by Joe Eliseon
The kindergarten teacher talked to the school nurse. The school nurse talked to the school psychologist. The school psychologist talked to the principal. The principal talked to the Assistant Superintendent. The Assistant Superintendent talked to the School Department Psychiatrist. The School Department Psychiatrist talked to my aunt. My aunt talked to my uncle. There the buck stopped. “Ridiculous,” he said.
Causing all this institutional concern was my cousin Joe. (My family’s full of Joes.) He was coloring all his kindergarten drawings black: black suns shining darkly down on black houses, black ships sailing swiftly on black seas, black squirrels nestling in the black branches of black trees. No yellows, oranges, purples, blues or fuschias. Just black. “So what?” queried my uncle. “The kid likes black.”
But the concerns of the professionally concerned were not to be dismissed so cavalierly. A meeting was held in the Assistant Superintendent’s conference room. One one side of the conference table, all the aforementioned professionals were arrayed. On the other, my aunt and uncle sat, the first nervous, the second skeptical. Professional opinion forbode something ominous in young Joe’s “black” fixation. They prescribed a battery of psychological tests to determine what.
“My kid’s not crazy,” my uncle snarled, “but I’ll tell you who is. Why go through all this rigmarole? Just ask him. Ask him why he colors everything black.”
No, the professionals replied. Confronting the child might cause regression of his personality or progression of his condition. Joe must not know the reason for the tests.
My aunt bit her lip. “Oh, dear,” she said.
They gave little Joe the tests. They interviewed him. The showed him ink blots. They had him fit pegs into holes. The results were inconclusive. But Joe kept coloring his pictures black.
They held another meeting.
Professional opinion now leaned toward an organic disorder. Joe needed medical testing to determine the cause of his monochromania.
My uncle growled. “Why don’t you just ask the kid?”
No, that could cause an emotional disruption, aggravating his physical condition. The child mustn’t be disturbed.
“Oh, dear,” said my aunt.
They tested little Joe’s body. They looked down his throat and into his eyes. They took his blood. They tapped his little joints with a little hammer. They made him touch his nose. The results were again inconclusive. The cause of his malady eluded the experts. But still he colored his drawings black.
They held a third meeting.
This was the tough one. Perhaps, the School Department Psychiatrist ventured, backed by the Assistant Superintendent, the principal, the school psychologist, the school nurse and the kindergarten teacher, the cause of the problem was not mental or physical. Perhaps it was not something in the child at all. Perhaps the whole family, as a unit, needed counseling.
“%$#X$#@!”” cursed my uncle.
“Oh no,” whispered my aunt.
After a strict, professional admonishment against asking the boy directly about his predilection for black, they brought little Joe in and sat him between his parents. Family counseling proceeded.
But, to professional dismay, my uncle and aunt did not fight, drink, beat their children or cheat on each other and my uncle only swore on appropriate occasions. Little Joe was not apprehensive, afraid, malnourished, nervous, anxious, lonely, dirty or sleep-deprived.
“Is that it?” asked my uncle.
No. Finding nothing had only whetted the professional appetite. The counseling continued for session after session.
Until, one day, my uncle could stand it no more. “Joe,” he barked, against all orders, “why do you color all your drawings with the black crayon?”
“Because,” little Joe answered simply, “I ate all the others.”
(c) 2016 by the Author. All rights reserved.