by Stanley McFarland
Anna didn’t know why her teacher said the sky was blue. It wasn’t blue, it was gray – gray like the steam the came out from under the bathroom door when her mother showered in the morning. Anna pulled on her braid and fiddled with the bungee until she could see it in front of her. She walked to the window and stared up into the sky, then held the blue bungee up to compare.
“It’s gray,” she said to no-one.
“Anna,” said her teacher, “would you go back to your seat and draw your picture of the sky, please?”
“Yes, Miss Petrovsky,” said Anna.
Jacob Finnerman had three blue crayons under his arm while he colored with a forth. Felice Reader reached under Jacob’s arm to get one, and he grabbed her finger and bent it back.
“Ow,” said Felice. “I’m tellin’”
Anna took the burnt umber from the crayon box and drew the dark bellies clouds have when they’re about to rain. She streaked the tops of the cloud bellies with silver and flecks of gold. She didn’t finish the clouds. Instead she took the gray crayon and pulled at the paper wrapping.
“You’re not supposed to do that,” said Felice, who was making her sky purple because Jacob had all the blue crayons. It was pretty – much prettier than Jacob’s hard scribbled blue, but it wasn’t real.
“I want to color with the side,” said Anna.
“But then you ruin the crayon for the rest of us.”
“Let her,” said Jacob. “It’s just the gray crayon. Nobody likes the gray crayon.”
“But you don’t have to use the side,” said Felice. “See, you just turn the crayon like this and make light marks.” An even light purple field magically appeared under Felice’s hand. She was good with crayons.
Not for the first time, Anna wished she could like Felice. She didn’t care about Jacob; he was just a boy, but it would be nice to have a friend like Felice who could color so well.
“I don’t think I can do that,” said Anna. It didn’t matter. The paper was off the crayon now. A wide shaving of paper lay by her elbow along with little bits of crumpled paper she’d picked off with her fingernail. Anna stared at the little pile. She wanted to draw it instead of the sky, but Miss Petrovsky didn’t like it when Anna didn’t do as she was told. Anna wanted to take the pile home and draw it there, but things always looked different at the apartment than they did in school.
Anna moved the side of the gray crayon across the whole paper except for one corner. She was going to put the sun in that corner. Then she changed her mind and covered the corner too. The sky was big, and the sun was small. The sun didn’t have to be in her picture.
Anna went into that place where everything went away as she worked on her sky. She used white, yellow and flecks of brown and black to fill out her clouds. She made a white double streak with a tiny dot in front to show an airplane flying across. She thought about putting in geese. She liked the way geese flew together, but she wondered whether geese would be happy in her picture. The airplane didn’t care.
“Where’s the sun?” said Miss Petrovsky.
Anna started. She hadn’t noticed her teacher come behind her.
“It looks a little gloomy,” said Miss Petrovsky.
Anna looked at the two other pictures on the table. Jacob’s drawing was of a very blue sky – deeply scrawled, and a round yellow sun with yellow spokes. Along the bottom was a dark figure. It might have been a man.
“It’s Batman,” said Jacob. “I wanted to do Superman, but the sky was already blue, so he wouldn’t show up.”
Felice’s drawing was very pretty. She had butterflies in a cluster. It looked like they were climbing up into her light purple sky. Felice’s looked so real that Anna imagined the butterflies could feel it.
“Where’s the sun?” Mrs. Petrovsky asked again.
Anna pointed to Felice’s picture. “Right there,” she said.