well into her 'schooling,' Melanie, having been reintroduced to all her teachers, was
settling into the new routine. Her classes were as varied as the personalities of those
who taught them, ranging from the challenging intensity of Julian's, to the sweet
nebulosity of Mr. Jimmy's. Theirs were her favorites, oddly. In between were Sister Dana's
Bible Studiessimply a continuation of the evening readings (which, after being
tacitly curtailed, had now resumed), Drawing with Sister Morgana birdlike nun with a
passionate love of nature, Math from Mrs. Lowrywho really was a math teacher so she
knew what she was doing (though she had a knack for making it uninteresting), Psychology
from Sister Deborahwhose choosing to teach by lecture was unfortunateshe had a
speech defect that made the most serious things she said sound funny, and finally English
from Mrs. Soamesa stickler for proper grammar with a dogged faith in
composition-writing as the key to mastering language. Few of the courses were likely to
rate college accreditation, but they provided stimulus enough to keep the young girl's
"That's the chess player, isn't it?"
"Your drawing skills are very well developed, Melanie. This is
excellent. Where did you learn?"
"May I see your other sketches?"
She handed over the pad she had been given the previous week.
The chess player again. What's
"Ah, yes. Here's another of him
And another. Mr. Papp seems
to be a favorite subject."
"He holds still a lot. It's easy to see him in my head."
"All of these are from memory?"
She turned another page. Julian's livid spectacles glared out from the
paper, enlarged, distorted, the charcoal used to render them ground in savagely. Blind yet
seeing, the dominating lenses seemed to emanate a miscreant emotion. They attacked and at
the same time lureda dramatic combination.
"This one 's very different from the rest."
The girl glanced up, noting the drawing to which the nun referred, then
continued with her work.
"I was mad at him that day. He can be mean sometimes."
"He looks positively ferocious here. What did he do to make you
draw him like this?"
"He said something nasty about a friend of mine."
"I'll have to watch my tongue."
The next page was blank, though the shadow of another sketch showed
through. Sister Morgan turned the page. The shadow darkened. Another turn revealed a
strange looking man with exaggerated hands, and an even more extravagant right eye. He sat
amid a fantastic assortment of stuff, holding what looked like a tiny wooden man.
"I don't recognize the name. Or the face. Is he a patient?"
"No. He's somebody I know, or used to."
Melanie suddenly remembered the drawings she had done at the back of
the pad. She blushed. She did not want the nun to see them. Pretending to continue with
her work, she listened while the pages rustled, hoping with all her might that the nun
would stop before the last few were turned.
Finding a long succession of empty pages, Sister Morgan flipped the
covers closed, replacing the pad at the foot of Melanie's chair.
"Have you shown your work to Sister Zoe?"
"I haven't shown anybody. Except you."
"I think you should. You're very talented, Melanie."
The nun watched as slender fingers guided the charcoal. They moved with
a confidence unusual for a teenager. The rigidity, the awkward allegiance to
representational form typical of adolescent art were nowhere evident. Melanie's images
were bold and expressive, imbued with a candid energy that captured essences. Crude, of
course. Na�ve. But tapping levels well beneath the superficial.
With a piece of chalk Melanie colored the pallor of Julian's face and
"If you try to imagine your strokes beginning behind the form,
then wrapping around out front, you'll enhance the sense of depth."
"That's it. And don't forget that negative shapes create positive
shapes outside of them. It's like that checkerboard you've sketched. Are those squares
black on a field of white, or white on a field of black? Understand what I mean?"
"I think so. I sometimes look at Julian that way. Everything
outside of him has shape and color, and he's just this blank white space.
"Judging from your work, it seems you feel a lot of things about
Julian. That one you have there is very sympathetic."
The girl considered the pasty flesh, the masked eyes looking out
through lines and smudges. She had made him sad this time.
"He can be nice, too. I think I draw him so much because I'm
trying to figure him out. Mostly I feel sorry for him."
"Because he looks so odd?"
"No. Because he's so lonely."