Later, my father told me that Miss Blood had called him at the newspaper and wondered why he had tried to frighten all the little boys and girls. He didn’t know what she was talking about because he had not seen my drawing. But he couldn’t convince Miss Blood of that. She was absolutely positive that he, not I, had drawn it.
That day after school, instead of going straight home, I walked down to the newspaper—the Franconia Free Times—and showed it to him not ten minutes after Miss Blood had called him.[i]
I was surprised when I walked in the building. I saw Harriet’s mother sitting behind a desk, talking on the telephone. I walked over to her.
“Mrs. Eastbrook? What are you doing here?”
She looked up, smiled, held her index finger in the air—she wanted me to wait a minute—finished her call, hung up the phone. “Vickie! It’s wonderful to see you. Your dad is right back—” Then she realized. “Oh, of course you know where his desk is. You’ve been here a lot more than I have!” She laughed with a sort of rolling, bubbling sound. I loved it—and had not heard it very often.
“Anyway,” she said, “I’ve started working here, too. Your dad helped me get a job. I worked on my college newspaper—and they were looking for someone to cover the local news now that your dad is going to be writing a column.”
“Yes. It’s a real honor. Four times a week he gets to write about whatever he wants to. It’s just a wonderful thing for him—and for the paper.”
“Vickie—over here,” I heard my father call. So I said good-bye to Mrs. Eastbrook and went over to his desk.
“Father, I just heard about your column,” I said.
“Yes. It’s going to be fun,” he said. But his face was showing something very different. “First of all,” he said, “I don’t like it when you don’t go straight home—not without telling me. I’ll have to call Aunt Claire and let her know you won’t be on the bus.”
I was sorry. I hadn’t thought …
“And then”—my father was looking very serious now—“just a few minutes ago, Miss Blood called me here.”
“She said something about a horrible picture you showed the class?”
“I didn’t think it was horrible, Father. I thought it was funny.”
“Do you have it with you?”
I did. I took it from my things and showed it to him. I could tell, watching his face, that he was trying to decide if he should laugh. He didn’t. But when he spoke next, his eyes were moist—the same way they got when he thought something was funny.
Finally, he said, “That’s quite a picture, Vickie.”
“Thank you, Father.”
“Where did you, uh, get the idea for it?”
“I don’t know,” I said truthfully. “I just started drawing. And this is what happened.”
“Have you ever seen a creature like this?” he asked me.
“Really? You mean, have I really seen something like this?”
“In my head, Father. Just in my head.”
“Does it scare you, Vickie? These things you see?”
“No, I like what I see.”
And I really did like it, when I was in kindergarten. And I still do like it.
“It’s probably better if you don’t always show other people these things, Vickie,” he continued.
“Why, Father? Did I do something wrong?”
“Not at all. It’s just that, well, not everyone understands your talents the way I do.”
“Is that bad?”
“Is what bad?”
“Is it bad that other people don’t understand?”
“Yes, Vickie. It can be. Because when people don’t understand something, they sometimes do cruel things. Sometimes it makes them angry. Sometimes they may even try to hurt you.”
I thought about that. About people not understanding, getting angry, hurting other people. And I knew then—even as a five-year-old—that my father was right.
And so on dress-up day for Halloween at school, I didn’t go as Victor Frankenstein—or as the creature. Instead, I dressed as Cinderella, the one in the old Walt Disney cartoon. Miss Blood said I looked cute.