Cast of Thousands, Chapter 30

They had the option of finishing up their dollar bills, doing an independent short project for the day, or going off in a small group with the teacher to learn something new. Jess was torn, but finally chose to do an independent project. The class had an impressive, if elderly, array of art supplies. Jess arranged a selection of beat-up crayons and paint and different colors of paper in front of herself, and set to work.

She cut out different shapes from the paper, and glued them messily together on a separate sheet, finding a tin of gold glitter to shake over the whole thing. She dripped paint on another page and then used her fingers to swirl it around and glob colors together. She crayoned bright curls and rainbows of color across several pages, exulting in the sheer brilliance of each crayon and the joy of using pure color without any lines to stay inside or rules about what to draw.

When the bell rang, she looked up in shock that the class had gone so quickly, and realized she had a huge mess to clean up. Jess scribbled her name on the back or corner of each picture, knowing she would never remember which pieces were hers otherwise, and then ran back and forth across the room quickly, washing the paint, glue, and glitter off her hands, sweeping glitter and scraps of colored paper into a wastebasket, capping and sorting out all the paints and glue to put away, and grabbing all the crayons and dumping them back into their box. She found that as she ran around, the teacher had kindly collected her work and hung it up to dry on a clothesline that ran the diagonal length of the room. "Thanks!" she gasped to Sian, the art teacher, as she grabbed her backpack and sprinted out to P. E.

In P. E. they were being tested, which Jessica found meant a lot of standing in line and then sitting around and a few minutes of pull-ups and sit-ups and running. She noticed that the girls were asked to hang from the pull-up bar for as long as they could, while the boys had to prove themselves with actual pull-ups. When her turn came, remembering the discussion in social studies class, she did two pull-ups savagely, then dropped and walked off without a backward glance. She waited until she had gone some distance away to rub her arms.