Stuart M. Perkins
“No, no, no!”
Why did that reprimand ring a bell I wondered, as I waited in the check-out line.
“No, no, no!” the mother repeated. Her little boy had taken a ball point pen from a bin near the cash register, removed the cap, and was about to demonstrate his own brand of artwork across a stack of Washington Posts. Naturally, he resisted when his mother pulled it from his hands. What child doesn’t like to draw?
I drew constantly as a kid, with pens, pencils, and frequently with my oldest sister’s fountain pen until it emptied. She always wondered why it ran out of ink so quickly. I also had a box of Crayola crayons, 64 count with built-in sharpener. I lived large. One thing I didn’t have, but craved greatly, was a magic marker.
In a cabinet above the stove at home was where Mama kept a deck of playing cards, glue, rubber bands, and other random items. When I stood on a chair once to see what else was up there, I saw it. From inside an old coffee mug, wedged between broken pencils and a pair of scissors it called to me. A black El Marko magic marker! I slipped it from the mug and just as I took off the cap, catching a whiff of that distinct and beautiful aroma, I heard her.
“No, no, no!” Mama said.
“Sorry, but you can’t use that.” She continued. “It’ll get everywhere and it won’t wash off.”
Even when I drew with my assortment of pens, pencils, and crayons, Mama was clear that I was to sit at the kitchen table, only draw on paper, and not go near the walls. Once, she had sternly called me into the den to explain why my name was written in red crayon several times across the wall. I was exonerated when I pointed out that the “S” in each case was written backwards. A hallmark of my little sister’s handiwork. Still, the notion of me with a magic marker made Mama nervous.
For months I contented myself to draw with my assortment of pens, pencils, and crayons. If my oldest sister left the house I got in some time with her fountain pen. Still, I knew the magic marker was in the cabinet above the stove and I couldn’t forget it.
Christmas, right around the corner at that point, provided a distraction. As my sisters and I wrote down presents we wanted from Santa Claus, I noticed their extensive lists included things like record albums, dresses, dolls, and curling irons. I had written only one thing on my list.
1. magic marker
Everyone laughed but to me it was serious. I had to know what it felt like to draw with a magic marker! I knew what pens, pencils, and crayons could do, and fountain pens were nice while the ink lasted, but what about a magic marker?
Christmas morning came and in my spot near the tree was a mountain of gifts Santa Claus had so generously left. As my sisters tore through their gifts I marveled at my remote control helicopter and took note of a new pair of slippers. To the left of a Lego set I saw a small, plain box. There were no words or pictures on the outside to provide a clue. Opening the box, I smelled it before I saw it. That distinct, beautiful aroma gave me the only clue I needed. I had gotten a brand new black El Marko.
Merry Christmas to me!
I had to draw immediately. I ran to the kitchen table where I knew it was safe, grabbed my drawing pad, and sat down. Mama appeared from nowhere to pull me and the entire table at least three feet from the wall. She instantly spread a layer of newspaper beneath my drawing pad, handed me several wet paper towels, and reminded me that magic marker ink would never wash off and we had to be at church later. Daddy grinned at Mama’s panic so I think I know which half of Santa Claus was behind that particular gift.
Still, in the midst of the barrage of rules, I happily drew. The distinct and beautiful aroma of the El Marko filled the kitchen.
For a kid who finally got his magic marker, it really was the most wonderful time of the year.
And Mama was incorrect. Magic marker ink will wash off, but it takes three days and a Brillo pad to remove it. When she wasn’t looking that Christmas morning I scribbled a test patch across my knee.
Stuart M. Perkins is originally from Richmond, Virginia. He enjoys relating his observations of daily life and recollections of growing up in a large family surrounded by cousins and animals. Everyday experiences often carry great messages. Layers of ordinary reality can be peeled back to reveal the genuinely humorous or poignant themes buried in common daily events.
Life is full of “mini-scenarios”, each hiding an interesting story. Peeling back, or shucking the mundane facts from the situation to reveal the entertaining story beneath is what Stuart enjoys most. Shucking the story from the facts. Storyshucker. Stuart currently lives in Arlington, Virginia.
Blog address: http://storyshucker.wordpress.com/