by Greg Stevens
A day in the life of a young artist.
"That pen is weird," you tell him. "That color is like... it's like... toad spit." Peter laughs loudly at this, and writes a big "TS" at the top of the page. "Toad Spit productions!" he announces. Peter seems to think that all you need to do is have a slogan that you can attach to stuff, and that's how you become famous. You are pretty sure that's not how it works, but you don't argue with him.
You start tearing pieces out of the bread in front of you, and focus all of your attention on squishing it into a perfect sphere. When you are done, you place it on the table and tear another piece from the bread. When you are done, you will slowly bite into the compacted, dense spheres of bread, and look at the patterns your teeth make on the soft, doughy material.
In math class, the teacher hands back a worksheet that was turned in the previous day. You look at yours, with big red lines and circles. You squirm in the seat. The teacher is going through the problems, one by one.
"Number four. Who knows the answer to number four?" Hands shoot in the air, but not yours. Your paper has a big red X over it. Let her call on someone else.
She does, and a girl says "Three halves!" and the teacher says that is correct.
You look at your paper. That's what you wrote. Your heartbeat pounds in your ears. You know that you know this. You know that this picture means half:
And you know that there should be three of them, so you drew:
Three halves. That was the right answer. But the teacher marked it wrong. You squint and your eyes start to fill with water, but you hold it back. When the teacher finishes talking about the worksheet, you ball yours up into a small ball, like it's bread, and you stuff it inside your desk, way in the back.
Out on the playground you hop on the log stumps that are lined up in a row. You are in space, or some future world where there is no ground but people travel in air-cars and all of the roads are made of mist. If you fall off of the stumps, you will fall through the mist. So you are careful. Some other people are playing near you, but you don't know their names. Why would you? They don't live in future world, like you do.
Art class is all about primary and secondary colors, but you already know that stuff. So you decide to draw your dream. It's the same dream you've had maybe six or seven times this month. You start out following a stone path in your back yard. Normally the stone path just goes up to the edge of the woods and then ends, but in the dream it goes into green hills with a blue sky and white fluffy clouds. There is a large bunny there, who may be the Easter bunny but you are not entirely certain. He is white and fluffy like the clouds and they might all be made of cotton candy. You feel the happiest you have ever felt in your life, every time you find your way into this land. When you wake up, you are relaxed and everything is good.
You draw the sky bright blue, the sun bright yellow and the path bright red. The bunny you draw as an outline, coloring the sky around him, but you leave him white as the paper underneath. That is a trick you used once before, which had earned you praise from the teacher. But still the picture doesn't capture the magic of the land in your dream. You frown a little. Maybe you can make one of those cut-out scenes inside a cardboard box, instead, and use cotton balls for the clouds. Maybe that would work better.
Before the end of the day, the teacher is talking about people instead of things. Your mind wanders. The walls are decorated for Halloween, which is only a few days away. You and your mom made a ferocious costume: a monster that you invented yourself. It had big human ears and long pointed teeth and a mane like a lion. You showed it to Peter, which was a big mistake. He just said "What is that supposed to be?" "A monster" you explained, but he obviously did not understand.
You look at the decorations on the walls of the classroom: colored construction paper figures of pumpkins, ghosts and skeletons. They are probably just random but you imagine that they are creating some kind of scene together. The ghost is sneaking up on a skeleton.
"Boooo!" you say out loud, voicing the part of the ghost.
Suddenly you realize the whole room is looking at you. The teacher looks angry.
"You do not boo people in this class! That is very rude!" she says sternly.
You feel light-headed. You weren't "booing" anyone, you were... you were... But you know you can't explain the scene with the ghost. That just means you weren't listening. So you hang your head, and your eyes get watery again, but by now you are good at making sure that nobody sees.