Every morning as she left for school, Angelina walked down her hallway, past the lonely picture of the Velvet Children. It was the only picture on the entire length of the wall, and for some reason Angelina’s mother had positioned it right beside Angelina’s bedroom door, like a bizarre 70’s era placard.
It was a hideous picture. Two small children, a boy in painted green shorts with buttons attached to suspenders, and a girl wearing a swaying yellow dress, were blowing dandelion fuzz. The artist was not especially skilled and both children wore a slightly maniacal expression, as though they had been cooped up for far too long and had only just escaped. Presumably the artist had meant for them to look happy and carefree. They didn’t.
Something else was wrong with the picture, and as Angelina hopped on the school bus, she finally figured out what it was. How had she not noticed before? While the boy’s hair was waving on the wind towards the left, the girl’s dress fluttered toward the right. The dandelion fluff swirled up above their heads in what seemed to be a funnel pattern. What looked like it was supposed to be a gentle picture of two happy children playing seemed to actually be taking place in the middle of an unseen tornado.
Kurt sat down beside Angelina on the bus bench seat and dropped his backpack on her big toe. As the nerves sparked and her toe seemed to expand until it felt like her body was solely comprised of the one toe, she realized why she hated the painting. It was not the painting she remembered from years or even months past.
Last year the children in the painting had been smaller, further away from the frame. She had only noticed the crazy eyes recently because they had only grown large enough to see clearly in the last few weeks. Angelina failed her math test and received and incomplete on her spelling test that day.
When she arrived home, Angelina pulled out her ruler and carefully lined it up with the edge of the frame. The distance to the girl’s dress was 2 1/8″. She measured twice. The next morning Angelina woke up early so she could re-measure without her mother seeing her. This time the distance was 2 1/16″, and the velvet children’s mouths, clearer now than they were yesterday, curled into a vengeful sneer.
Some days I do a lot of staring. I stare at out the window, at the blank wall, at the cobwebs I should be sweeping off the ceiling. I stare because writing presents too many choices, too many characters and subplots and arcs. Where do I begin today? So, I begin with writing warm-up, like wind-sprints to wake up my brain and remind it to focus. I don’t edit them, and they are often short and non-sensical. Occasionally they are sublime.
Writing prompt from https://twitter.com/writingprompt