Billy?s Coloring Book
By [Anonymous until contest is over]
The stark black and white drawing in the book in front of Billy had a caption.
It read THE ROBIN ARRIVES IN THE SPRING.
The picture was a very simple drawing of a bird flying in the sky. There were no clouds, only a brilliant sun in the upper right hand corner.
Billy scratched his freshly buzzed scalp and tried to remember the last robin he had seen. Contrary to what he had been told by others, the robin did not have a red breast. It was more of a peach.
Reaching for the crayons at the edge of the table, Billy took note of his color options. Red, yellow, blue, black, orange, purple and green.
Was the color peach just a lighter shade of orange? Or was it orange with just a hint of yellow?
Billy began to lightly color the robin?s chest area with orange, very, very faintly and very, very subtly. He took the yellow crayon and very, very lightly went over the orange. The resulting color wasn?t exactly peach, but it would do.
Billy recalled the last robin he had seen. Was it brown, with accents of black feathers? Or was it bluish-gray, with a white face? No, no, Billy remembered. He was thinking of the blue jay, the type that would alight on his grandmother?s porch on hot, uneventful summer afternoons.
Brown with black highlights would have to do. The problem: no brown crayon.
Searching his memory, Billy recalled that orange with black and white (no white crayon, darn it) usually created brown. On the opposing page of the activity book, where there was a picture of a clown - how Billy hated clowns! - Billy lightly traced orange in a margin. Running the black crayon lightly on top produced a serviceable, if muddy brown.
Billy began coloring the robin?s body, ever so gently with the orange crayon. He lightly shaded the waxy portion of the orange with the black. Now his bird was so lifelike it threatened to fly off the page!
?You about through, there, son?? A large, glowering face hovered over his shoulder. The face and voice were hard and relentless, without the slightest trace of sympathy.
?Oh, I still have to color the sky and the sun,? Billy said. ?I need just a few more minutes. Can I have a few more minutes, pretty, pretty please?? Billy puffed out his cheeks and rolled his eyes.
?That sort of thing doesn?t work in here, son,? the floating head said. ?Just a few more minutes.? The head disappeared.
Billy finished coloring the body and the wings and began to outline the plumage in black. There! A work of art! Coloring the robin?s beak in yellow, he decided to leave the bird?s eye white, a black carton pupil in each socket. As for the sun in the sky, he colored it a simple and unadorned yellow. He resisted drawing eyes and smiling mouths in the brilliant middle, something his grandmother would do with sugar cookies iced in bright yellow frosting.
?You almost ready, son?? The face returned, hovering over Billy?s shoulder.
?Yes, yes, just let me finish the sky,? Billy said. ?Let me finish the sky, and I?ll be ready!? The face vanished.
Picking up a blue crayon, Billy began to scrub the area around the robin and the sun. The blue crayon went from one edge of the page to the next, right over the caption THE ROBIN ARRIVES IN THE SPRING. Billy scrubbed the page with the crayon, against and again, all the while thinking how the sky really wasn?t blue, and how it was all these different colors in the spectrum, and how during different parts of the day it was gray and pink and yellow. Billy scrubbed and scrubbed the page with the blue crayon as buckets of tears cascaded down his face and the crayon broke into two. He was finished.
The door clanging behind him, Billy took his place in between the four uniformed men. Led by a priest muttering in Latin, Billy and the men marched down a very short hallway.