Keven Fletcher (revised 2018)
Arya peered into the dining room. Her parents sat with their laptops open, paper strewn across the table. Clearly there was a lot of work to be done.
On these mornings, Arya could pretty much do what she wanted. Her tablet beckoned: she could message friends, she could watch a show, she could play a game.
But noticing how hard her parents were working at their table, she decided that she’d do something for them instead. Something they’d really appreciate.
So Arya pulled out her sketch pad and best pencil crayons. Sitting cross-legged on her bedroom floor, she drew the outline of their home. In the front window, she placed her parents with big smiles on their faces. All along the bottom of the house, she pencilled a garden filled with brightly coloured flowers. A bird flew across the top of the page and at the upper, left-hand corner she drew a sun with rays shining down. Finally, she drew a beautiful green tree.
At least, it was supposed to be beautiful. Arya frowned at her tree. To her it looked like a big stick of broccoli, not a tree at all. It ruined everything. Arya ripped the sheet out of the sketch pad, crumpled it into a ball, and left the room.
She wandered over to her big, curly haired dog, Olive. Noticing that the poor puppy was badly in need of grooming, Arya decided that this would be her gift to her parents. Because the job always created a mess, she grabbed the brush and led Olive onto the back lawn. After a solid twenty minutes of brushing, Olive was beginning to look like a show dog.
That’s when Olive decided that it was belly rub time. She flipped onto her back. Arya watched in horror as her puppy, tail wagging, wriggled against the ground, entangling her fur with bits of grass and twigs. It was like Olive did it on purpose. Defeated, Arya moped back into the house, dog in tow.
Getting a drink of water, Arya calmed herself down. So what if the drawing and the dog hadn’t worked out. There must be something she could do for her parents. Making room for her dirty glass in the sink, she realized that this could be her gift. She would wash the pile of dishes herself, no machine necessary. She filled the sink with hot water and squeezed in the soap until bubbles formed.
She worked quickly, reaching further and further down the counter for the remaining dishes. Stretching out her soapy fingers for a cup, it slipped from her grasp, teetered on the counter’s edge, and fell. Her mother’s favourite coffee mug. She picked up one of the shattered pieces and got poked by a shard.
Tears welled up in her eyes as a tiny drop of blood formed on the tip of her finger. She was done.
Running into the dining room, she poured out her disappointment: the ruined picture, the dishevelled dog, the broken mug. Everything was supposed to be perfect and everything had fallen apart.
Arya’s parents got up from their seats and gave her a hug. Her mom didn’t seem mad about the mug and they even thanked her for being so thoughtful towards them when she could have been doing things for herself. That’s what mattered, they said.
They checked her finger and cleared away the broken mug. Giving her another hug, they told her that she was wonderful.
Arya didn’t feel wonderful. She went to her room, sat in the middle of the floor, and frowned.
She sat there in the quiet for so long that she began to notice little things. The crumpled up picture on the floor. The slight smell of Olive on her shirt. The tingling sensation on her fingertip. Arya took a deep breath, got up off the floor, and walked out her bedroom door.
Filling the kitchen sink with fresh water, she got to work. Arya took her time with the remaining dishes, enjoying the feel of the warm, soapy water on her hands and rubbing her thumb along the plates to hear them squeak.
The last utensil in its place, she turned and faced Olive. Out to the back lawn they went. Almost on cue, Olive flipped onto her back. This time, Arya rubbed her puppy’s belly as the dog wriggled on the ground. Once upright, she gave Olive a hug before quickly brushing off most of the grass and twigs – not show-ready, but certainly better.
Back inside the house, Arya sat cross-legged on the floor and turned her sketch book to a clean page. She lined up her pencil crayons, admiring the colours one at a time. She filled the paper with her house and her parents and the flower bed and the bird and the sun…and the tree.
Arya frowned at the tree. It still looked more like a stick of broccoli than a proper tree, but at least this time it was tree-ish.
When her parents looked up from their work to see her art, they smiled. Even though the picture wasn’t perfect, her parents thought it was wonderful.
And Arya smiled with them.