by Karin Lin-Greenberg
We were the art girls. We had charcoal under our fingernails, flecks of dried clay on our jeans, acrylic paint in our hair. The artsy seniors always lived on the second floor of McAllister Hall; it was tradition. Although our boarding school, Florence Summer Academy for Girls, was beautiful—the dorms looked like magnificent stone castles—McAllister Hall was so run-down inside that they let whoever lived on the second floor paint the walls of their rooms. Each fall, Facilities delivered cans of primer so last year’s walls could be painted over and new masterpieces created.
The fall of our senior year, we picked up paint rollers and shouted, “This is for Mrs. Lawrence!” Mrs. Lawrence was our art teacher who’d retired in May. She’d purchased an RV and was traveling the country with her husband and cat and had promised to send postcards from every state and tourist attraction she visited. When we arrived back at school on the first of September, we sprinted into the front office and asked Ruth, the secretary, if any postcards were waiting for us. She shook her head and said, “I’m sure they’re on the way.”
Had Mrs. Lawrence forgotten about us? We needed her to remember us. We were seniors, we would be applying to art schools, and where would we be without Mrs. Lawrence’s letters of recommendation? She thought we were brilliant, geniuses; she called us her little Mary Cassatts, her baby Georgia O’Keeffes, miniature Frida Kahlos. There were other nicknames, too: my lovelies, my bumblebees, my buttercups. During the three years that she was our teacher, it never occurred to us that perhaps she hadn’t bothered to actually learn our names. It hadn’t mattered then. She was so complimentary, so certain of our talent and our bright futures, that all we could do was love her.
How would we track Mrs. Lawrence down if we had no idea where in the country she was? This was before email, before Facebook; this was a time when someone could disappear if they wanted to. But it was September, the campus was bursting forth in green, the dorms airy and sun-filled and smelling of lemon wood polish. We could not stay worried for long.
And there was good news, too. There was a new art teacher, and the principal told us that she was young and very talented and had just moved upstate from Manhattan. When we walked into the art classroom, our hearts leapt. The new teacher looked like an artist. Mrs. Lawrence had worn oversized floral caftans, black stretchy pants, orthopedic shoes. She was shaped like an eggplant and had a slow, lumbering walk. She wore two or three bulky necklaces at a time and rings on every finger and perfume that filled the room with the scent of lilacs. Although she was always dressed in bursts of bright colors, she didn’t seem like an artist to us. She talked about unartistic things, like making meatloaf for her husband for dinner or how she kept forgetting to trim her cat’s claws. But this new teacher was tall and thin and wore only black. Her short hair was dyed an almost white blonde, and her lipstick was bright red. She was from New York City. Some of us came from Manhattan and proclaimed that the new teacher looked like the students who smoked cigarettes outside of The School of Visual Arts. Mrs. Lawrence was someone who taught art; this new teacher looked like someone who did art.
Before she even spoke, we liked her. We thought that in just one semester, we could impress her enough that she could write us stunning letters of recommendation for RISD and Pratt and Parsons. We loved young teachers, but they were rare at Florence Summer the years we attended. Our physical education teacher, Mr. Baker, was young, and when it snowed he’d gather trays from the cafeteria and go sledding with us and somehow convince the cooks to have Swiss Miss waiting for us in Styrofoam cups when we came back inside to return the icy trays to the cafeteria. We hoped for more of this sort of fun with the new art teacher. Maybe she’d take us to Paris to see the great museums and sneak us into nightclubs, insisting that we were old enough to be admitted.
We wondered how old the new art teacher was. If she was right out of college, then she’d only be four or five years older than we were. Maybe she could be our friend. Maybe she could be our confidant, someone we’d go to with our problems about roommates and boys and college choices.
Once we were seated, the new teacher smiled at us, a tentative smile, and said, “Welcome to Senior Art Intensive. I’m Miss Holloway. I’m new.” Her voice was quiet, and she seemed almost scared of us, as if we might suddenly stand up and fling paintbrushes at her head. The coolness instantly dissolved from her. “Maybe we could go around and you can each tell me your names?” She said it as if she was unsure whether we’d comply. We told her our names, and she checked each name off of a roster.
“I’ll do my best to learn your names quickly,” she said when we were done. She bent down and picked up a stack of books from a shelf. “This will be your first textbook for the semester. Please pass them around.” The book was called Perspective for Artists and had a pencil sketch of a cityscape on the cover.
We gaped at each other. Textbook? First textbook? There would be more books? We’d never had textbooks for art. We were just creative, made things, did whatever we wanted. And, always, all of us got As. For all of the previous year, Mrs. Lawrence had rolled a TV on a black cart into the classroom, and we’d watched Days of Our Lives while we drew and painted and sculpted. Mrs. Lawrence said true artists needed to understand torture and anguish, and soap operas would teach us all of these things. How could we go from Days of Our Lives to Perspective for Artists?
“Let’s start with some definitions,” Miss Holloway said. She walked to the blackboard in the corner of the classroom that Mrs. Lawrence had never used. She wrote “vanishing point,” “multiple-point perspective,” “single-point perspective,” “rule of thirds,” and “parallel lines.” She smiled at us and said, “I’m sure you all know about parallel lines from math class.” We didn’t smile back. How dare she invoke math class in a room that was supposed to be free of rules, free of terms scrawled on chalkboards, free of textbooks?
We looked at each other, shook our heads. We longed for the days when Mrs. Lawrence would heave a large rectangle of clay onto the center of the table and say, “Have at it, my little sparrows.” Miss Holloway explained the terms on the board and told us our first graded assignment, due on Friday, was to draw one of the buildings on campus. She told us that we shouldn’t turn in our first try; we should keep drawing until we had something we were happy with, even if it took us fifty or a hundred tries. “One hundred tries?” mouthed Dana Jordan.
Miss Holloway drew a three-dimensional cube on the board and told us that we had to first master drawing cubes and then cylinders before we should try drawing buildings, and that it might be a good idea to spend the next day or two only drawing shapes. She handed us each a 3B graphite stick and a pad of newsprint. We looked at each other again. We weren’t even allowed to choose our own materials?
“Why are we going to be graded on this?” Tiffany Martinson said.
“Aren’t assignments always graded?” Miss Holloway said. Her brow wrinkled.
“Mrs. Lawrence did something she called holistic grading,” said Bella Weatherwax.
“What does that mean?” said Miss Holloway.
“It means she didn’t give us any grades during the semester, and then at the end of the semester, she’d think back and evaluate each of us on all the work we did over the semester,” Bella said.
“I think it would be easier for me to keep track of things if I grade each assignment along the way,” Miss Holloway said.
Amanda Chung raised her hand.
“Yes, Amanda?” Miss Holloway said. How had she learned her name so quickly? She hadn’t even looked down at her roster.
“But how do you grade art?” Amanda said. “Shouldn’t we get As if we try and if we’re creative?”
“You don’t get As. You earn As,” Miss Holloway said. “Just the same as in every other class.”
We didn’t like that answer. Maybe in other courses you earned As if you could graph a function or could recite facts about the Boer War or could explain the symbolism of the green light in The Great Gatsby. You could earn As in classes where there were right answers and wrong answers, but in art, we were certain there were no wrong answers.
Throughout the fall we stopped into the front office, and again and again Ruth told us that no postcards had arrived. “I’ll let you know, girls, I promise, if one does come,” she said.
“Do you maybe know where Mrs. Lawrence is?” asked Sandra Rios. It was what we all wanted to know, but we didn’t want to hear that Mrs. Lawrence was keeping in touch with the adults but had decided to abandon us.
Ruth put her right hand over her heart and said, “I swear, I have no idea where that woman went off to. And let me tell you, I’d like to know because she took off with my Crock-Pot.” Then Ruth’s face turned pink, and she added, “I’ve said enough.”
Mrs. Lawrence’s silence wasn’t the only thing that troubled us that fall; throughout the first semester, someone kept vandalizing our campus. Students parked cars in a lot on the east side of campus, and one morning we woke to find that every car parked there had a deep silver scratch in its side. In late October, someone painted “DIE RICH BITCHES” on the front entrance of McAllister Hall in dripping orange paint. We suspected it was people from town, probably kids who went to the public school who thought we were elitists and that Florence Summer Academy for Girls was nothing more than a finishing school for millionaires’ daughters. But this wasn’t true. Many of us were on scholarship. A lot of our fathers worked in upstate pulp and paper mills and sawmills. Many of our parents were state workers stuck in cubicles in Albany, making enough to land our families in the middle class but not earning enough to afford tuition at Florence Summer. Over half the student body was on work-study, serving meals in the dining hall, shelving books in the library, planting flowers outside the academic buildings in the spring. Yes, there were parents who were executives with KeyBank or Fleet Bank or who had enormous offices on high floors in buildings on Wall Street; their daughters got red Jeeps for their seventeenth birthdays, spent summers in Europe. But that wasn’t everyone.
By November, we dreaded leaving our dorms in the mornings, afraid to see what sort of destruction we’d see. The morning before Thanksgiving break, the stained glass windows of the Great Hall had been smashed; someone had managed this despite the extra security that now patrolled our campus, as if we were a prison academy. It was our last year at Florence Summer; it was supposed to be our best year, but nothing was going as we’d anticipated.
Matters did not improve with Miss Holloway as the semester progressed. She continued with her lessons and the books, moving from perspective to composition to color. She would spend ten or fifteen minutes showing us how to properly use a stick of charcoal or a T-square. She gave lectures on different types and weights of paper. She made us draw our non-dominant hand fifty times and turn in all fifty sketches before we were allowed to move on to the next assignment. Art had gone from our favorite class to our most despised. Mrs. Lawrence had let us switch mediums or even switch projects whenever we got bored. Now our only outlet, our only escape, was the walls of our dorm rooms, which we splattered with fluorescent paint, drew zigzags across, drew crooked lines on without using rulers. Then we mocked Miss Holloway by saying, “An artist must first learn two things. How to draw a precise circle and how to draw a straight line. And there are tools that can help you do that.” We’d cackle and draw lopsided circles until our walls looked like they were being taken over by enormous amoebas.
We spent much of the fall semester nervous about our letters of recommendation. We still could not track down Mrs. Lawrence and time was running out for our art school applications. The more charitable among us decided that her husband had driven the RV into the Grand Canyon and they were both dead and this was the only reason Mrs. Lawrence was not staying in touch. But the pragmatists had begun to realize that perhaps she’d never loved us as much as we had loved her. The job had been a paycheck, and she’d just been putting in time until she could retire. Perhaps our love had been false. Maybe we didn’t love her; maybe we’d only loved hearing how wonderful and talented we were, and now Miss Holloway made us wonder whether anything Mrs. Lawrence had said was true at all.
Right before winter break, the seniors went on a field trip to the roller rink. There, we were allowed to eat popcorn and hot dogs, drink soda until we were jittery with caffeine and sugar, and stuff quarters into the coin-operated vending machines to buy gum, candy, and small plastic trinkets. Our chaperones were Miss Holloway and our gym teacher, Mr. Baker. Mr. Baker immediately put on a pair of rented brown skates and skated with us under the pulsing red and blue and green lights of the rink. He was good; he could even skate backwards. When “Ice Ice Baby” came on over the speakers, Mr. Baker rapped along, and we had to hold our bellies because we were laughing so hard. Miss Holloway stood by the snack stand and sipped a can of Sprite through a straw and watched us circle the rink. “Robots are fueled by Sprite?” Sabrina Fox said, and we all giggled. We’d started calling Miss Holloway The Robot behind her back. We thought that she had no life outside of teaching art, that she lived only to force us to complete one tiresome exercise after another.
After about half an hour of skating, Mr. Baker rolled to the edge of the rink and shouted, “You ever going to join me?” We waited for Miss Holloway’s answer and wished the music would quiet down the way it would during an important scene in a movie. All year, we’d wondered about Miss Holloway’s personal life, wondered who she went home to at night. If she went home to anyone. We were convinced that she went home and drew her hands and three-dimensional cubes all night until her eyes could no longer stay open. And here was Mr. Baker, who maybe wasn’t the smartest guy and wore blue polo shirts and khaki pants and gray New Balance sneakers every single day, but he was one of the few men on our campus and he was funny and knew all the words to “Ice Ice Baby” and let us go sledding on cafeteria trays. Could Miss Holloway do any better? We didn’t think so. But Miss Holloway smiled and said, “I’ll just watch, thank you.” We looked at each other, shook our heads. And then Elaine Hofstadter whispered, “Maybe The Robot needs new batteries.” We laughed again, high on the freedom of a night out and too much sugar. What we didn’t consider then was that maybe Miss Holloway hadn’t skated because she’d known that if she did, we’d find something to critique; one way or another, we’d find something to mock her for.
We returned from winter break well fed, well rested, and with new haircuts and new sweaters. That year the style was oversized wool cardigans, the kind our grandfathers wore. We were ready to face another frozen, gray upstate winter, to hunker down for a few months and study until we got into college and could finally relax. We hadn’t gotten our letters of recommendation from Mrs. Lawrence. Instead, we’d gotten letters from our English teachers, our history teachers, even our science teachers. We asked, as politely as we could, if they might include something about our artwork in their letters, in light of Mrs. Lawrence’s disappearance. We hoped a few kind words about us as artists, along with the portfolios we’d assembled, might be enough, but we were nervous that we wouldn’t get into art schools. We were afraid to ask Miss Holloway for recommendations. She’d given us some bad grades when we’d done sloppy work on our assignments; we no longer had all As in art.
Over break, there had been more damage on campus, a small fire set in the auditorium that had burned a hole in the wooden stage, obscene words spray painted on the dorms, and, on the day we returned to school, six Japanese Cherry trees that had been brought to the Academy twenty-five years before by a Japanese ambassador whose daughter attended the school were hacked down. Whoever was doing this was sneaky and quick. They still hadn’t been caught. These people who were damaging our beautiful, calm school knew nothing of us. They thought we were terrible people, and we hated being hated. These people didn’t know us, had made assumptions about who we were and what we were made of. It was unfair.
We returned, grumpy, to the art classroom in January. Our final semester of school was supposed to be fun, but Senior Art Intensive lasted all year, so none of us could wiggle out of it. Miss Holloway wore more clothing than she had during the fall semester, including a thin, filmy black scarf that wrapped around and around her neck, as if she needed an extra layer of protection from us. She looked tired, had gray circles under her eyes, but she smiled at us, greeted each of us by name, asked how our breaks had been. “Fine,” we said. No one wanted to divulge any more details to her. She seemed older now, not as young as she’d been on the first day of school in September. “I’d like to give you girls a choice about the work you’ll do this semester,” she said. We sat up straighter. “As you know, the spring drama is Little Women,” she said. Oh, we knew. We’d heard whispers of it starting in the fall, and we knew who’d star in the play: Missy Filbert, Alice Cavanaugh, Laurel Propetti, and Kimberly Allendale. Mrs. Horace, the drama teacher, played favorites. It was always the same girls who got the leads in every school production. Some of us had been tempted to audition, wanting to be Jo, the tomboy, or Beth—how romantic to die so young! Of course the most natural fit would have been Amy, the artist. But you couldn’t just start being one of the drama kids the last semester of senior year. If any of us had talent for acting, it would have been discovered already. “I spoke with Mrs. Horace last week, and she invited us to make sets for the play.” Miss Holloway grinned, as if she were presenting us with an extravagant gift.
We were silent for a few seconds, then Dawn Takahashi said, “You said you’d give us a choice. What’s the other option?”
“The other option would be to go on as we did last semester, learning new techniques, learning how to use new materials. But I think we covered so much last semester that you would be able to help create some beautiful sets.”
It was clear what Miss Holloway wanted us to choose. It sounded as if she’d already committed us to Mrs. Horace.
“Take a minute. Talk it over. Decide,” said Miss Holloway, but her eyes darted fast between us, as if she already knew what our answer would be.
We leaned our heads together and whispered. We didn’t have to talk for long. “We’ll continue with our lessons,” said Tamara Silver.
“Are you sure?” said Miss Holloway. She grabbed onto the edge of a wooden drafting table and held onto it hard, as if she were dizzy. “This is your final decision?”
“This is our final decision,” said Tamara.
And so we continued with our lessons, slowly, despite ourselves, learning about color and composition and perspective and light. We absorbed terms like chiaroscuro, verisimilitude, analogous colors, and reflected light because Miss Holloway said them so often. Although we studied art vocabulary and learned how to use artists’ tools and better understood how to look at the paintings that Miss Holloway projected onto a screen at the front of the classroom, we went about our lessons halfheartedly. We knew we needed to pass this class if we wanted to go to college—and every graduate of Florence Summer was expected to go to college—so we did what Miss Holloway asked of us, but mostly we didn’t do a good job on our assignments. We just wanted to pass.
At least we could be as creative as we wanted with our dorm walls. In February, Bella Weatherwax called Facilities and asked if they’d deliver more primer. We were tired of our zigzagged lines, our free-form amoebic circles. We painted everything white and started again. But this time something strange happened. What appeared on the walls of each of our rooms was better than anything we could have done in the past. Dawn Takahashi painted a field of sunflowers that looked as if they were waving in the wind. Sandra Rios painted a cityscape of her hometown of Jersey City, the view she had from her bedroom window in her family’s apartment. “Now when I get homesick, I just look at my wall,” she said. Tamara Silver painted animals from Australia—a koala, an emu, a wallaby—life-sized on her wall. She’d gone to the Australian Outback over the summer and couldn’t wait to go back.
While we were busy with our walls, Miss Holloway worked alone on the sets for Little Women. After school and during her free periods, we’d see Miss Holloway hauling lumber from a pickup truck to the art classroom. We heard her hammering together frames for the sets late into the nights. We watched as the canvases she stretched across the lumber filled with color. We were impressed with Miss Holloway’s work. We’d never seen Mrs. Lawrence draw or paint anything, but the sets proved Miss Holloway knew what she was talking about. She painted a set for a Beth’s room and one for a garden and one for the March family living room. One day Mrs. Horace, the drama teacher, came into the classroom during Senior Art Intensive and looked at Miss Holloway’s work, which leaned against the back wall. “My god, Gillian,” she said, “why aren’t you on Broadway working on sets there?” She stared at the sets for a long while then turned to us. We were working on graded watercolor washes, each of us selecting one color and working from dark to light down a page. “Girls, you must feel so lucky to have Miss Holloway as your teacher,” she said.
We smiled at her, nodded, but no one said anything. What was there to say?
By the end of March, the sets had been finished and were moved to the auditorium. By then, some of us had gotten into art schools and others had been rejected. Some of us were on waitlists, and it was a tense, eager time. The actors practiced late every night, and we were all excited to see the show when it opened the second week of April. The spring drama was a big deal; it marked the beginning of Parents’ Weekend, and the auditorium was always packed.
On the first Friday in April, as we walked to the dining hall for breakfast, we heard loud cries coming from the auditorium. We were filled with both curiosity and fear, and we ran over to the auditorium, threw the doors open, and sprinted inside. Someone had destroyed Miss Holloway’s sets in the middle of the night. The wood had been sawed through, the canvases splattered with black paint. We watched in silence as Miss Holloway surveyed the damage, weeping. She touched the canvases and her fingers came away stained with the still-wet paint. “Why?” she said. Then, “Who?” She looked at us, and we were horrified. We understood that she thought we had something to do with this.
Mr. Baker ran into the auditorium and took the steps two at a time. He ran to Miss Holloway and folded her in his arms. “It’s OK, Gillian,” he said. “It’s OK.”
“The play’s in a week,” she said. She allowed him to hold her while we watched, and we wondered if there was something more to their relationship that we hadn’t been privy to.
“Here’s an idea,” said Mr. Baker, releasing Miss Holloway. “What if you girls help Miss Holloway redo the sets?”
“Oh, no,” said Miss Holloway, shaking her head. “They don’t want to do that.”
Mr. Baker looked at us, waited for one of us to say something, but no one did. So he said, “Tell her, girls. Tell her you’ll help.”
Mr. Baker seemed different. We’d never seen him be anything but jovial, cheerful, the goof, the campus jester. But now there was something pleading in his voice and in his eyes, and he seemed to indicate that only we could right what had gone wrong. Miss Holloway stood next to him, her scarf wrapped tightly around her thin neck, and continued to shake her head.
“Why would they fix something they destroyed?” Miss Holloway said. “They hate me. They call me The Robot. I’ve heard them whispering.”
We were shocked, stunned that Miss Holloway knew our nickname for her. We wondered what else she knew. Mr. Baker looked at the destroyed sets and then at us. “No,” he said. “These girls couldn’t have done this.”
“It doesn’t matter if they did or didn’t,” Miss Holloway said. “I don’t want their help.”
And then she ran from the auditorium and left us standing with Mr. Baker next to the ruined sets and no one knew what to say. Finally Mr. Baker looked at us and said, “Well, go on to breakfast. There’s nothing more that can be done here.”
Miss Holloway was late for Senior Art Intensive that day. We wondered if she would even show up, but we waited silently. When she finally came in, she was pushing the TV on the rolling cart in front of her. She handed Sabrina Fox the remote, and said, “Go ahead. Put on whatever you want.”
“Do we have an assignment?” Sabrina said.
“Do whatever you want,” said Miss Holloway. Her voice was quiet, dull. “It’s what you wanted all year, isn’t it?”
It had been what we’d longed for, but now that the television was back in the room, no one wanted to watch it. We felt adrift. We wanted a lesson. We wanted so much: we wanted to be able to tell Miss Holloway about our dorm room walls, about how those lessons had helped us paint scenes we would have never been able to create before. We wanted to tell her how sorry we were, and we wanted to make sure she knew that we hadn’t destroyed her sets.
“How did you know about the TV?” said Tamara.
Miss Holloway laughed, a dry, brittle sound. “You really want to know? In the teacher’s lounge, everyone makes fun of your old teacher. They said she’d checked out a decade before, that she’d resorted to letting you all watch TV during class every day. They said something about soap operas. Everyone was waiting for her to retire so they could hire someone to actually teach art. But you girls are ruined. You don’t want to learn. You just want free rein, and that’s what you’ll get for the rest of the year.”
“We don’t,” said Amanda. “We want lessons.”
“It’s too late to want that,” said Miss Holloway. “Just too late.”
Mrs. Horace rented sets for Little Women. They were adequate, but we could not help but picture what Miss Holloway’s sets would have looked like in place of the rented ones. The show was a success, and our parents cheered and clapped, but we sat in the audience feeling guilty with no way to remedy what had gone wrong.
A week before the end of the school year, Ruth, the secretary, entered the art classroom waving a postcard in the air. Miss Holloway looked up from the book on Renaissance paintings she was reading. Now she read art textbooks each day in class, and we were free to do whatever we chose. We’d taken to doing exercises out of the textbooks she’d passed out to us throughout the year. At the end of each class period, we brought our sketches and exercises up to Miss Holloway’s table and left them for her. The next day, they were where we’d left them, untouched. We collected our work and began new exercises. We hoped that we could say with pencils and paints what we couldn’t say with words, but Miss Holloway didn’t want to hear anything from us. Each day, she rolled the TV cart into the classroom and handed one of us the remote. We never put anything on the TV, just quietly set the remote down and worked in uncomfortable silence.
“I’m so sorry to interrupt class,” Ruth said. “It’s just that all year the girls have been asking about Mrs. Lawrence, and wouldn’t you know it, right before they graduate here’s a postcard from her!” Ruth handed the postcard to Miss Holloway. “I couldn’t wait to give it to them. I just finished sorting the mail.”
“Thank you, Ruth,” Miss Holloway said. “How nice of you.”
Ruth turned to us and said, “I knew you’d all be so excited.”
Miss Holloway held the card up. “Who wants it?” she asked.
No one answered.
“Now don’t everyone jump up at once,” Ruth said. She laughed, but no one laughed along with her. She looked perplexed. “How about you read it out loud, Gillian?”
“OK,” said Miss Holloway. She flipped the postcard over and read: “My Sweet Petunias,
Sorry to not have written sooner, but I’m sure you’re all doing swimmingly. I’m certain hundreds of masterpieces were created this year! I am in Florida now, and we may settle here permanently. What beautiful water and blue, blue skies. And no New York winters. Imagine that! Congratulations, girls, on graduation. You all have such bright futures ahead of you. XOXO Mrs. Lawrence.”
“Well, isn’t that nice,” said Ruth.
“Yes, nice,” said Miss Holloway, flipping the postcard over and studying the palm trees on the front.
But it wasn’t nice; it was generic and unspecific, and it had come too late to mean anything. Mrs. Lawrence had hidden from us all year. She hadn’t helped us at all. Those of us that got into art school believed we got in despite Mrs. Lawrence. And, maybe, those of us who’d been accepted had gotten in because of what we’d learned from Miss Holloway.
Ruth waited with an expectant look on her face.
“Thank you, Ruth,” said Dawn, and then we all echoed her thanks. We wanted to say nothing about the content of the postcard, so instead we heaped thanks on Ruth, which satisfied her enough to make her leave the room. Once she was gone, Miss Holloway put the postcard on our table, but no one reached for it, and finally, three days later it disappeared. The janitor had likely swept it into the garbage with the other scraps of paper we’d left on the table.
On the last day of school, Dana Jordan called Facilities and asked if they would bring one more batch of primer to us. Two men came that afternoon and placed silver cans of primer outside our doors for the third time that year. We painted our walls again, adding layer over layer until everything was thoroughly covered and we could not see what was below. We left our walls white and plain when we moved out, and we hoped the girls who lived on the second floor of McAllister Hall the next year would paint over them, would do better than we had done.
KARIN LIN-GREENBERG is the author of Faulty Predictions, which won the 2013 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and won gold in the Short Story category of ForeWord Reviews’ INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards. Her stories have appeared in journals including the Antioch Review, Epoch, Five Chapters, and Kenyon Review Online. She teaches creative writing at Siena College in upstate New York. Please visit her online at karinlingreenberg.com.