Something Else (Davey's Crayons)
It wasn't that I couldn't color well that I didn't win the weekly coloring contest in my third grade class. It was that I couldn't color as well as Davey Gordon. In fact, none of us could. He had a technique far beyond any of ours and one that I once was made fun of for trying to mimic. On that one embarrassing occasion, I had done my best at making my work look almost exactly like his. In this instance as well as all others, it was obvious that Davey's artwork was better than mine and anyone else's. His bright orange pumpkin mocked me from its place on the chalkboard.
So what? So, Davey got the sticker every single week for his creative genius, and I got nothing. Sure, people told me they loved my work as much as Davey's. They bragged on my use of blending techniques, of how well I was able to fade one color into another which was a unique ability. I could make any part of coloring sheet jump off the page, like the wing of a bird or petal of a flower. But it was to no avail because week after week, Davey blew me away to the tune of over half the votes in the class.
I remember knowing that Davey secretly loved kicking butt even more than his being talented. He never taunted me though. One winter day he even tried to console me when he lied to me by saying his success was due to the fact that his crayons were a different brand than mine. His crayons were a different brand than mine, but half the kids in the class shared the same kind as Davey. Yet, his poinsettia was better than anyone's and would've been no matter what he'd used. He could have rummaged the community box in the back of the room and utilized stale stubs of remnants of crayons from years past and still spanked us on his worst day.
Oddly though, over time, I softened to the blow of being second to Davey week after week. All of us did. My shamrock didn't win a sticker, but it was hands down my personal best of the year which actually brought me joy. I found that I was able to block out the entire competition in and of itself and focus on my work most of the time. Sure, the sticker hitting his paper week after week bothered me, but it was not as painful seeing it stuck to the Easter egg as it was on the pumpkin. I became almost complacent and used to the routine of the weekly losses.
And then, it happened. Davey got chicken pox. The entire class turned to look at me when the roll was being called, and the teacher called Davey's name that day, almost as if I were Davey. It's an odd feeling to be happy on any level when someone is sick. My classmates' smiles told me that they felt what I felt - that at least for today, Davey wouldn't win the coloring contest. And his absence from the contest alone brought us joy! Chicken pox were alright in our book for the time being. It also let me know that they knew that I was a shoo-in, as my close second place standing almost every week since that first week of school marked my certain and only win for the year. We were excited, even if my streak would only last as long as Davey's pox, it was good day by our account.
I remember coloring with a shaky hand that day. I wanted that sticker more than I ever had before, and this might be my only chance. I worked well into my recess and finished my masterpiece with deep confidence. I made EVERY petal share colors, even the leaves on the stem. My flower looked one plucked from the earth amidst the other monochromatic, age-appropriate submissions. As I exited the building and headed for the swing set, I knew I had sealed my destiny. I floated across our playground's pavement just knowing that all of the other papers being taped on the chalkboard were nothing compared to mine.
After recess our sweaty bodies scooted into our seats, and a quietness filled the room. The slips of paper were passed out and each student quietly placed their ballots into the large container used weekly for competition. Some students smiled at me, two winked and my best friend gave me a thumbs up. It was my day! I couldn't help but smile. Heck, I almost laughed out loud.
Mrs. Rowe quietly looked up from her tally marks with a strange expression. "We have a first," she quietly said. A tie, I thought. We had never seen a tie. Davey's absence did give us an even number of contestants and voters. I surveyed the other artwork to make sure that the other flowers in the garden weren't as pretty as mine. Who could have matched me today? Not one image stood out besides my own. There were none that I saw quite as lovely as the lilac, pink blended blossom that shone above the rest. We waited in silence. Then . . .
"It's a unanimous vote!" She exclaimed.
I gasped with delight as the applause erupted as I was announced the winner! Everyone clapped loudly, and tears began to form. I swelled with pride and joy as my eyes roamed the room. I wanted to wave like a pageant queen does when the tiara is placed on her head! This was truly an amazing feeling that I did not want to end. I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. The smiling faces and congratulations were overwhelming to me. And then I saw it . . . the empty desk. It hit me hard that I - more than winning, more than a sticker, more than the first unanimous title, more than anything - I wanted Davey to see my flower. I wanted him to not be sick. I wanted to not be selfish and misguided. Sadly, momentarily, I felt more like a loser than a winner. Instantaneously, I felt despair. I was silent in my victory lap to pick up my winning work of art that had somehow dulled in just a few short moments even with the adorned, coveted sticker.
The next week when Davey returned to school, he heard of my victory. He congratulated me, and I could tell he was sincere. That week for our contest we colored a three scoop ice cream cone loaded with sprinkles and a cherry on top. Davey's magnum opus rocked as usual, and mine was most definitely second best. Once again the votes told the story as it always had before. All was right in the world, especially after Davey reclaimed his title with the second unanimous decision of the year.