"Whose painting is this? It looks like a lovely house with a purple sky."
I loved purple, still do but it bordered on obsession back in the day. No one raised his or her hand.
"Children, you really have to remember to put your names in the corner of the page so we know whose painting it is."
I figured it was time to end the suspense. Everyone had gawked at the painting in question long enough. I walked to the front of the room trying not to step on the other children who were all sitting Indian style. Mrs. Travoligne handed me the painting with a big shit-eating grin. She loved her job.
I held the painting in front of me for a moment to examine my own work. It really wasnít a picture to be proud of, not even for a kindergarten student. The house was wobbly, looked like a strong breeze would blow it over. Iíd have fired the contractor who built it lickety split, the drunk fuck, there would have been no other explanation for the workmanship. In front of the house stood a woman, on the fringe of being a mutant, who lacked breasts or any other discernible feminine characteristics. Her pet, what I presumed was a three-legged mixed breed mutt, sat next to her with what must have been a three-foot-long tongue hanging out of the corner of its slobbering little jawbox. The bushes surrounding the house were fuzzy and seemed to be evaporating into the purplish, crap-colored horizon. The paper was about 24" x 18" and proved quite unwieldy for a five year old. What a piece of shit, I thought to myself and sat back down. I took responsibility for five other nameless pieces that afternoon.
The purple-sky painting was not mine. None of them were mine. I was busy playing doctor with Dena Thimm and trying to bribe Arnold, the smart kid, to teach me how to read. Stealing conflicted with the basic core values Mrs. Travoligne was attempting to instill in us but I just looked upon it as sharing. That was another principle integral to our kindergarten time.
The way I saw it, I was doing good on a number of levels. I had art, hideous looking art but art nonetheless, to show my mother when she picked me up from school everyday. Second, I was giving a home to some other poor kindergarten slobís wretched excuse for artistic expression; that should have instilled in them some pride. Third, Mrs. Travoligne laid off my back during naptime because she thought I was just a productive little machine so I got to paint (play doctor) while the others slept. As far as she was concerned, I was making the most of my school day, exploring the depths of my artistic abilities. And last but certainly not least, I was learning, at an early age, how to multitask. From my teacherís perspective, I was studious and hardworking. Meanwhile, I was buzzing away socially, drinking up the possibilities that lie within the inherent differences of the male and female anatomy. Iíll show you mine if you show me yours.
It was a nice little racket I had going, the whole kindergarten scene. That was until; I switched from the PM to the AM session. Even as a child, I wasnít a morning person. The only thing that could inspire me to get up early once a week was Saturday morning cartoons and even that proved troublesome.
Ms. Manzi taught AM, it was right across the hall but she proved to be an evil bitch from the outset. When we got to school, we would all go out into the hallway at the same time to put our jackets and bookbags away in the non-combination lockers. They would wean us onto combinations in future years. Every morning, I would come in and find all sorts of shit in my locker; snow boots, a jacket, a bookbag, a stuffed animal, baseball glove, tons of shit. I would immediately toss it over my shoulder to make room for my own gear. This went on everyday for a little over two weeks. One day Manzi cornered me during playtime and asked me if I had anything to return. Shit, I thought, sheís on to me about the paintings.
"No," I said.
She took me out into the hallway and showed a pile of clothes and toys that were strewn all over the hallway.
"Whose are those?" she asked.
I donít know. She dragged me over and made me pick up the pile and shove it in my locker. Then she proceeded to lecture me about the importance of sharing my space. Apparently, we shared lockers, the PM and the AM classes. Well no one ever told me that. Manzi threw me in the corner and I was forced to look on for two days while the others had playtime. Fuckiní Manzi, way to teach me right from wrong.
But she taught me, Iíll give her that much. Sitting inside while I watched all the kids playing outside, I learned that getting caught sucked. Then again, I also learned that she left her pocket book inside too.