The Brick Wall

Kara’s stomach tightened when she arrived for her shift at the book shop. A police officer stood at the old, historic brick building’s south side, taking pictures. Large letters written in black spray paint sprawled along its length. Kara looked away quickly when its obscene message began to register in her mind. How could someone do this? The outside of the building was ruined!

Inside the shop, she found the shop owner, Lloyd, speaking with another officer. The latter said, “We’ll see what clues the security camera footage will give us. If we find the perpetrator, you can press charges.”

“Just let me know what you find out and we’ll take it from there,” Lloyd replied. “Thank you.”

When the officers had left, Lloyd looked at Kara, and his expression fell. She rushed to give him a hug and said, “I’m so sorry. How horrible …”

“It does look horrible. How could someone do this to a building that has stood here since the early days of this community? That’s over one hundred years!”

Kara followed Lloyd as he went outside. It wasn’t quite opening time yet. Early-morning shadows still draped the street and alleyways. Lloyd’s eyes scanned the vandalized wall, not just taking in the graffiti but also lifting to the upper two stories where he and his family lived. Kara purposely avoided dwelling on the damage and looked upward too. The brickwork was showing its age, its color faded and the surface pocked and pitted.

“What are you going to do?” asked Kara. “Have it painted over?”

Lloyd shook his head. “That will look awful. No, I won’t do that.”

“Well, we can’t just leave it like this. Maybe have it paneled or bricked over? It will have to be ground off if nothing else.”

“Hmm,” was all Lloyd said. One hand rose to pinch at his chin as he began to pace slowly. “No, not that.” His voice was so soft that Kara almost missed it. Then he seemed to snap out of his thoughts. “We’d better get in there and open the shop.” He beckoned, and Kara followed him back inside.

The day’s customers expressed sympathy or sadness at the vandalism. Otherwise, Kara tried to pretend it was the same as any other day. But the vandal’s message kept painting itself anew in her mind. Lloyd acted cheerful, though Kara knew that inside he must be hurting.

The next morning, a man, clearly a laborer, came by the shop to see Lloyd, who went outside with him. Kara was curious about what they were doing and saying out there, but she needed to handle things in the shop. When Lloyd returned, he didn’t say anything to her about it, so Kara refrained from bringing it up.

Two weeks passed, and people stopped bringing up the vandalism. Kara nearly forgot about it.

On a particular day, she arrived to find scaffolding erected against the entire south wall of the building.

“What’s that all about out there?” she asked Lloyd.

He winked. “You’ll see.”

She pressed him, but he refused to explain and then started ignoring her questions, so she let it drop.

On her lunch break, Kara went outside. Workers moved up and down the scaffolding, carrying buckets and tools. They looked busy and seemed to not notice her, so she decided not to pry.

Over the next several weeks, they continued their work. Some very loud noises were audible inside. When customers asked about the activity, Kara acted like she was in the know by telling them it was a surprise. Every time she said it, she hoped it was worth all the secrecy.

Lloyd seemed to be enjoying having that secret to himself.

Finally, the day came when the workers dismantled and hauled away the scaffolding. Lloyd led Kara outside once they were gone. “Have a look,” he said.

Of course, Kara looked at where the graffiti had been. As she expected, it was gone, which was wonderful. But the scaffolding had covered the whole wall, so she slowly looked upward to see what they had done. As she did, her jaw slowly fell more and more open.

The wall looked completely normal. She had expected that if something were done to the brick, the first six feet from the foundation would look different. But it all looked uniform. And original.

Like nothing had ever happened.

“How … ?”

Lloyd beamed and rocked on his heels a little as he looked at her. “You suggested all the things I had thought of to get rid of the vandalism,” he explained. “But none of those things seemed good enough. What I mean by that is I didn’t want to see part of the wall look one way and the rest look another way. And it couldn’t end up looking out of place with the rest of the building. So I looked for and found a brick mason who had bricks that looked just like the originals did.”

He gave a contented sigh and ran a hand along a row of bricks. “This wall is restored, but at the same time it’s brand new.”

“It’s amazing,” Kara said softly.

Lloyd grinned again. “Isn’t it though? And it’s worth every penny it cost.”

Photo by ShonEjai on

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