The Wheat Paste Heart by Tray Ellis

January 6, 2015

“You know this is illegal, right?”

Saxon only paused for a moment to shrug his shoulders and then he continued to apply the homemade wheat paste to the wall with the small paint roller.  Tonight he was installing a series of small posters, ranging from the size of his hand to that of the front of a folded out newspaper.  He’d been working on this project for weeks.  If he had to get caught, he’d have wanted it to be after the display was up and set, but he’d have preferred not to found out at all. He was caught, but he wasn’t stopped. Not yet.  So he kept working.

With the concrete retaining wall covered in sticky, wet paste Saxon put the roller away into a plastic bag and retrieved the folder containing his artwork. He flipped it open to reveal the overall schematic. He’d been doing guerrilla art for nearly a year and a lot of it had been trial and error, but now he had some knowledge and tonight’s project was the culmination of a lot of effort.  The location was risky, but it had been too important not to attempt.  It made all the difference and he wasn’t going to back away.

“If you get caught, you’re going to be in a lot of trouble.”

That made Saxon turn to address his unexpected visitor. “If?” he asked. It seemed the most important aspect of the previous statement.

James scuffed his foot on the ground and it was difficult to read his expression in the nighttime darkness. “I’m not a snitch,” he said.

Saxon thought about that for a moment.  “Thanks,” he finally said.  He looked around him, considering.  It was the middle of the night and he was in a generally non-visible section of a pathway near his high school.  A concrete retaining wall had been built into the ground with a direct sightline from the path, which kids used constantly during the day.  If James was traveling here at this time of night, then he’d been sneaking out as well.  Probably it was more trouble to mention this fact than it’d be worth to confront James with it, and besides, it seemed he wasn’t going to reveal Saxon’s complicity.    ”I only need fifteen more minutes and this’ll be done,” Saxon added and then he returned to his task.

James moved closer, hovering, and glancing at Saxon’s materials.  “What are you doing? Can I help?”

“Sure.”  Saxon handed over the schematic.  “I’m putting these up.  Make sure I have it all in the right place.  Each piece will be part of the whole picture.”

James squinted at the schematic.  The moon was almost full in the clear night sky, shedding a lot of light, but it would still be hard to read. Saxon had waited for the perfect night.  He’d needed enough natural moonlight to work without a flashlight and good weather.  It had rained heavily for the past week and tonight had seemed optimum.

Saxon didn’t need to review the drawing.  He already knew by heart where everything went.

The overall design incorporated more than two dozen drawings of hot air balloons.  Each balloon was heart-shaped with a unique pattern. Each basket below held a single individual.  They were all arranged to seem to float magnificently and peacefully in the sky.  Below them were a handful of terrible, savage creatures with mean eyes and frightful postures, holding different types weapons. Saxon had adorned each with a capital B on their chest, painted bright scarlet, and he had to thank Mr. Beezy someday for the extra reading assignments or else he wouldn’t have known to make that connection.  One of the tormentors had hit his mark.  There was a ragged hole in a beautiful balloon and it was losing altitude, about to crash to the earth.  The individual in the basket was certainly doomed.

Saxon placed the very last piece of paper onto the pasted wall, smoothing it in place so that it adhered strongly:  STOP BULLYING.

He stepped back to look over the entire scene.  The whole installation was over fifteen feet wide and six feet high. The adrenaline he’d felt rushing through him the whole night ebbed away.  He felt calm and serene, his heart as full and light as the hot-air balloons.  Tomorrow, everyone would see it.

“Wow,” James said.

“It has to stop.”  Saxon was tired.  Tired of hiding who he was and tired of waiting, always waiting for some distant day in the future when it would get better. He was tired of being afraid, tired of letting slip that he had different ideas about boys and girls than most of his schoolmates. He looked over at James. “You won’t tell?”

He didn’t know James well. They had different classes and different interests.  James was athletic, but wasn’t a star performer.  He was smart, but not top of the class.  He blended in and never made waves.  Suddenly, he realized that James might be more like him than not.  People who were different sometimes spent their whole lives hiding in plain sight.

“I won’t tell,” James promised, with the solemn childhood gesture of crossing a finger over his heart. He held out a hand.

Saxon looked at it for a moment, surprised.  Then he reached out and shook.  It felt odd and very grown-up.

“If you do something like this again, call me.  I’ll help.”

“Okay,” Saxon said. Then James helped him stuff the last of his materials into his backpack and, convinced he hadn’t left any telltale evidence behind, they exchanged a last serious look, and each went their own way into the dark.

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Tray Ellis grew up with two brothers and many cats and dogs. Her family loves to cook, eat, sit around talking, and quote old movies at each other. The more laughter the better, and her family loves to laugh. Tray has a completely romantic view of autumn, and thinks it is the perfect season and an excellent source of writing inspiration. When she isn’t writing, she keeps busy by jogging, fishing, cooking, baking, and keeping her home in some semblance of order. (Perhaps she has completely exaggerated that her home is in any kind of order whatsoever.) She can be found at her website and Facebook.

2 Responses to “The Wheat Paste Heart by Tray Ellis”

  1. Angela Neal says:

    Wow! Now that’s something I would love to read more of. I would also love to see that wall.

    Just one thing, sweets. You need someone to beta for you. I found a mistake or two while reading.

    Best of luck!

  2. Stacey Davison says:

    love it.i thinks its great as it is, it certainly got the message across but i would also love to see that picture

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