Cult Illustration #10, ball point pen on paper, 11" x 8.5"

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either
the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.


Art. It was period three with Kindergarten. Thirty two 5 year olds were frantic with activity. Their piercing cries filled the air with such cacophony, Ms. X felt faint. With a swipe of her hand the lights were off and their screeches halted as if they had all been seized by a ghost. She flicked them on again and found a little opening of silence in which to command them, without a hint of the desperation that had begun to settle in, “Let’s take a nap!” Magically they sat down and cradled their heads in their arms on the art tables, in ensemble, appearing to Ms. X as though she had just orchestrated a lovely ballet. So graceful and expedient was their decent into folded silence, Ms. X was held captive, but only for a second. She quickly picked up “The Clever Crow” book and started telling the story, by memory, sprinkled with facts about the trickster birds, and then she read some of the cute rhymes from the book. The crow liked to steal sparkly things from people. The refrain was Haw! Haw! Haw! But Ms. X always used her realistic sounding crow call, Caw! Caw! Caw! The children were enthralled.

Once finished, she demonstrated how to fold the large rectangular sheet of paper into a shape that resembled a big crow head, which she quickly colored. Then she took another piece and taped it to the wall and demonstrated how one might draw circles and triangles and wing shapes to create a bird. Now she set the children free, telling them to create their own crow.

Very quickly the complaints started, “Mine is not good.” “I made a mistake”. “I need more paper”. It was always the same. Some kind of conditioned response that sickened her as one after another tried to throw their paper in the garbage. She was quick though, like a rescuer dodging here and there, quietly urging them to keep working, cajoling them by making a few crayon strokes over theirs, complimenting them and asking them not to give up. But the whines and cries multiplied.

Then the passion struck Ms. X in the unpredictable flurry that always seized her when she felt that some formless yet powerful injustice had been revealed. Her response was never one that could be analyzed because it came from somewhere beyond logic.

She lifted a paper and called out to the class, “Look what Amber made. Only a child could do this! An adult could never draw a bird like this! A famous artist could never make something so fine, why? Because they don’t know how to do it anymore! Only you can do it!” She had their attention again but even she did not understand how deeply they understood her. She grabbed another piece that was filled with bold scribbles and bright colors, she asked the name of the owner, because she usually could not read the name tags she had asked them to make, with crayon on fat pieces of masking tape.

Armed with their name, she thrust the paper in the air and said “Andre said he couldn’t do it but look what he made, look at the energy, the firey color, isn’t it wonderful? His Crow has orange wings! Everyone’s is different and everyone’s is special because it is unique like you!” A small girl cocked her head up at Ms. X and asked what unique meant. She called out in her earnest voice, that because each one of them was different, each drawing would be different and it would be perfect, and like them, one of a kind.

“There are no mistakes!” she shouted.

No manual in the world could have brought forth the explosion of creativity that emerged from this class as the children diligently did as they pleased, creating boisterous colors and lines that could rival any piece in any museum. Confidence and acceptance filled the room and then the usual happened as the children approached her one by one until she was circled with little people politely, quietly, asking her to show the class their drawing and she did, finding something relevant and enthusiastic to say about each and every one. Even she did not know how the words came to her.

Two boys had gone to the restroom, which was in another building and so they had to travel outdoors and back, (a wondrous and typical thing in Florida schools, where the multiple buildings are provided with walkways, sheltered overhead to protect pedestrians from rain and heat). When they returned, they burst back into the room, calling to Ms X, holding the double doors wide open, “There are Crows out here! Come quick!” She wanted to run out to look and her impulse was to rush everyone out, but first she would take a look, herself. She was by the doors now, but hearing chairs fall behind her and screams of delight she turned to see her students leaping, jumping, crawling, scuffling, and scrambling toward her, and she panicked. Her hands went up in quivering protest, but there was no real truth in her objection and the mob was surging on the exit. Ms. X had to gain control fast, to make herself understood but she was too slow in her footing, too conflicted in her soul. Children flowed past her like water around a boulder and when she turned around to the doors, the two boys had become serious and one looked up at her with a very grownup knowing, a bit scared, a bit guilty, and he and his friend pushed the kids back, with outstretched arms and splayed fingers moving as if swimming against the tide. The boys managed to force the heavy doors in on the burgeoning crowd. “No, no!” he commanded. The other cried out, “They are gone now, the Crows flew away!”

When the children left, Ms. X turned to her Substitute Teacher’s Manual. “Avoid the Coercion trap. Ignore the Inconsequential. Actions that are not severe enough to cause danger should be overlooked. Only use physical restraint when someone’s in harm’s way.”

She so wanted the class to see the Crows and to talk to them the way the child in Clever Crow talked to her bird. She wanted to see the children in art class run out into the sun light, tumble in the grass, look up at the sky, and flap their arms, singing “Caw! Caw! Caw!”.

Whether she completed her day feeling failed or artful, she always felt stupefied. She thought it good to go home to an empty hovel, with no pressures, no emotions or demands. It was a good thing that it was March and the large Orange tree outside her cabin had become burdened with yellow fruits. They were half ripe but perfect for a tangy drink. She would go out and pick four and press them for their oily tart juice and mix it with vodka. When April came round the oranges would be sweet & sour, and by May they were like candy. This was an old fashioned tree, 30 feet tall, not stunted like the newer grafted varieties. When the lower branches were bare, she used a ladder and then she would be up amid the thorny arms of her tree accruing deep wounds as she stretched and balanced this way and that to get the prizes. Finally, she would have to wait for summer storms and gusty winds to blow down those from the top, but subbing was over by then.

As she sipped her heavenly cocktail, she tried not to think about her day at school, but a face or two would always appear in her mind’s eye. She did not shower quickly as she had done when returning from the Foundations’ gardens, after a day of ceremony. Then, she would peel off her blood and shit spattered clothes and soak them in bleach. She would shower long in hot water, over and over again scrubbing with soap, but as she cleansed herself she felt in her head, that she understood life. She felt peace. There was something compelling about opening a vein, something like reproducing reality that kept one longing for the experience over and over again.

After subbing in school she went home so unraveled she couldn’t even shower. She left the germs and lint and hairs and sticky fingerprints of the day marinate on her being overnight. She would sometimes wake in the early morning hours, well before rising time, feeling dirty, and wish she had showered the night before but the thought never occurred to her when she entered home, numb and silent, after school.



Cult Illustration # 24, ball point pen on paper, 11" x 8.5"


© 2017 Lea Atiq, all rights reserved