I knew Uncle Frank meant his art studio, and I was dying to see it. Suddenly, I felt odd about it. I looked over at Aunt Lucy and she said it was okay. She went over to Uncle Frank and gave him a kiss. “Thank you for making dinner,” she said. “It was a nice surprise.”
Uncle Frank took me into the studio and showed me what he’d been working on for the gum commercial. It was fruit flavored gum-cherry, grape, and orange. He put together animation where grapes grew in vineyards and became sticks of gum. The same thing happened with cherries and oranges on the trees. The sticks then broke from the branches or vines to become little magic carpets that the harvesters would jump on and ride into the magical world of fruit flavor.
“Have you ever tried this gum?” I asked.
“You kidding?” he said. “I don’t chew gum.”
“How do you know it’s magically fruity?”
“Nobody’s going to think it is actually magically fruity. The point is to put together something people will remember, so when it’s sitting on the shelf next to its competitor it will be the gum that’s grabbed.”
“So, it’s lying?” I asked.
“It isn’t lying, it’s advertising. It’s only lying if you expect people to truly believe it. Other people tell me it does taste fruity. I’ll tell you what, if you cut me some slack, I’ll bring you a pack if I get the account tomorrow morning.”
“I’ll ease up if you show me how you made it,” I told him.
“I can’t exactly explain computer animation in one sitting, Jennie,” he said. “I’ll show you how to make still pictures, though.
Uncle Frank closed out the magic gum program, and opened a simple Paint program. “This is the place to start,” he explained. He showed me how to use the mouse to change the color, or pick out a pencil or a brush. I could
make circles and fill them in any color I wanted, or add a box for words.
It was hard to make the mouse go where I wanted, and I wasn’t very good. Everything I drew looked like something drawn by a four year old.
“It takes some getting used to.” Uncle Frank explained. “You’ll get better with practice.”
“I’m a lot better on regular paper,” I told him. “I could show you my sketch book.”
Uncle Frank said he would like that, but he still had some work to do. We could feel the faint vibration of Aunt Lucy’s stereo and we knew she was practicing her dancing. He went over to his sketching table, and left me at the computer to work on my painting. He told me to stay in that program, he had a lot of important files for work.
Painting on the computer was fun, but it got frustrating after a while. I was good at paper drawing. If I tried to draw a cat or a horse, it would come out looking like a cat or a horse. This didn’t happen on the computer. Uncle
Frank told me that someday it would, but I didn’t want to wait that long. It made me want to sit down with some regular paper and draw something good.
I got up to peek at what Uncle Frank was doing at the drawing table. Uncle Frank was staring carefully at the line he was drawing, and when I walked by he was startled and accidentally scribbled an extra line across the table.
“Damn it, Jennie,” he yelled. “This is ink; it’s ruined! I told you to draw on the computer! This isn’t playtime for me! This is my work!”
I backed toward the door. Uncle Frank’s voice was deep and harsh. Up until that moment the only two men who had ever been in a position to tell me what to do were Daddy and Taffy-and neither one of them ever gotten
angry like that. I hadn’t meant for anything to get wrecked. I only wanted to see.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“Well, you should be. It’ll take me hours to fix this,” he told me. Aunt Lucy had told me Uncle Frank could be crazy possessive when it came to his work. I could see she wasn’t exaggerating. It wasn’t going to doing any good
to keep apologizing, and I stood there, frozen in the doorway.
Uncle Frank stared at me. “Why are you still here?” he said. “Get out!”
I was crying and shaking and I ran down to the dance studio to find Aunt Lucy. She saw how upset I was and ran to turn off the stereo.
“What’s the matter, Sweetheart?” she asked.
I was choking on the lump in my throat and couldn’t answer.
“Jennie?” she said. Still, I had no voice. She did the once over look at my clothes and my arms as if she were getting ready to check me for ticks.
“I’m okay,” I whispered, but she didn’t believe me. She turned and ran up the stairs three at a time, screaming at Uncle Frank, demanding to know what he’s done to me.
“I didn’t touch her, Lucy,” he said. “I was trying to be helpful, showing her the art studio. I go out of my way to connect with your niece; bond with her. Children need bonding, you know, Lucy. It’s more than you ever did for Ryan. No wonder he doesn’t like you.”
“Don’t bring Ryan into this. This has nothing to do with Ryan. And you weren’t “bonding” with Jennie, she’s upset.” Aunt Lucy told him.
“Children also need to know when they’ve done something wrong, when they’ve crossed the line. But you wouldn’t know anything about that. You’ve never been responsible for a child. You don’t know what it’s like to be
“Good God!” Aunt Lucy gasped. “Don’t start that with me! You’re not raising your son, your ex-wife is! You pop your head on his life a few times a year playing Mr. Super bud, and you call yourself a father? Maybe I didn’t know what it was like being a parent before, but I sure do now!”
“You’re NOT my parents!” I shouted at both of them. “Neither of you are! Nobody here has parents!”
Aunt Lucy and Uncle Frank went silent as if an electric cord controlled them and I had pulled it from the wall.
Uncle Frank went to the closet for his coat and walked out the door. Aunt Lucy went to the kitchen and
poured herself a glass of wine. I went to my room to draw.
End of Chapter – Next Section
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