Maude Mabel was particular. Maude always kept her room spotless and her fur clean. Her clothes were all folded neatly in her dresser drawers, and her coats and dresses remained hanging in her closet with the hangers all facing in the same direction. Her closet shelves were neatly lined with boxes of crafts and other storage bins. Maude always brushes her teeth for the recommended three minutes, and makes sure to floss every time. She only uses eight squares of toilet paper in the bathroom. Never seven, never nine; Maude felt more comfortable with even numbers.
Maude went about every morning in the same way: she made her bed, put on the day’s favorite dress (unless it happened to be a Friday, and then she put on her favorite purple, polka-dotted shirt), ate a hearty breakfast of cheesy scrambled eggs and toast with strawberry jam — never letting the two mingle, gathered her school things in her old backpack with the flower patches sewn into it, and left the house for school at 8 o’clock sharp.
Her schooldays remained almost the same from day-to-day. She started the day with a simple social studies, and continued on with math- she liked math, because everything had a right answer, unlike her next class: English. After English her class took a snack break, and then had gym. Gym was followed by lunch and then recess, which was spent mostly on the swings, where she would swing no more and no less than sixty times. She then had Spanish, music, and finally, her favorite class: art.
Maude liked that art was her last class of the day, so she always had something to look forward to. Whenever her teacher gave them some free time to work on whatever they pleased, she always chose her favorite way of expressing herself: painting. All of her paintings included her three favorite things: the bright yellow sun, a tall, lush tree- always with an owl hole, and herself wearing, of course, her favorite purple polka-dotted shirt. Every time, though, she would change something about the painting. Sometimes there wouldn’t be an owl in the owl hole, or sometimes, depending on the season, the leaves would be orange and red, or not there at all. Some paintings would have more flowers than others, and she often painted herself with blue or pink ribbons in her fur.
One rainy Friday afternoon, there she was, painting her same painting with the purple polka-dotted shirt and her pretty pink ribbons, when the clumsiest boy in class, Jackson Spivey (who Maude Mabel tried to avoid as often as possible) swung his arm around and accidentally knocked over a bottle of green paint, making one large splat right on top of her artwork, landing right where she had just painted her perfect, purple, polka-dotted shirt. Jackson Spivey froze in embarrassment as Maude Mabel froze in frustration. Her stomach started filling up with thunder and lightning that was just as anxious as the storm brewing outside, just as it always does when she’s forced to stray from her routines, but then something funny happened… The rain outside started calming down, and so did her stomach…
Maude stood staring at the painting, confused. She couldn’t explain why, but she actually sort of liked the way the green splat looked on her purple shirt. Maybe it was the way the two colors looked together, or maybe it was how the splat was so simple that it added just enough crazy to actually look cool. Whatever it was, it changed Maude Mabel’s perspective and she hugged and thanked the messy boy who she had hated all year.
After this art class phenomenon, Jackson and Maude became best friends, and he showed her how to live life in a more fun, carefree way. At recess, he showed her that you don’t have to stop swinging once you reach sixty, because seventy, or even eighty, can also be fun, and you don’t even have to count at all!
At home, during dinner time, Maude saw her brother mixing his mashed potatoes with his meatloaf. At first, she was disgusted at the thought of food touching, but he seemed to enjoy it, and so she thought she would give it a try. She took her fork, mixed away, and threw a heaping mouthful of mash onto her tongue. She was delighted by how it tasted and could not believe she hadn’t discovered this sooner.
After these little discoveries, Maude wondered what other little secrets to happiness were hiding behind the routines she had spent so long perfecting, and she decided to get a little crazy… Maude took all the arts and crafts boxes out of her closet and spilled its contents all over her desk, hoping that she would in time become more creative. She opened up her sock drawer and tossed around rainbow handfuls until striped socks rested with polka-dotted socks and pink socks hung around with orange socks, because who doesn’t like a little mixin’ and matchin’? She tore up all of her gel-pen lists, neglecting any and all routines she had planned for the night, the next day, and all the days after that. Maude went back to her closet and mixed everything up, no longer feeling the need for her dresses to be color coordinated. After tiring herself out from all the excitement of new experiences, Maude decided to go to sleep early, at 8 o’clock instead of 9 o’clock. She changed into mismatched pajamas, climbed into bed, and, soon, Maude Mabel was resting soundly with hangers pointing every which way.
Grace Imbesi, aspiring poet and children’s author. English major at Russell Sage College of Troy. New York.
Photo credit: Studio shot of mixture of paints. Photography. Britannica ImageQuest. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 25 May 2016. http://quest.eb.com/search/115_3959718/1/115_3959718/cite. Accessed 11 Aug 2016