In the classroom, Miss Ferguson handed out boxes of new crayons and sheets of white paper.
“Now,” she said. “I want you all to draw a picture of whatever it was that you saw in the clouds: the giraffe, the pirate’s ship—your mustache Phillip.”
The children giggled. Phillip had tried at the last minute to outdo Peter’s giraffe with a mustache.
“Draw everything you saw,” Miss Ferguson said, “exactly as you remember it.”
Nicholas had never been asked to draw anything before. He had never even sat and colored. There were never sheets of clean paper at Honeywell. What few crayons he had found at the home for boys, were nothing but broken nubs and all the figures in the dilapidated coloring books had been scribbled over with black, purple or blue.
Nicholas opened the box of crayons Miss Ferguson had given to him. He counted the colors. Eight in all. He put the perfect points to his nose and breathed in softly—yellow, green, blue, red… Behind his closed eyes, Nicholas could see once again the school’s mottled play yard and the impossibly blue October sky that spread forever above it. He saw the clouds, white as new chalk, refusing still to take on any shape for him. He saw his classmates, his teacher’s pale smile, red hair and pointing finger.
Nicholas opened his eyes. As if he had done it a thousand times before, he carefully drew out the yellow from the box of crayons and began to color. He colored everything that he had seen on the play yard, exactly as he had remembered it. So exact, in fact, that when Miss Ferguson collected the pictures and saw his, she immediately called the principle.