09

Wings - Bird Body

Once I had my instructions, I went to work. In two weeks I saw the windows glazed and puttied, and the frames and shutters painted gray to match the other asylum windows. I finished the brick and brown plaster walls of the room carefully with several coats of limewash and tallow, until they glowed in the light. At the local iron-mongers I bought a Petit Godin stove, a cast-iron cylinder loading from the top and cleaned out from the front, together with the pieces of chimney-pipe, a coal scuttle, a small shovel, and a supply of boulets de charbon, the egg-sized balls of compressed coal dust to feed the stove. The only Godin available was plain iron, with no enamel; when the iron-monger’s man delivered it the next day, before it went into La Circassia’s studio I rubbed oil into it, fueled it, and set it alight to cure, in the garden courtyard between the stable wing, with its new apartment and the trees that made a perimeter for the asylum, a wall of green around it. For over an hour the stove smoked with the smell of burning machine oil and cedar. Finished, it stood there, a hot, dull black, with no rust to spoil it.

The existing floor was bricks, set in sand. The caretakers and I took up those bricks, along with ten centimeters of the sand. To keep out the damp in winter, I laid down tarred paper, overlapping in two layers. On top of these layers, I spread clean sand, which I tamped down for two days before re-bedded the bricks. I soaked the bricks in place and scrubbed them, and re-sanded, brushed and swept, grouted them with lime so the floor would not be dusty, and finally finished it with lime wash, mixed the way we did for the trunks of fruit trees in Poland. While I waited for days for the wash to cure hard enough to walk on, I scavenged for carpets to spread over the brick floor.

BLOCK WHITE

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