had indicated. And since mint green was only a concept, we didn’t argue.

Ralph had the patience of Job. He went to the store, purchased another shade, and we painted the whole interior again, no charge. It took another full day. And it bears mentioning: there is no earthly-damn reason for eighteen-foot vaulted ceilings. It is a waste of God’s oxygen, painting them is cruel and unusual punishment.

We finished the room with Italian-Parsley green. The woman took one look and wagged her head. “This is wrong,” she said. “This is not the color I paid for.”

Dear Ralph took a deep breath and tightened his lips. We drove into town for twenty gallons of Winter-Asparagus green, which looks a lot like day-old cat vomit mixed with Italian parsley.

I asked Ralph why he was being so tolerant. I would’ve told the lady to go make toast in her bathtub two days ago.

“Nah,” said Ralph. “This lady reminds me of my mother. She’s lonely. We’re the most company she’s had in years. She don’t want us to leave.”

“But, you’re losing money.”

He shrugged. “Some things are more important than money.”

Like an exact shade of green.

And people.