The Blank Mural
Kasim Wallace, 2019
It was hard to say that any day at Norman’s first-grade school was ever the same or boring being, well, a school for five and six year-olds, with the occasionally witty four-and-three-quarters-year-old. But, today was as an especially special day.
“That’s the very bestiest news I ever heard!” exclaimed Ronnie Rojo in response to Miss Green’s announcement that the schools empty hallways were finally to have a mural painted. Of all the classes, the facility had collectively decided that it should be Miss Kelly’s art class to get to make the call for what should go on the mural.
Miss Kelly Green picked hand after hand for suggestions of colors, themes, and ideas for the mural they were to paint. “Crystals and mushrooms!” Called out Tommy Turquoise, failing to raise his hand in the excitement. “We should paint onions and beets!” Screamed Franny Fuschia, who adored vegetables. “I think we should do something like we see outside- farms and straw!” Greg Goldenrod loved his own ideas.
Miss Green adored all the ideas amongst the classroom. The children were a glow with suggestions. Before settling on a color scheme, she decided to ask one last student what they thought. Although Benny Blanchard hadn’t raised his hand, it was clear he had an idea.
“I think we should paint it white” Benny, the boy with the mahogany-colored skinned, replied after being called upon. “White?!” The class gasped. This was followed be boos hushed by Miss Green.
Next the class moved into conversation around themes. “We should paint a forest!” was among the first suggestions from the class. “What about dinosaurs?” asked another first-grader. Benny quietly suggested, “Maybe we could paint clouds…”. This suggestion was received well by the class until Benny added “on a white background.
Miss Green absolutely loved all of the ideas and creativity within her class. But, she feared Benny was struggling to imagine the wall as anything other than the bleak white stain it had always been. She had hoped that asking about patterns might help little Benny to come up with a new idea.
“What do you think, Benny?”. Benny was surprised to be called on first. He hesitated to respond. “I think… well, um… I think…” Benny found it hard to think with the whole class watching him. “We should paint polka dots” The class smiled. This was just what Miss Green had hoped would happen- Benny had an idea. Then Benny added, to everyone’s surprise, “And stripes.” A few students nodded as they begin to imagine the colorful pattern this would make in the halls. “And flowers.” Benny continued, raising his hand. The class cheered at the excitement of what this might look like.
“Annnnd… we should do it all on a white background.” Benny was thinking with his mouth now and his last idea slide out without warning. It was clear he was thrilled at this idea. Well, at least they’re colors, Miss Green thought. As she began to write out the new ideas on the board, Benny called out one more suggestion. “And we should paint all the patterns in my favorite color- white!” The first-graders erupted in disapproval of this idea- even the most mature 4-and-three-quarters-year-old.
Miss Green couldn’t have been more confused. “Benny, dear, why would you want to paint a wall all white when you could have every color you like?” The class looked at Benny with open mouths, hungry for an explanation. “Because I don’t want just what I want”. Benny stood up from his seat. “If we paint the wall white, it’s a canvas. And you told us the other day in a class that a canvas can be anything. So, that way it can be fuschia onions and dinosaurs, goldenrod forrest, and turquoise mushrooms. And for me it can be just white- whichever one I want it to be each day.”
The class all in loved just how beautiful Benny’s newly painted white wall looked. They loved walking down it each day and seeing their favorite fantasies. Why, even Miss Green could see the beautiful green grasses from her trip last summer to Iceland.
And Benny loved the new wall most of all. He especially loved when the class would meet him in the hallway at the end of the day to watch his shadow puppet shows on the white walls.