Colour theory

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  • Published 20230502
  • ISBN: 978-1-922212-83-2
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

CLAY PIPE. TOFFEE Fingers. Blind Date. Light Rice. I am standing in the paint aisle of Bunnings. George sent me to pick out colour swatches for him to look over. He said he is interested in whites and greys, but that he trusts my judgement – I am the artist after all. According to my Architectural Digest subscription, greys are out and shades of brown are timeless, so I decide to go with Dulux and select ten options. George is an old friend of my sister and is paying me $150 a day to paint the interior of his house. I’ve never painted a house before and don’t know award rates, but he is doing my sister a favour. He is chronically ill and mysteriously wealthy. Wealthy enough to have paid a professional. We both have taste and I think that’s why we get along. I also get free board in the sunroom and the house is air conditioned, so it seems like a good deal, all things considered.

Back at the house, George is napping in the lounge. I arrange the swatches before him on the coffee table and go to make peppermint tea. As the kettle boils, I hear George stirring and get another cup from the cupboard. I’ve been here less than a week, but feel more at home already than at the house I shared with Susy on the other side of the river. There’s a familial quality to our relationship that I find comforting. Most mornings I sleep in and wake at midday to find George ploughing his way through Russian novels or gabbing to his interstate friends over FaceTime. In the afternoons I join him on his daily constitutional to the river. He takes a route that meanders along the Woolstores, stopping regularly to catch his breath or admire a bird or flower, something small but striking. Sometimes I take a sketch pad and churn out quick portraits of George as he smokes a single cigarette, looking out over the water to the peak-­hour ferries. He is the most elegant man I’ve ever met and praises my scribbles as though I am a small, precocious child. At night, we watch Home and Away together, and in the ad breaks he relays gossip from his guest stint in the ’90s. I enjoy George’s company, but am eager to get to work, to give my days direction and purpose. I expect the tedium to be exhausting but meditative. I need to centre the furniture first, wash the walls with sugar soap, acquire drop sheets and masking tape. This is what Google tells me to do.

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About the author

Emily O’Grady

Emily O’Grady’s first novel, The Yellow House, won the 2018 The Australian/Vogel’s Award, and in 2019 she was awarded a Queensland Writers Fellowship. Her...

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