Pictures and the Sunshine
Molly Sunshine dragged her little feet along the dusty road, causing a little cloud to form around her sneakers. She sniffed and wiped the tears from her eyes. The way home from school was a long one, down a winding path with little footprints and sandcastles trailing the sides. It was usually very serene and quiet in the woods surrounding- apart from the bird songs- but there was something else in the air that afternoon.
The nine-year-old raised her head from her gloomy state and looked around. She thought she heard music, like an echo or a long lost whisper. Curiosity burned within the little girl, for she had never noticed any music on the road home before. A little hesitantly she stepped into the brush and made her way past brambles and briers. She could hear the music growing louder and louder. Fun music. The music of dreams. She finally made it out of the forest to come across a field. And in front of her was a circus.
Normally Molly Sunshine would have been ecstatic at her find, but the day had not been good to her. However, she had always wanted to see a circus, so slowly, she started to walk past the tents and trailers. The people walking around did not pay any attention to her. She was surprised at how different they were compared to her coloring books and picture books. She was so used to color and happiness.
Warily, she scooted past a skeletal woman with piercings covering her face, and Molly winced at the glare she was given. The nine year old jumped as she heard some sort of animal roar, and some deep gravelly voices yelled in a language she did not understand. A large man with wild eyes stared at her-his face half covered with greasy clown makeup-the blacks running into the whites and the reds blending into his flushed cheeks.
None of them were smiling. The rusted metal trailers didn’t look that appealing either; and the place smelled funny. Molly crinkled her nose and began to wonder if this unfriendly circus was out to get her, too. Now, as she listened to the music, it didn’t sound fun anymore. It sounded sad and warped. The little girl kicked a rock hard, tears filling her eyes again.
Molly jumped, and looked around. Sitting outside one of the striped worn tents was a man. He had a crooked nose, and a shiny head- but that’s not what the little girl noticed, for the man was covered in pictures. She had never seen anything like it before. Unlike the others however, he had a small, gentle sad smile that set him apart and calmed a little of the fear that she had been feeling.
She paused, and finally answered ,“Hello.”
“What is your name? Are you lost?” His voice had a strong accent that Molly did not recognize.
“I am Molly Sunshine and I will be ten in forty-six days,” she exclaimed. “And no. I’m not lost.”
The little girl puffed out her chest to portray the confidence that she actually lacked.
The picture man smiled kindly. “What a lovely name. But why is the sunshine so sad today? You have been crying.”
Molly scowled and slammed her bottom on a crate, folding her arms. She didn’t want to tell this man anything-remembering how her mother said not to talk to strangers, but the horrible day came back to her in a rush, and she found herself wanting to tell him anyway.
“I have freckles,” she pouted.
“Yes, you do,” the picture man said with amusement. “What is wrong with freckles?”
“They’re ugly! I’ve tried cleaning them off but they won’t get off my face.”
Much to the girl’s annoyance, the picture man started to laugh. “You can’t get rid of something that is a part of you, little Molly Sunshine.”
“So I’m going to be ugly for the rest of my life?” She asked in horror.
“You are not ugly-”
“But that’s what Joseph said! He said my face looks like it was splattered with mud.”
The picture man was silent for a moment. “I want to show you something,” he said a little quietly. He stood up at that moment and disappeared into the tent behind him. The girl hesitated, and then followed him. When she entered, her eyes grew wide; little lights and paintings and mechanical objects were everywhere. Little Molly had never seen anything so beautiful. The picture man, however, was off in the corner staring into a mirror sadly. Curious, she walked over and stood beside him.
“Tell me little Molly Sunshine, what do you see?”
Molly looked at her reflection. All she saw was a skinny little girl with frizzy curly brown hair and freckles. She folded her arms in a pout. “I see ugly.”
“I know. Look at my skin… Truly hideous.”
This caught her by surprise. “I wasn’t…” She trailed off.
She looked down at her feet and rocked back and forth. She looked timidly at the pictures that seemed to dance on his skin. The pictures seemed a bit frightening. Her eyes traveled over a drawing of a man lying in a pool of blood, and of a dark gnarled tree with black birds around it. There were pictures of people in grotesque situations and of scary and sad things. There was also a woman, a sad woman with piercing eyes and dark hair.
“Why do you have drawings on your skin?” She blurted. “Did you draw them?”
The man slowly shook his head. “They are memories. Sad memories. Horrible memories. Things I wish to forget…”
“It’s a curse.”
Molly looked at him critically.
“I did something unforgivable, so a gypsy cursed me to see my memories every day- They are- I am- truly ugly.”
“I don’t think you’re ugly,” Molly said quietly.
The man smiled slightly. “It does not matter. I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter what I look like. It matters what I create.”
Molly looked around at all the amazing artwork. “So… even if I’m ugly, I can make something pretty. Right?”
The picture man nodded. “Even though you are not ugly.”
The glimmer of a smile appeared on the girl’s face.
“Okay.” She looked up at the picture man. “Maybe it’s just that you think too much about the bad things,” she told him. “I’ll make you a deal. If I start liking my freckles, you have to start liking your pictures.”
“Okay,” the picture man said, amused.
Molly nodded and ran out of the tent, her brown curls bouncing behind her. The picture man stood there for a second, and then looked back at the mirror, his eyes falling over the tattooed memories on his skin. He closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them he smiled. For, on his arm, a new tattoo had appeared, replacing an old one.
It was a little picture of a sunshine.