"We Can Do It Together"
“Jay Castle, please report to the principal’s office, Jay Castle to the principal’s office.”
Even before Mrs. Hughes finishes her request, I can see the confused faces throughout my homeroom, except for my own. Without even needing to hear any of the whispers, I can tell what the other students are saying:
“Jay never does anything wrong.”
“When has Jay ever been called to the office?”
I step up from my desk the moment I see Mrs. Hayes, my homeroom and math teacher, wave me off. I want to ask if I need to bring my backpack up, but the obvious answer is a no, so I don’t even bother. I turn the handle to open the metallic brown door, and the moment I open it, Mrs. Hayes, still having a dumbfounded look, restarts her lesson on multiplying and dividing polynomials. I don’t want the door to slam shut and make a huge ruckus, so I catch and silently close the door.
As I walk down the enclosed hall of 10,000 Lakes High School, the footsteps from my black Nike sneakers barely make a sound, almost as if I was actually trying to be an assassin. I take the first left to yet another corridor, and, eerily waiting at the end is the principal’s office. Still making not even the slightest noise, I grip the polished silver handle. With a gulp, I open the door.
“Yes, sir?” I ask as I enter. The brown-haired man behind the mahogany desk looks up from his paper work, his green eyes glowing behind his brown-rimmed glasses. When he notices that it’s me, he smiles.
“Ah, Jay, thank you for coming,” Mr. Collet outstretches his hand.
“Uh, you’re welcome?” I shake his hand awkwardly. I still don’t know why I’m here.
“Have a seat,” he motions to the cushioned rolling chair in front of his desk.
I oblige and sit down, placing my hands on my lap.
“I’m sorry for what happened to your brother,” he hits a hard spot. My older brother, Skyler, committed suicide last week. The funeral was last weekend. “But that’s not why I called you here.”
For some reason, I’m suddenly interested.
“Your painting for the art contest a few months ago won national,” he says.
“Excuse me?” I almost whisper. I need him to say it again, just so I know that my ears aren't deceiving me.
“You won national.”
You know how when you hear bad news your entire body just shuts down like a computer? Well, in this case, the computer rebooted itself and is running faster than any other. However, I do just need one question answered.
“How did my painting of Lake Superior win the Nationwide High School Art Challenge?”
“In the opinion of the judges, your picture-like painting of the lake was the best thing they’d ever seen from anyone your age,” Mr. Collet replies, making me beam ear to ear. “In addition to the $2,000 reward, I’d like you to paint that painting once more on a special wall dedicated to your mural.”
Now my teeth are showing. My teeth never show when I smile.
“You are allowed to start painting whenever,” Mr. Collet continues. “You will be excused from class and the work you will do during then. There is only one rule: have it done by the end of the week.”
It’s Monday, so I have plenty of time. Besides, painting is a pass-time for me, so I don’t mind having a deadline.
“May I start now?” I request. I haven’t painted since my brother died, and I think it might be good for me if I got to paint again.
“Go ahead,” Now Mr. Collet is the one smiling. “I’ll inform Mrs. Hayes that you’ll be excused and Mr. Yanovitch that you’ll be coming over to borrow some paint supplies.”
I stand up and begin to walk out.
“Oh, and one more thing,” Mr. Collet says. “Good luck.”
I nod and close the door softly behind me.
Mr. Yanovitch’s art room isn’t that far from the office, in fact, it’s about three doors down. I soon arrive at the door with a Canis Lupus painted on it (which my friend, Maya Stone, did) and push it open.
Mr. Yanovitch clicks down the black, corded phone beside his desk. He turns to me.
“They’re in the bottom cabinet just under the Starry Night,” he says. He continues his lesson with the freshmen, saying something about Vincent van Gogh that I’m unable to catch. I grab two buckets of red, blue, and yellow and head out.
Just in the parking lot of the school (it’s all one building) is a giant wall, perfectly proportioned to my painting’s canvas. I set the buckets beside it and grab a bucket of each of the four neutral colors and several brushes from the art room. I pop open the lids of the blue and white and begin painting.
When the school bell rings at 3:30 PM, I’m halfway finished. I store the cans of paint back in the art room and begin heading home. Before starting my walk home, I quickly make a DO NOT TOUCH sign and place it beside the still-drying wall.
“Nice job,” I hear Maya admire from behind me.
“Thanks,” I say and walk off, admiring the puffy white clouds off in the distance.
At 8:00 PM, a heavy downpour begins and ends in about ten minutes. Once the rain stops, I run toward the school in an all-out sprint.
“NONONONO!” I’m screaming.
I reach the school, and the wall is white, even whiter than when it was dry.
I begin to scream again.
“Need some help?” A voice behind me asks.
I whirl around and see that it’s Maya. Unintentionally, I nod.
She smiles. “Okay then! We can do this together! Where do we start?”