The Boy Who Drew in the Mud

There once was a boy who drew in the mud. Now, this was quite an ordinary boy, and his drawings were of nothing in particular, and of no significant artistry. Nonetheless, the boy would, as often as he could escape from the various chores and homework everyone seemed to enjoy giving him, spend hours with a stick, or maybe just his fingers, or occasionally a carrot or bit of celery he had smuggled into his pocket to avoid eating, drawing and drawing in the big patch of mud on the edge of his backyard, near the garden his neighbor had.

Now, this neighbor was quite an ordinary neighbor, and like all quite ordinary neighbors, was particularly nosy in matters he had no business being nosy in, and not nearly nosy enough in matters he well should have been nosy about. So this neighbor would watch the young boy drawing in the mud all afternoon long as the sky was starting to darken and the clouds were starting to build and blacken like a cloud of ash in a small room, and he would yell from his porch where he sat, “Boy! Why do you draw in the mud? It will just be washed away when the rain comes in, and you will be left with nothing!” But the boy would just look at him with those big brown child-eyes, give a half-hearted shrug, and return to his scribbling. And when the rain came, the boy would sit and watch as it washed away, and the neighbor would shout “Boy! What did I tell you! Now you must start from the beginning!” But the boy would just look at him with those big brown child-eyes, and give a big grin, and return to his watching.

For as long as the neighbor could remember, this would happen every time it would rain. Yet never did the boy tire of the game; he would draw, and watch as it would wash away. And the neighbor thought, “This boy must be mad! There is no reason why he should so enjoy all his work and all his effort wasting away into the ground. Why, it is quite unnatural! Next time, I will go right up to the boy and drag him away from his mud, and I will explain to him exactly how these things should be done! With a pencil and clean sheet of paper, or maybe a scrap of charcoal from my fireplace! Yes, I will teach him how to draw properly, on proper things!”

So the next time he walked out on his porch and saw the boy drawing in the mud, he marched his way to where the boy stood, puffed out his chest, and looked straight down his nose, saying “Boy! You come with me right now! This is quite unnatural. Let us go get a pencil and a clean sheet of paper, or maybe a scrap of charcoal from my fireplace, and I will teach you how to draw properly, on proper things!” But the boy just looked at him with those big brown child-eyes, and shook his head. The neighbor, being, like all ordinary neighbors, quite stubborn, stomped his little dress shoe on the grass and said, “You must be mad! There is no reason for you to enjoy all your work and effort wasting away into the ground!” But the boy just looked at him with those big brown child-eyes, and gave a big smile, and said, “Wait one moment.”

The boy pointed down to the patch of mud where had been busy drawing an immense battle, with giants on one side with massive raised clubs, and knights on stick-horses with big pointed lances guarding little stick-princesses wearing pointy stick-hats. And a dragon with a long, curly neck was busy breathing fire on a bunch of little stick-peasants, while a bunch of stick-centaurs surrounded it from all sides, pointy bows and pointy arrows flying all about. As a big clap of thunder resounded about the yard, the neighbor said, “I am too late! This will be ruined, and you must start from the beginning!”

Then it began to rain.

The entire drawing seemed to stir to life as the water ran across it in sheets, and the trickles and streams of rain through the fluid mud breathed movement into all the figures. The knights were suddenly charging and the giants swinging their clubs down as the princesses swooned and fell to the floor. The dragons fire jetted about, and the peasants collapsed in terror, as the centaurs rode in circles, wildly shooting. Armies clashed and lovers met, and some men ran away like cowards, while others rode forth into death and fame. The scene swayed about, and, like a play, all the figures did their part. And the boy and the neighbor watched together, wordless, with big grins on their faces.

 

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