Bright white paper mostly smooth with a little rough, the sketch pad was wide open on the braided oval rug. Her box of Crayola 64s was tipped over spilling a rainbow of options. Shamrock and mountain meadow, the grass was a mix of green slashes. River searched for the sepia for her oak tree trunk.
“It’s not a religion, it’s more self-help. First they break you down, releasing you from the habits and cycles holding back your true potential. We are expanding our minds, healing our souls,” Perri said.
“Okay, but Mom said there was this money involved, all this money. She said you were asking for all this money and stuff and I just don’t understand,” Uncle Chris said.
River added a pine green pine tree next to her oak tree to keep it company. Next she worked on the house. River closed one eye to draw the straight triangle roof on top of the square house. Her eyebrows knitted in concentration when she realized her house was askew. Quickly River added more leaves to her oak tree to hide her mistake.
“So this is about Mom. Dammit, you’re here to spy on me. Here to tell me I’m wrong too?” Perri’s voice rose.
Uncle Chris said something soft and kind-sounding too low for River to hear. She snapped the point off her electric lime crayon and hid it in the crayon sharpener hole.
Perri shouted, “I’m hurting too. And for the first time in a long time I’m feeling good about myself and no one will support me. I have positive people around me for the first time. But all anyone can talk about is a few lousy dollars. What about me? When do I get to be happy? When do I get something for myself?” Perri began to cry.
“Sis, you know it is always you and me. We have each other’s back no matter what. I’m looking out for you that’s all,” Uncle Chris said.
River drew faster, scrubbing wild watermelon over the brick red house. Her roof was atomic tangerine above a shocking pink rectangle door. The midnight blue of River’s four paned windows smeared under the pressure of her moist hand like bruises.
“Let me show you the literature and you can come with me to an encounter group. Lance encourages us to bring friends. If you don’t believe me, you’ll see, you’ll see.”
“Okay, I want to read it,” Uncle Chris said.
Perri pushed away from the table and ran back to the small apartment’s one bedroom. Uncle Chris rubbed his eyes when Perri left the room. He looked over at his niece, so quiet, coloring in the living room.
“Hey short stack show me what you cooking up?”
Her crayon paused in mid air. River stared at her uncle open mouthed. “No. Not done. No one can see it until it done.”
River wondered if the sky should be black or outer space, a strong peaceful gray.
“Not even for your favorite uncle?”
River looked at him then her eyes returned to the page. “You’re my only uncle?” River’s hand made broad strokes darkening half the paper.
“C’mon, do me a favor? I could use a smile right now.”
River slowed down and then sighed. Uncle Chris was making sad puppy dog eyes at her. She closed her sketch book and went to sit on Uncle’s Chris’ lap.
Uncle Chris opened River’s book.He studied the bright drawings.
“Cool house short stack, what’s up with your sun?”
“The sun blew out a long time ago. Now the moon makes the trees grow and keeps the house warm. See, see.”
“I see short stack, cool very cool,’ he said.
River drew wiggly canary lines from her sliver of a perwinkle. Uncle Chris hugged her tight and let her go back to drawing.