“I swear, if I have to look at that bowl of fruit one more time, I’m going to scream,” Jack said as they made their way down the hall.
Two weeks, and every day, it was the bowl of fruit. Draw it. Sketch it. Paint it. Sculpt it.
“That’s more like it,” Beth said, leaning against Jack and making him stagger towards the wall.
“What? What’s more like it?”
“‘Art is passion,’” Beth said, her voice going nasal and reedy as she imitated the substitute art teacher. “‘You can’t paint it if you don’t feel anything for it.’”
“Who feels anything for a bowl of fruit?” Jack asked, smiling despite himself.
“Love and hate are just two sides of the same coin,” Beth said. “He never said you had to love it.”
“So you think he’s making us hate it so we’ll paint better?”
Beth shrugged. “When he’s not being such a big jerk, he’s a pretty good teacher. Your work has improved. I think mine has, too, a little.”
“He was not happy about the crayons.”
“He didn’t specify what we had to use to draw, just that we had to draw it. So I used what was at hand. And I did show improvement, so he couldn’t complain.”
“If you put half the effort into the art projects that you did in finding ways to piss him off, you’d be really, really good, Beth.”
She shook her head. “I don’t want to, Jack. I don’t feel what you feel when you draw. I can’t get to that same place you go to.”
“Get..? I don’t go anywhere. And how do you know how I feel?”
“I saw it in my dad when he was working in Egypt, at the dig site. I saw it in the medicine men when we stayed with the Sioux, when they would sing, or dance. I see it in your mom and dad when they look at each other, and I see that same thing when you draw. Drawing just… doesn’t do that for me.”
“So what does?” Jack asked.
“Writing, I think.”
“Yeah, you get spacey when you scribble.”
She smacked him in the arm. “You put it so eloquently.”
Jack rubbed his arm. “I… I don’t even know what that word means!” he said, following Beth into the art room.
* * * * *
“Put it away, Jack,” Beth said, pushing the envelope back down in the front pocket of his backpack.
“Oh, come on, Beth. Just a peek—”
“No! He said we’re not supposed to open these until tonight.” She smacked his hand as he again plucked at the envelope.
“It’s probably just another stupid—”
“Probably. And you can wait until tonight to find out.”
“What’s gotten into you?” Jack asked.
Beth turned her collar up as they exited the hall, and crossed the icy breezeway.
“This just feels… different… than the other projects. Like… it’s something that’s going to matter.”
Jack hauled open the door, held it for Beth. “It feels like another annoying assignment.”
“He promised there were no bowls of fruit involved.”
“Well, that’s something, anyway.”
“Trust me, Jack. This assignment will be fun.”
He glanced over at the girl.
She shook her head. “No. Just a feeling.”