“We don’t draw that animal in this school, Frank. You know that”.
Jonas leans over the table as he – disapprovingly – locks eyes with Frank. Jonas is one of the adults in the pre-school. The scribbles on the paper really don’t look like anything, Frank thinks, but he just whispered to Chelsea that he wanted to draw a cat with fangs, laser eyes and flaming rockets instead of paws. Then Chelsea told Jonas.
“You have to understand,” Chelsea tells Frank, “that Albert is going to be very upset if you draw a cat. Do you really not understand? You can draw anything else, so why do have to choose a cat?”
Chelsea is a child just like Frank, but she talks like an adult, Frank thinks. She keeps going.
“You know, Albert’s cat was run over by a car last year. So in his home, they of course don’t draw cats anymore, and now Albert’s older brother thinks that it’s best for Albert if he doesn’t have to be reminded of his dead cat here in pre-school either. So we all agreed not to draw cats. There are thousands of other animals you can choose,” Chelsea says.
[FRANK THINKS TO HIMSELF: Albert’s brother is much older than Albert and is presumably living somewhere far away in a place called Zwedencat. He has only visited the school once – wearing a fox fur coat and a pair of crocodile leather boots. He asked all the kids next to Albert’s locker, if they wanted nine lives…]
Chelsea interrupts Frank’s thoughts.
“How would you feel if someone drew Teddy?”
“You mean our old hamster?”, Frank asks.
[FRANK THINKS TO HIMSELF: A few years ago we had a hamster in our home. Teddy was its name. The whole family seemed to have forgotten about Teddy when the rotating wheel one day stopped and Teddy collapsed. The end of a hamster’s life. My sensitive aunt was visiting that day, so dad had to bury Teddy in the garden and stick a wooden spoon in the ground. “Otherwise we would have made a soup of that damn hamster or thrown him on the fire”, dad said and laughed out loud when my aunt left.]
Frank thinks it is a brilliant idea to draw Teddy.
“Yes, Chelsea! Maybe we can draw Teddy as some sort of HamsterMAN with a cape, superpowers, a lightsaber and …”
“Calm down both of you.”
Jonas interrupts again.
“No need to be upset, Frank. Let’s just say that we won’t draw cats or hamsters. Then no one will be upset or sad”, Jonas says.
Frank is puzzled.
“But what if I give the hamster a lightsaber and a …”
“Easy, easy, Frank”, Jonas interjects, “as I said, no need to get so upset. I will keep an eye on all the others, so no one draws your old friend or anyone that looks like him”.
Jonas winks at Frank. With two fingers he points at the other kids and then at his own eyes.
Frank looks at the drawings around the table. There are houses everywhere. A big triangle on top of a square and three small rectangles – two for the windows and one for the door.
Sudden tiredness hits Frank’s body, and he doesn’t feel like drawing anymore. He gets down from his chair, picks up his jacket and walks towards the door and out on the playground.
When Frank enters opens the gate to the pre-school the next day, he has forgotten all about the drawing incident. Maybe he will build a big and awesome sandcastle today, he thinks, as he slowly crosses the playground and walks towards the entrance.
“Did you draw a cat yesterday, Frank?”, a deep voice asks.
Frank turns around. The principal, Thomas, is standing in the doorway of the activity room. White smoke is coming from his mouth. With a pipe in his hand, he points at Frank.
“Be honest, Frank”, Thomas says.
Now Albert shows up behind Thomas. With sweaty hair, he stares at Frank, who slowly begins talking about yesterday’s vision of a cat.
“Well, I wanted to draw a cat with body stripes, laser instead of eyes, rockets as paws and …”
“STOP! Dear Frank, don’t you see how upset Albert gets when you talk like that?”, Thomas asks and begins puffing his pipe.
Hmm, not really, Frank thinks. Albert is most of all looking sweaty and looks exhausted because he – as always – has been jumping around in the activity room. Frank doesn’t say that out loud.
“I mean, it was just a drawing…”
The pipe is back in Thomas’ hand.
“That cat meant so much to Albert. Right, Albert?”
Though Thomas is asking a lot of questions, he never waits for the answers.
“Albert’s older brother called me last night because Chelsea had told Albert about your drawing. Then Albert’s family had to gather in a hurry to discuss, whether Albert can even stay in this school or not. Do you understand that, Frank?”
What? Stay in this school? Frank has no idea what the principal is talking about.
“In this school, we are proud to say that we tolerate everybody. This means that here there is room for e-ve-ry-bo-dy. Also, those who don’t like cats. Or … no, I mean, those who really like cats – maybe even love cats – but who don’t like drawings of cats”, Thomas says.
[FRANK THINKS TO HIMSELF: Tole-what? I understand less and less of what comes out of that smoky mouth. Wow, Thomas is really fighting to keep his pipe alive. And now Albert ran away. Hmm, what can I draw then? Maybe a rat or a wolf or a horse with bloody teeth and a sword and…]
Thomas interrupts Frank’s thoughts.
“So now I have decided that we won’t draw any animals in this school. None. No cats, no hamsters, no horses. None. NO ANIMALS. Period!”
[FRANK THINKS TO HIMSELF: No animals? Holy ruler, what am I going to draw then? A house like everybody else? No, I cannot do that. Hmm, unless I draw a set of massive rockets so it can fly far away. And a jet engine. With red and orange flames on the walls!]
Thomas keeps on struggling with his pipe, while Frank discretely heads for the entrance. He drops his jacket on the floor and walks towards the table where the other kids are sitting. They all draw the same as yesterday: Triangles, squares and rectangles.
Before Frank picks out the first colour, he hears Chelsea’s blubber.
“I really miss my house, when I look at all these happy drawings. You guys don’t know what it feels like to move into a stupid apartment,” Chelsea stutter with a husky voice, “Is it okay if we all stop drawing houses?”
Frank doesn’t hear the answer. He quickly jumps out of his chair and begins running full speed in the direction of the activity room. To jump around and get sweaty hair with Albert.