Drawing

“Let’s do drawing,” said Naomi.

“Sure, Sweetie,” said Bobby. “What would you like to draw?”

“Everything!”

“Well, we’ve got all day,” he said; his sister wouldn’t be picking her up till six. “Let’s see what we can do. I’ve got some paper in my printer; we can use that, and…”

“No! Not on paper,” said Naomi emphatically. “You have to draw in a proper book. Then it’s a proper drawing. Do you have a book?”

“Will this do?” he said, producing a hardback notebook with black cover.

“That’s perfect!” said Naomi, and found a good page.

“And let me get some pens, I’m not sure what…”

“I’ve got special pencils,” said Naomi. “I always use them for drawing. You can use them too.” She produced a dozen fat, coloured pencils with natural wood casings, their colour only indicated by the lead.

“Thank you,” said Bobby. “Shall we start?”

Naomi nodded, and said, “I’ll draw me, and you draw you.” She started with a circle for a head, and triangle-dress below; stick arms and legs were followed by pig-tails, hands, and shoes. Bobby drew himself: tall and thin, with red hair and beard. When he’d finished, he looked over Naomi’s drawing. She had added more details to herself. She now had facial features, folds and buttons on her dress, and some elbow and knee details. Much better than he’d expected.

“That’s great!” said Bobby. “How do I look?”

“You look ok,” said Naomi. “Let’s draw some other things.” She drew a star and sunflowers. He drew a tree and snake.

“Do you mind if I go and do a few things?” said Bobby. It wasn’t urgent, just checking his email and Facebook, but his habit was unbreakable.

“Ok,” she said. “But don’t be too long. You have to help me with drawing.”

When he came back after twenty minutes he was amazed. She had filled the page with thick jungle. The first tree, sunflowers, and snake were enclosed within it, with the lone star shining above. It was surprisingly good for a six-year-old.

“You took too long,” she said. “I had to do all the drawing myself.”

“I’m sorry, Naomi, there was something important,” he lied. “But I’m back now. What shall we do?”

“Let’s do colouring. Us first. I’ll do me, and you do you.” She filled in her dress bright blue, added shading in the creases, and brightened up the front and sides. She made her skin a realistic milky-golden, and her hair brown-black. She got the hues just right. Bobby thought, she’s got some talent, this one, and began to colour himself. He didn’t quite get it right though. His skin was the colour of potatoes, and his hair and beard seemed fire-engine accessories. He wasn’t pleased with his purple shirt either, which he’d wanted to make black; and was he really wearing turquoise trousers?

Naomi giggled. “You look funny!” she said. “Do you prefer that you, or this you?”

“I think I like this me,” said Bobby, tapping his chest.

“I like the other one!” said Naomi. “Shall I help you finish him?” Bobby nodded. “Ok, you can finish the other things.”

Naomi selected her pencils and got busy. Bobby didn’t want to waste too much time on this. He quickly coloured the star, sunflowers, snake, and tree. He started feeling drowsy. He’d forgotten how tiring it was playing with kids. They seemed to have unlimited energy and imagination, and were happy just being themselves. It was good being a kid! And it was tiring being an adult, with or without them. Even more tiring than usual today; what was going on?

Bobby realized that he was somewhere else. Where was the cabin? Where was Naomi? Where was he? All he could see was jungle everywhere. It was not green, but white – a ghost jungle. He looked at his hands, his arms, his legs – they were coloured naturally – but everything around him was plain.

Leaves rustled in the distance. He wondered whether to hide but then thought, “what from?” and stayed where he was. Leaves quivered close by, and a moment later, Naomi burst out of them. “Hey, you’re here too, Uncle Bobby! Isn’t this fun?”

“Where are we, Naomi?” Bobby was dazzled, and disorientated.

“We’re in the drawing of course.”

What – actually in the drawing?

“Yes, that’s what happens when you colour it nicely,” said Naomi. “Didn’t your parents ever take you to art galleries?”

“Sure they did. But only into the galleries. Not into the paintings.” Bobby couldn’t believe he was even having this conversation.

“Didn’t you ever go into the paintings?” Bobby shook his head. “Oh, I only mean into them a little bit, to look around. Only the painter can go into them properly, and see what they really are. But see – You came into my drawing! I know I helped you, but now you’re here. Let me find some other people.” She skipped back through the leaves, but then poked her head out and said, “Just wait here; I won’t be too long.”

Bobby sat on a tree stump – was there logging in drawings, he wondered? – trying to make sense of his situation. He felt cool darkness and turned around. Naomi’s sunflowers towered over him, their heads filled with teeth rather than seeds – looking like octopus mouths – walking hulkily towards him. Bobby ran away from them into a forest clearing. High above, Naomi’s star began pulsing and screeching. It sent down red death rays. Bobby ran faster and further, till he reached a giant tree, and became tangled in its strange branches. He sensed movement around him, a slithering and hissing. It was his own snake about to attack him in his own tree. He shouted, “Help me!”

There was a rustling nearby. Naomi popped out of the jungle. “Oh, sorry,” she said. “I should have given you some pencils. It’s hard the first time, till you get used to it. Then if you don’t like something, you just rub it out and redraw it. But don’t rush it this time; remember to colour it in nicely.

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