The Ghostly Painting!

As an artist I’m inspired by my surroundings when it comes to setting up my easel, brushes and tubes of oil paints. I felt the ocean calling me and I turned to the web hoping to find a cottage or cabin near the seashore I could rent for the summer. Highway 101 went from California clear to Washington State and there were many towns along the way that had newspapers. I hoped to find an ad offering a rental within my budget range.

First I found a map online of the California, Oregon and Washington coastline. Then I made a list of the towns closest to the ocean. It was painstaking for me to go through the same process over and over searching listings, checking prices, calling long distance, leaving messages on answering machines or talking to someone hoping the monthly rent and deposit were reasonable.

Then I had to wait for photographs to be e-mailed me to decide if I wanted to call them back. By the time I had crossed off the last rental inquiry on my sheet of paper, what I ended up was seven possible cottages, cabins or bungalows on the seashore. By the time the last batch of photographs arrived, I learned three of the rentals had been rented. That narrowed my possibilities down to four.

Of those, one in particular caught my attention more than the other three. The realtors e-mail wasn’t long and he didn’t go into as much detail as I would have liked. His description of the property was short and to the point. I guess he thought the photos he had taken on an overcast and rainy day would suffice. Well, he was right. The price was okay and he had provided his phone number and a map of the directions to his office in his e-mail.

I made a phone call at 10:30 that morning figuring he would be at his desk and he was. His name was Bill O’Reilly and from the moment he answered the phone I could tell he was Irish. He was a pleasant sounding man and I told him I planned on arriving at Port Angeles, Washington on the 23rd. I asked if there was a time that would be convenient for him to show me the cottage.

There was a moment of silence and I guess that should have made me a bit hesitant that he wasn’t telling me something about the cottage. But when he told me that anytime after 1 pm would be fine I figured he was looking at his calendar of appointments. I asked him if he knew of any good hotels in Port Angeles and he told me there was a Day’s Inn just off of Hwy 101 on the way into Port Angeles.

After I thanked him and hung up the phone I googled the temperature for Port Angeles, Washington in May. Basically I was looking at a low of 37 and a high of 47. That would be a huge change in the weather in Lodi, California. I knew the Pacific Northwest was the rainy part of the state but the greenery made it a beautiful place to visit. I don’t know if I could handle living there year-round though.

Knowing the type of weather I was headed for, I made sure I stopped off at Wal-Mart and bought warmer clothes than I had hanging in my closet. Since I was going to be living by the ocean I knew that the winds would feel bitter cold to me and that many times it would probably be raining off and on. But the photos e-mailed to me by Mr. O’Reilly showed me the cottage had a wide front porch facing the sea and it had a roof over it.

That suited me just fine because I wanted to capture mother nature differently than I had in northern California. When I turned off Highway 101 and began to make my way to Port Angeles, I was a day ahead of my appointment. I turned into the Day’s Inn and was glad to see a Denny’s restaurant next door. But at that moment I wasn’t so much hungry as I was tired. It had been a long drive.

What I wanted more than anything at that moment was to check in, take a shower, turn the heat on in the room if it was off, take a shower and climb under the sheets. I don’t know if I slept so well because I was so tired or because the bed was so comfortable. After I woke up and got dressed up it was evening. I ate supper at Denny’s and went back to my room and turned on the TV.

I watch show after show, mostly re-runs until my eyes were too tired to stay open any longer and went to sleep. The next morning after breakfast I got directions to the street where the realtors office was. I left early just because I was unfamiliar with Port Angeles and it was better to be a bit early than late. As a last resort I could call Mr. O’Reilly on my cell phone for better directions.

But that call wasn’t necessary and I parked in front of the building with the large red sign that said, O’Reilly Realty. When I walked inside and closed the door quickly, the blonde receptionist looked up and smiled as I rubbed my shoulders. I told her my name and who I was there to see. She welcomed me to Port Angeles and asked me to take a chair. She stood up she asked me if I’d like a cup of coffee but I told her no.

She went to the door to her left and knocked lightly before opening the door and going inside. In a moment the door opened and Mr. O’Reilly walked out. When he saw me, I stood up and met him halfway and we shook hands. He was a big man in his 50’s with a potbelly and a thick head of red hair. His handshake was firm and he welcomed me to Port Angeles. Then he turned and invited me to follow him into his office.

Once we had both sat down I saw a folder of papers on his desk in front of him. He looked through them for a couple minutes before he sat them down and looked up at me. At that moment I didn’t see his smile. I saw a look of concern in his eyes before he spoke. “Mrs. Jensen owns the cottage I’ll be taking ya out to look at. She’s 70 years old and her health, well she asked me to handle all the details.

All she cares about is that the person who rents it isn’t someone young and likely to have parties and tear up the place.” he said as I began to see his smile grow. “I think it’s safe to say that you don’t look like you’re going to be having wild parties.” Mr. O’Reilly said and I couldn’t help but begin to laugh out loud as I nodded my head. “I think my partying days stopped years ago. I’m 59 years old and I don’t even feel I play my stereo loud.” I said in a comical tone.

I opened my wallet up and took out one of my business cards and handed it to him. As he looked down at my card, I saw him begin to nod. “That’s right. Now I remember. You’re an artist.” he said and he asked he could keep my card. I nodded and he thanked me. “I’ll give it to Mrs. Jensen. I think it’ll make her feel a bit less nervous knowing someone who paints will be staying at her cottage.

I did tell ya in one of my e-mails she was interested in someone staying until August 1st didn’t I?” the realtor asked. I told him yes and that I could pay the two month’s rent and deposit in advance if I liked what I saw. “Well Mrs. Jensen will be glad to know that because she would hate for someone to move into the place and then not be able to pay the following month’s rent.

Was that your Mercedes I saw parked out front of my office?” Mr. O’Reilly asked curiously. I told him yes. “Well, I think money is the least of your worries.” he said as he let out a big laugh. Then he asked a personal question, “You make a good living painting pictures?” As I cleared my throat I gave the best answer I could. “I guess a ‘good living’ depends on what someone feels a good living is.

None of my paintings are hung in Palm Springs or Beverly Hills but I feel I make a good living. I don’t paint as many pictures as I can hoping to sell as many as I can. Each one takes time and inspiration. Afterwards I try to pick the right matting and frame that compliments what I’ve painted. I feel I can be inspired from that cottages front porch whether it’s sunny, cloudy or rainy.” I said in an optimistic voice.

For the second time I watched a hesitant look come across Mr. O’Reilly’s face and curiosity made me ask a few questions. First I asked him if there was a problem with the cottage. I asked if the electricity was on, if the roof leaked and if the water was turned on. He told me the cottage had power and water and to his knowledge the roof didn’t leak. Then he quickly put on a cheerful smile and asked if he could take me out to the property.

I said sure and he asked me if I wanted to take my car or his truck. I told him his truck would be fine. When we came out of his office, he told his secretary where we were headed and told her we’d be back in about an hour. “It won’t be hard for ya driving into town or back to your cottage Mr. Cook. The road we’re gonna turn off onto will lead ya right back to town.” he said as he looked over at me and turned the engine over.

When we turned off the asphalt road, he abruptly stopped. He turned and looked back as he pointed to the brown and green trash cans. “Your two trash cans are dumped each Friday morning Raymond. The brown one is for regular trash and the green one is for recyclables. If I were you’ I’d bring up your trash on Thursday afternoon so ya don’t forget.

Sometimes they’ll pick up folks trash early one week and late the next week. So getting it up here on Thursdays makes sure your cans aren’t full.” he said with a smile as he looked over at me. I was half expecting a bumpy dirt road but it wasn’t half bad as we began driving down a winding road with tall evergreen trees and sword ferns on both sides of the road.

Suddenly his foot hit the brakes and I put my hand up on the dashboard. We saw a doe and its fawn running across the road ahead of us. “Ya got to expect the unexpected when you’re driving in the woods Mr. Cook. Ya never know when a deer might startle ya by jumping out in front of that Mercedes of yours.” he said as he let out a laugh. I nodded and lay back against the seat.

It was a long winding road all downhill as we made our way lower and lower. Now and then I caught a glimpse of the ocean and once the land opened up I could see a spectacular view of the ocean and down below the cottage I would call home for the next two months. As Mr. O’Reilly parked his truck in front of the small white cottage with a cedar shake roof he put his truck in park.

Then he looked over at me and spoke, “After that ride down the hill I’ll bet you’re glad there ain’t snow on the ground.” and I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. “I doubt if I could stay on the road all the way down to where you parked in my car if there was snow on the ground. And I sure couldn’t make it up to the main road.” I said as I let out a laugh. Now it was his turn to laugh as he said, “Not unless you were driving a truck like mine and had snow chains on.”

For a moment we both looked to our left and right before we opened our doors and stepped out. One of the first things I heard were waves crashing on the shore in the distance. Seagulls were screeching overhead and the strong scent of cedar filled my senses. The porch needed sweeping and I saw a broom lying on the front porch. The outside of the two large front windows, one on each side of the front door had cobwebs on them.