My best friend Adolph and I liked to draw. When it was art time in first grade, we would draw scenes of stick people running away from monsters being forced into mountain caves and crowding into each other so much that they fell into big lava pits where the devil was waiting. We would spend the whole time on our drawings and add more rocks and more fire and more stick people. Then we would show our drawings to each other, and I would see something in the other’s art we could add to our own, like the way Adolph drew dinosaur teeth, or way I did helicopters with a half-circle and a triangle.
Donna was in my first grade class, too, and when we walked home she said she didn’t like Adolph because he was disgusting.
“Disgusting?” I said, imagining she meant like Pig Pen, but Adolph never looked like that.
“Ugh,” she said, and I didn’t know what she meant.
One time Adolph showed me you could make a squiggle on your desk with your no. 2 pencil, and if you wet your thumb and rubbed it you could turn the squiggle in a big swirly smudge. He had a few on his desk already. So I went back to my desk and tried it. I looked over and saw he did some more. So I did some more. This was during SRA time and our teacher Miss Emswhiller was at her desk and we were supposed to be doing something else.
I knew I had to do better than Adolph, so I worked fast, squiggling and smudging, squiggling and smudging. Maria Virginia de la Cruz, who sat next to me, looked over and said, “What are you doing?”
I didn’t care. I was creating something. It didn’t even matter what Adolph was doing. I knew what I had to do. And within a little while I’d done it!
I had covered my entire desk in spit pencil smudge. The shiny wood was now all gray and black and swirly.
It was beautiful. But then I saw it was also really, really disgusting.
Maria Virginia de la Cruz raised her hand and told the teacher, and Miss Emswhiller came over and said, “Edgar! What?”
She made me get the Comet and a sponge from the bathroom and made me clean my desk. I put Comet all over and scrubbed and scrubbed. “Make that desk sparkly clean, mister,” the teacher said.
All the kids were watching me. I looked over at Adolph but he pretended like he never invented desk smudging art. Then the teacher told me to stay after school. That was the first day in my life I ever ever stayed after school.
At three o’clock, Adolph and everybody else left, leaving me all alone in the very quiet classroom with my head down on my sparkly clean desk.