“Cats don’t breathe fire” Beth said. She gave the felt-tip-etched battle scene a long look as she sucked the last from a juice box. She kept going until the box collapsed on itself.
“Well, this one obviously does,” Jack said, and then added sweeping bat-like wings with a few strokes of his pen.
“What good are wings if it can’t fly?” Beth asked.
“What do you mean? Of course it can. That’s why it has wings in the first place.”
“They’d have to be a lot bigger. Or he’d have to be a lot smaller.”
“Do you mind? I’m trying to doodle here.”
Beth shrugged. “I was just saying….”
“It’s magic, okay? A magical, winged, fire-breathing cat.”
“But if it has magic to fly, then why does it need wings?”
Jack capped the pen, twisting until it squeaked. He pocketed the marker, and reached for his lunch bag, but Beth snatched it, folding it carefully, and smoothing it before slipping it into one of the pockets of her coat.
“For posterity,” she said. “You might have another exhibition.”
“‘Dragon-cat versus rodent-knight’ is not going in any exhibition,” Jack said. “Just… throw it away. I was going to.”
“I know, that’s why I saved it.”
“You didn’t even like it.”
“I do too like it! I like everything you draw.”
“You haven’t seen everything I draw,” Jack said.
“I like everything I’ve seen. Even those creepy goblin things.”
“I don’t even like those guys,” Jack muttered.
“So why do you draw them, then?”
Jack shrugged. “They just… popped into my head.”
“Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?” Beth asked, after a long pause.
“Wonder about what?”
Beth looked away from the cloud she’d been watching. “Where they come from.”
Jack glanced up at the cloud. “Well, I have an idea, but it’s just…”
“Well, you know how everything sort of has a balance? When you give something a push, it just goes until it gives that energy back, like through heat?”
Beth blinked. “Jack, you actually paid attention in physical sciences?”
He stuck his tongue out. “And… like, how they say that all the energy that’s ever going to be here is already here, and it just sort of… changes?”
Beth just stared. She wasn’t laughing.
“Maybe creativity has laws like that. Like, for every beautiful thing you create, you’ll eventually create something that… isn’t.”
“Jack, I don’t know…”
“Think about it,” he said. “All those little failures in practice add up to something better.”
“That’s called ‘learning’ Jack.”
“I said it was an idea. I didn’t say it was a good one.”
The lunch bell rang, and Jack swung his backpack up over his shoulder. Beth slid from her perch on the concrete ledge, and fell into step beside him.
“Besides the picture of my mom, Jack, what else have you drawn that could balance out those awful little pointy-nosed trolls?”
Jack opened his mouth to answer, but she’d dashed on ahead to to grab the hallway door before it swung shut.