Cartoon people were fun and easy because you did not have to worry about proportions. Every part of the person could be any length and thickness, and it did not matter. Actually, the weirder the more laughs he’d get. Kids passing the drawing from one to another, chuckling over it. He knew he’d never stop cartooning, it was his door to “coolness” in the school.
But he wanted to do people so he began to study them, really study them. I mean seriously and carefully. For example, he wanted to know how long the arms were compared to the rest of the person. He wanted to know where on an arm he should place the elbow. He’d tried placing it in the middle, but that looked wrong. He wanted to memorize how the clothing folded and wrinkled when the arm was bent.
The problem was he already had a reputation for “looking” or as most would describe it, “daydreaming.’ He always wanted his desk near the windows and he’d spend any spare time looking out onto the prairie, the clouds in the sky… “Window Guy” they called him at school.
At recess he’d sit or lie on the ground examining things, like a blade of grass, a root he’d pull out of the ground, or any bug or ant that happened by.
“What ya looken at?” someone noticing him staring at them would say. He’d jerk away, pretending to be busy with something else.
It was embarrassing, that’s what it was. After some thought, he decided that if he was going to learn anything, he’d have to look at himself!
At home, he remembered his mother had a full length mirror, but it was in her and his father’s bedroom. This bedroom this was really off limits for him but he was desperate. First, he needed to scout out the situation and began to peer into the room secretly, from the living room. Even while the rest of the family was around he’d be doing this. Several times he tried, looking real casual as he walked by the door, rolling his eyes sideways scanning the room to catch a glimpse of the mirror. No matter from where he sat, stood or walked, he could not make out where the mirror was actually located. He knew it was there somewhere.
The second thing, was to be aware of everyone’s wareabouts during each aspect of the day. Dad was no problem, since he left the house in the morning and came back only for meals. His mother would leave the house for doing laundry, sometimes doing chores or to weed or pick food for meals from the garden. That would not be hard to figure out. The worst was Geraldine, as she would be present, yet absent, playing in her own world, coming and going without any warning.
The very next Saturday he noticed his mother in the garden, hoeing weeds. He could tell she’d be there a while as the garden was a large one. Dad was out on the field with the tractor, but he’d not seen Geraldine for a while so was not sure where she was. Regardless, he made the decision to go for it and ran into the house with great expectations and excitement.
Holding his scribbler, pencil and eraser, he paused in front of his parent’s bedroom open door. The house was very quiet. No one had ever said he could not go into his parent’s bedroom, yet for some strange reason, it seemed like it was off limits. He stiffened, and stepped through the door. In a second he saw the mirror, it was on the wall next to the door to his right. It was perfect. He stepped in front of the mirror and took his whole image in. He stepped forward. He leaned in, his face an inch from the glass and made a face, his breath fogging up his image. He smiled at himself, bobbing his head back and forth with joy. This would be just fine. He opened his scribbler wondering where to start.
He drew the folds of his clothing as he posed crouching, bending over, bending his arm this way and that. Then he took his shirt off and repeated the poses. He removed his shoes and his pants, posing and drawing. His gitch landed on the floor and more poses were made and drawn. Mike was lost in his element. The afternoon slid by, his whole consciousness being on the model in the mirror, nothing else. So you can imagine his surprise when he began to be aware that someone had come into the house and was making their way from the kitchen into the living room. He also suddenly realized that he was stark naked. His question of how that had come about was interrupted by footsteps coming his way. He knew he could not take the risk of waiting to see if whoever it was, was going to come into the bedroom. He quickly scooped and kicked his clothing along the floor hiding them under the bed. He then threw himself down onto the floor and slithered under the bed into hiding after them, nervously clutching his scribbler in his hand.
From his position under the bed he could see his mother’s feet as she came walking into the bedroom. He did not know she was carrying a bowel of water, a towel and a wash cloth. She closed the door behind her.
Mike stared at the closed door. “She closed the door,” he thought, “I’m trapped, I’ll never get out.” His fear meter began to rise, “Why would she close the door?”
Then Mike got the shock of his life when he saw his mother’s cotton dress land silently on the floor at her feet. Curious, he inched his head forward, he could see her half-slip. He craned his neck a little further, just in time to see her toss her brazier out of his vision and saw, in the reflection of the mirror, his mother’s bare breasts!
He gasped in awe, involuntarily clamping his hand over his mouth. Fear and wonder washed over him, his body slowly moving into a fetal position beneath the confines of the bed. “Should I be seeing this?” he asked himself. Despite his misgivings, he just could not make himself back away and retreat back under the bed.
What he saw next could only be described by Mike as a dance, a ballet of smooth, confident movements as she gave herself a sponge bath following an afternoon of working in the garden during the heat of the day. An arm in the air, the other circling, now quick, now slow. The sound of dripping water as she paused to wrung out the wash cloth. Now the back, now the other arm up, now the front, under over and around. Her sighs of comfort as the water cooled her body. Then she dried herself, again another dance. He was mesmerized watching how the single shaft of light from the window played on the shape and form of her body. Finally, Mike drew his head back under the bed closing his eyes. He knew he’d never seen anything so beautiful in all his life. The images, the light and the shadows, the movements, the dance, the shapes, would be forever etched in his brain. He was trying to reconcile that fact that it was his mother that was so beautiful.
When she was dressed, she left the room taking the bathing materials with her. Mike waited a few minutes, then squeezed himself out from under the bed and peeked out the door across the living room and into the kitchen. He was hoping his mother would just go out of sight so he could make a break for the upstairs door and up into his room without being seen. He stepped across the open door to the other side and snuggled up into the clothes closet still peeking out to monitor his mother’s movements. But, then he heard her coming fast. He had no time to scoot back past the open door, to get back under the bed, he was sure she would spot him. Instead, he pressed himself into the depth of the closet, between the clothes. She was into the room before he could get the closet door totally closed, so to make sure she would not see his feet he reached up, grabbed the metal hanging rod and lifted his feet off the floor.
He could feel the rod bend as he added his weight to that of the clothes already hanging from the metal rod. He tried not to move. He prayed his mother would leave the room…quickly! She came to the closet and held his breath as she shuffled some hangers about. When she withdrew he could feel his sweaty hands slipping, and took the occasion to “re-grip.” An action that involved lifting himself up quit quickly, then with the bounce, re-gripping the rod more deeply. The end of this bounce brought more than his full weight back down onto the rod. It was this maneuver that did Mike in. Mike realized his mistake to late, the rod groaned and gave way. He went down to the floor in a dramatic crash, entangled in his mother’s and his father’s clothes.
His mother kind of squeaked at the sudden commotion in her closet. Mike remained motionless and silent. She slowly opened the closet door and saw an arm, a leg and the tussled hair of her son’s head among the pile of clothes heaped at the bottom of the closet. “Mike, is that you?” she exclaimed in surprise, “what are you doing in here?”
It took a moment for Mike to untangle himself, but when he did, he was reminded that he was still stark naked and took off, his bare feet squeaking on the smooth floor, running for his life, across the living room towards the upstairs door. As he gained momentum half way through the living room he saw his sister Geraldine directly in his path, too late, he crashed into her and they both landed sprawling on the floor. His bare skin protesting as he slid to a stop. Time stood still as the two looked at each other, limbs akimbo on the floor. Then Geraldine’s expression began to change into a slow developing grin. Her eyes widening. Mike realized he was totally exposed sitting there in the buff facing her on the floor. He involuntarily jerked his legs together, knowing full well it had been too late and she’d seen it all. He tried to rise from the floor while covering himself but ended up struggling to his feet in a most embarrassing way. He tried to walk in a dignified manor towards the upstairs door to get out of sight. Just as he got there, he heard his sister’s taunting voice. “I saw you Mikie, she giggled, “I saw you!”
Even though it wasn’t evening or bedtime, Mike just had to cover his nakedness, quickly slipping under his blanket, relieved he was finally covered. There he lay, trying to understand what had just occurred, running through the events again and again.
Sketching himself in the mirror, hiding under the bed, seeing breasts for the first time, crashing into his sister… who would probably tease him forever.
Then he remembered that his clothing were still under his parent’s bed! If his mother discovered them or even asked why he’d been naked in the closet, he decided that he could tell her about drawing himself, posing in the full length mirror.
It would be good, he thought, to talk to somebody about this new obsession, this need to draw, and so to understand the shapes and forms of the physical human body. Could he talk to his mother? Would she understand?
He did not even understand it himself. But he did know he just needed to draw.