The old man looked with satisfaction at the table in front of him, even as he raised the paint brush off it for the last time. In intertwined tendrils, a brilliant mosaic of colors furnished its top, brilliant and soothing at the same time. He smiled a little, moving the table to the exact center of the small dining room, the floor painted in the same brilliant shapes, while overlapping rainbows formed curtains over the window. The brilliance of the colors was dazzling, but it was home to the white haired child, old in years though he was. The simple smile persisted on his face as he cleaned and put away his equipment, walking into the equally small living room. The same colors were represented here, in different forms and designs, still blending with their beauty. The glass of water he had set down on the coffee table was grasped and swiftly downed, and he sat down with a satisfied ‘ahh’. He had spent all the day in his working, and this was his rewarding break; the other reward being, of course, the beauty of the table awaiting him in the next room.
Evening was beginning to draw near, and the man welcomed it with a quiet gladness, another worthy day ended. He got to his feet, walking back into the dining room to look at his table. It was colder, he noticed, as he had left a window open, and he walked over to it, pausing to look out. His eyes rested upon the near road, and he started, eyes glued to the figures moving down it.
A younger man would have been in action now, hiding or running, but the old painter stood there, watching them with eyes both old and young. Eyes that were tired just the same. They passed out of view, and his eyes closed. Even to one as consigned as he, there was still hope.
There was a crash as the door was thrown open, and his heart wrenched at the scars he imagined were laid into the wood. He did not turn, did not even open his eyes. He heard booted feet and the bored tones of the soldiers in their abominable language.
Feet creaked the boards of the next room, and he turned slowly, eyes coming to meet those of the soldier there. He had little cause to move, and before he could he was sent flying, even as farther away he could hear the sound of looting, of destruction. Each one sent tears from his eyes, each one spelled ruin for what he had crafted. The soldier that stood above him was clad in grey, his face pale, and almost colorless itself, his eyes a steel-grey. He stood out from the room around him, his drabness scorning their brilliance. His eyes were cold as he leveled his gun at the helpless man, still clad in his paint splattered smock that made him as colorful as his home.
Then a shot rang out, and his colors were consumed by red.
Rainbows make me want to cry.
Surely you’ve seen one. Surely you’ve seen how dreary they are. They’re big frowns plastered across the sky. And their bright colors are incongruently cheerful. It doesn’t make sense. It’s illogical. Irrationality in nature makes me want to weep.
The frown itself is bad enough. It makes me want to frown. But the colors mock my woes and make me want to cry. It’s like the rainbow is frowning at me, and then pretends to be cheerful just to make me feel my own grief more keenly.
A rainbow is like a sad clown. Full of color, but woeful in disposition. It only makes it all the sadder, and even a bit scary, now, because we’re talking about clowns. Clowns are terrifying. Be honest, you’re afraid of them, too. But that’s another topic entirely.
Just the other day, for instance, I was walking along a path through a meadow. Well, that goes without saying, I suppose; I wasn’t skipping along the path. Nobody really skips. Except Dorothy. And if I drove along the path I would have given a lot of people heart attacks. If you’re the sadistic sort, you might do that; but I’m not, and I didn’t. I might have been riding along the path, of course, but I don’t know how to ride a bicycle, and I never ride anything with a mind of its own.
So I was walking along this path. The ground was wet and muddy after the rain and it was dirtying my shoes and splashing all over my nice clean clothes. I hate mud, too, but that’s another story.
I was walking along this path because I didn’t like walking through the tall grasses which always make me itch, and I can’t stand the smell of flowers, and all the bugs disturb me, and of course there could always be snakes. And you never know what could be lurking in those verdant trees, like cats or angry birds or ballerinas. Ballerinas are possibly even more frightening than clowns or bugs. In fact, they probably are.
As I say, I was walking along this path. I wasn’t feeling very happy, which I might have been, if I hadn’t been feeling so sad. It’s hard to be happy when you’re very sad. You can be cheerful when you’re just a little sad, but when you’re grievous it’s hard to be even cheerful, and you can never be happy when you’re sad, of course.
Where was I? That’s right, I was walking along the path, because I don’t like walking through the meadow; and I wasn’t feeling happy, because I was feeling sad; and I looked up. I was looking down most of the way, but it’s hard to see where you’re going when you look down, so I looked up. And I saw a rainbow. It was vividly colorful and wearing an obdurately melancholy moue.
And it made me sad.
Coloring Between the Lines, Thinking Outside the Box
"He can't stay in my class! I can't take it anymore!"
Words escaped mischievously under the crack of the door that led to the principal's office. Miss Dause's shrill voice could be heard harping at the principal. When the child leaned over in his seat, he could see the principal, Dr. Smead, sitting at her desk through the glass that was built into the doorframe.
"Miss Dause. You have half the year left with him in your class. Tough it out." Dr. Smead told her, taking a break from massaging her temples and placing her wire glasses back on the bridge of her nose.
Miss Dause tried to quiet her voice enough to keep it from drifting out to the waiting room, but he heard her hiss anyways. "That child is evil, I swear."
He saw the principal look through the window beside the door at him, and he made no attempt to disguise the fact that he had been eavesdropping. He grinned widely. He had just recently lost one of his front teeth, unfortunately. It detracted from his strapping good looks, he thought.
Miss Dause stepped deliberately between the boy and the principal. He couldn't see around her ample frame, high-piled hair and heeled height, no matter how much he leaned in his seat.
"Just look at what he drew!"
He heard the flapping and slamming of a paper on the principal's desk.
"The assignment was to draw a rainbow," Miss Dause explained.
He heard Dr. Smead let out an exaggerated sigh. Then she said, "Dylan, come in."
He smiled his imperfect smile and strutted through the door which his terse second grade teacher was holding open impatiently for him.
"Thank you, Miss Dause!" He chirped.
His teacher ignored him and snapped, "Explain this to Dr. Smead." and shoved his picture he'd only just drawn at him.
"Oh! Well you see, Mrs. Principal, ma'am. Miss Dause gave us all new colored pencils in class today! And the spelling word of the day was 'rainbow', and we had to illustrate it!" Dylan held up his picture for the principal to see.
"Go on," Dr. Smead folded her hands in her lap, and Dylan could tell she was trying not to look amused.
"My mommy, I think you met her last time I got sent here to your office, she always tells me that leprechauns live at the end of rainbows and guard lots of gold! You know? That story?" He looked to his principal to make sure she was following along.
"Well, I couldn't take the gold if the leprechaun was guarding it, right? So I fixed that! The leprechaun is out of the way and he won't bother me when I go to take the gold! I didn't draw anything wrong!" He looked pleadingly and a bit triumphantly at Dr. Smead. Surely, she couldn't argue with his logic.
"Miss Dause," The principal said. "I have to say, the child's reasoning is sound."
Dylan swore he could see all the makeup she had on flake off, Miss Dause's jaw dropped so dramatically. "He drew a leprechaun roasting on a spit! That is not okay!" She shrieked.
"I used all the colors you gave me!" He protested. "Look! Red blood, orange fire, yellow sun, green grass, blue sky –"
"You're in second grade! You shouldn't be drawing things like this! What would your mother say? What does she let you watch? For heaven's sake…"
Talking over Miss Dause's tirade, Dr. Smead said to him, "Dylan, you can go back to class now. I'll send an aid down to supervise while I have a talk with Miss Dause. Thank you for your time."
SUSY HAD THE POWER TO TURN THINGS INTO ANY COLOR OF THE RAINBOW SHE CHOSE. It was a very potent power. She was going to make all the difference in the world with it.
..........By that, of course, one can only assume that all the difference in the world equated to making children happier, and she was most often seen changing the colors of balloons and carnival candy. It was a pretty cool benefit, actually. She got to see the smiles of children all the time and she let them believe in magic and all that. In her mind, it was certainly making a difference.
..........Then her sister, Katy, found out that she wasn't just switching balloons and that it was an actual superpower.
.........."Wait, seriously, can you actually just change the color of stuff at will?" she asked.
.........."Yes. So?" asked Susy.
.........."Can you change the color of my eyes?" Katy asked. "I always wanted blue eyes, but I didn't want them to be contacts. I want genuinely blue eyes."
.........."What's wrong with the ones you have?" asked Susy. "I always liked your brown eyes."
.........."But blue would be cooler," said Katy. "Why not? You have your superpowers. They're meant to be used, and you like using them to make life more fun. Why not make my eyes blue?"
.........."I don't know," said Susan. "With great power comes great responsibility. I think your eyes were meant to be brown."
.........."What's the difference between my eyes and those balloons?" asked Katy.
.........."Well, a lot of things," said Susan. "You're a piece of art already so beautifully made. I'd hate to alter it. Balloons aren't that special. I don't think it's right. Please don't peer pressure me."
.........."Alright, but could you change the colors of some of my clothes so that they match?"
.........."Well, I guess I do that with my stuff every day," said Susan. She looked down at her Sunday clothes, which included a playful red tie half-taught around her neck and a red trench coat that made her feel nice and pirate-y. Red was her Sunday color, and she had orange for Monday, yellow for Tuesday, green for Wednesday, and so on, ending with violet for Saturday. "Sure. Is there anything you want?"
.........."My prom dress isn't the right shade of pink. I'd also like some prismatic blue highlights," she said. "Something very artistic. Hey, there you go! Why don't you use your powers to be really artistic? You'd be the best artist in the world!"
..........Susy liked that idea. After changing Katy's clothes, she went out to do a lot of "painting", although it was really just imagining any colorful image that came to her mind and willing it onto the canvas. She figured people really enjoyed that, too, just like they enjoyed balloons. It was different, but she still saw that it touched the world in new and unique ways. She even impressed a guy named Emperor Kraggh who did a lot of black-and-white pencil drawings and didn't normally see the value in colorful art.
..........She painted chapels and buildings and giant murals with all the colors of the rainbow, glorifying sunsets and country life, city life, and life. She painted weather, childhood, adulthood, and the many things that people experienced between birth and death. It was all glorious, and she was sure she was making a difference.
..........Then one day a man in a white suit and cape came to her. He had many, many superpowers and called himself Superman. "Susan," he said. "I heard you change the colors of clothes."
.........."Wow, Superman. Yes, I do. What do you want?"
.........."I also heard that you change the colors of balloons," he said. "Someone named Clark Kent wrote a very interesting story about it. I love how simple colors make such a huge difference in peoples' lives and spread so much love. I have a question."
.........."Could you change the colors of my suit? They're all white, but I want a prism of the primary colors. My home planet is a world of crystals and light. I think it's a little more fitting."
.........."Alright," said Susy. She touched Superman on the chest and a spectrum of three bright colors spread throughout: red, blue, and yellow, as bright as the laserlights from the crystals on Krypton.
.........."Thank you," said Superman, and he flew off.
..........Susy felt silly. She had no powers compared to him. And he was making a true difference. Then, a while later, it occurred to her that she created what might have been the mot iconic color scheme ever. And she lived on happily. It turned out that she really did make all the difference in the world with her power.
Cassandra O’Connor was a Catholic in name. She was a Catholic in habits. She was a Catholic in how her friends at public high school always teased her for dressing modestly, never “checking out” any of the guys, never cursing or cussing, et cetera. That was enough for her parents, and that was enough for most of the people at her church, who nearly fell over themselves in graciousness of a young teenager’s willingness to devote herself to such a noble philosophy.
She had the Ten Commandments engraved in her memory as if her brain was stone. She followed them all to the letter (especially “thy shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife” because it was easy not to be jealous of ladies who looked more like crows than sapient beings). She said Grace before every meal. Her family ate together, except for lunch when Cassandra’s father was at work, but her parents never said the prayer; they wanted her to recite it so they could, with misty eyes, consume their food proud to have raised such a perfect daughter.
At youth group, kids always asked Cassandra how she did it, “it” being dealing with not being allowed within a foot of a video game controller; having no personal computer or a cell phone with internet access; and only watching, reading, and listening to Christian media because other sorts didn’t provide the proper edification. They always seemed shocked when she shrugged nonchalantly and, with the most blasé tone, responded, “I’ve never really thought about it.” She spoke the truth.
Still, it grated on her.
She felt its friction whenever she dropped to her knees as the Eucharist was prepared. She felt it whenever her parents ordered her to go to confession and she would recite a few regular, tiny items: She’d gotten annoyed at a friend; she’d heard and enjoyed the pumping bass of a rap song someone was playing at high volume at an intersection; she’d (accidentally) not held open a door for someone. She felt it when, every night, she made the sign of the cross — right hand to her forehead, the base of her chest, her left shoulder and her right — and prayed for God to grant her a new morn as He had done for the past fourteen years of her existence.
That friction resided somewhere within her heart. Her façade of perfection was unsteady. Should she not feelhappy? — she was a Catholic girl in a tiny town with devoted friends and loving parents. What else had she the right to ask for, to pray for?
She looked at the world and wondered, Why are those who are needy prevented from obtaining sustenance?
She looked at her parents and wondered, Why was I not given a choice in becoming Christian?
She looked to heaven and wondered, Why, O God — why do You not present Yourself to me?
She had never seen God. He was as mystical as the fabled leprechaun gold at the end of a rainbow. Her brand of “Christianity” required no faith, only maintenance of a satisfactory outward appearance. As long as she kept her mouth and doings clean, she was Catholic. But that, she knew, was the equivalent of believing something is alive because it moves. Trees move in the wind; she didn’t consider them alive. Trees, she reflected, also had no way of telling people their true nature.
Cassandra would not rock the boat. She kept going to church, kept praying even though it left an empty feeling in her heart, because what was the alternative? Some other religion? Atheism? Nothing sufficient.
Nevertheless, Cassandra O’Connor was not a Catholic in her heart.