Bedtime Stories : Creative Drawing

Posted on April 2, 2012

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My name is Judith Palmer and I don’t regret anything I’ve done. I have taught at St. Agnes Primary School for three years, and I have no intention of leaving. After this term, Jordan will no longer be in my class, and it won’t seem so strange then. When his father asks me to marry him.

I still remember when I first saw Cleavon through the staff room window, at the school gates, collecting Jordan. I knew immediately that we were meant for each other. Cleavon Pigg, picking up little Jordan with seemingly no effort. And I mean literally picking him up, not just telling him to get in the car, although his car was also impressive. No, I mean Cleavon Pigg, the big, strong man, lifting his son into the evening air like he was no weight at all.

The next afternoon, I made sure I was out there on playground duty, waiting with the children for their parents to arrive. Waiting for Cleavon to arrive. We met, and it was like we’d known each other all our lives. We joked about the weather, and he thanked me when I told him I liked his car. He clearly valued my opinion. I admired the way he concentrated on the traffic as he pulled away, rather than returning my wave. Cleavon Pigg: the big, strong, funny, sensible man.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I idled away an hour that night trying out the signature ‘Judith Pigg’ for size, like a soppy schoolgirl.

I made a point of looking out for little Jordan’s arrival the next morning, but it turned out Cleavon didn’t do the morning run. Vanessa Pigg dropped Jordan off at school. Cleavon Pigg: the big, strong, funny, sensible, married man.

Vanessa was undeniably beautiful, in an obvious way, and I’m sure she was a very nice person deep down, but she had to go. Ideally, taking Jordan with her.

Every shoddy picture Jordan scrawled in my class seemed to be designed to taunt me; each one a portrait of familial bliss. Everyone was labelled. ‘Me’. ‘Mumy’. ‘Daddie’. All smiling faces. Even the sun, no matter how often I drew a thick red cross through it and wrote ‘NO’. And every misspelling seemingly engineered to make me correct it, to make me confirm the status of each member of the family unit. All stations filled, and no room for Judith.

And then it came to me. One evening, marking the day’s wastes of paper, it was suddenly obvious. Everything I needed was in front of me. I took a crayon to Jordan’s latest masterpiece and I drew an additional figure, as badly as I could, right next to ‘Mumy’. I joined their arms with a scribble, so that to all the world they were holding hands. And I wrote underneath the figure, in childish, rounded letters that aped Jordan’s own barely acceptable script, ‘Uther Daddie’. I rolled it up and popped an elastic band around it, and gave it to Jordan to take home the next day.

There were no fireworks right away, so I continued to add Uther Daddie to Jordan’s daubings for the next fortnight. Sometimes Uther Daddie would bring his car. Sometimes he was winking. Eventually, he was in the window of their house.

Just in time for Parents’ Evening.

Cleavon and Vanessa arrived together, and I was able to tell them with a straight face that they should both be proud of Jordan’s progress. Then I showed them several of his colourful, incriminating squiggles. They were all pinned up on the cork board in the classroom, these crayon portraits of dysfunction. Several of the other parents had already seen them and passed mumbled comment upon them, or suppressed a giggle. I looked as concerned as I could, while I asked Cleavon and Vanessa if they had any idea why Jordan might be crying during his art lessons. I never said he was crying, I only asked why he might be. I don’t want anyone to think I’m a liar. They exchanged awkward glances. I kept looking straight at them, so it would seem like an accident that while I was leaning against the wall, I was tapping my fingers on my latest work, my pièce de résistance. The drawing where I hadn’t added an extra figure at all. I had simply changed Daddie’s face to a wink and relabelled him as Uther Daddie.

Daddie not pictured.

Cleavon couldn’t stop looking at it. I felt awful to see him hurting so badly, but he needed to know what he was married to. Better for him to find out now, when she was only cheating on him in crayon. If she was like that in these drawings, imagine what she might do in real life? They said they’d talk to Jordan. They left long before the other parents, without even talking to Mr. Baxter. Which was a shame, because Mr. Baxter takes Jordan for Games, and has nothing but good things to say about him.

Jordan was visibly upset the next day. From what he told me, he hadn’t been able to answer many of his father’s questions beyond explaining that ‘Uther Daddie just appears when no one is looking’. He said his daddy had told him that none of this was his fault, and I agreed that was mostly true.

Vanessa picks Jordan up from school now. I sometimes try to talk to her, but she always seems to be in a tremendous hurry. It must be difficult to do both school runs every day, and hold down a job at the same time. I just hope she isn’t neglecting Jordan in the evenings while she pursues more men to disappoint.

Cleavon has found a way to stay in touch with me by providing the school with his new contact address. That’s a strong message by anyone’s standards. I’ve sent him a letter requesting a meeting about Jordan’s behaviour. We’ll be able to finally get together over coffee, and get started with the rest of our lives. I haven’t decided what Jordan’s been doing yet. With any luck, Cleavon won’t even ask, but I’ll have to play that by ear.

Jordan draws separate pictures of himself with either Mumy or Daddie these days. I’ve added myself into one of the latter. ‘Me’, ‘Daddie’ and ‘Judith’. Jordan looks a bit sulky in the picture, but he was just smudging when I tried to rub him out, so it can’t be helped. I’m going to show it to Cleavon when we have our date at the school next week. I hope he likes it.

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