Mateo was seven but his birthday was in five days and he was going to get a birthday party with cake. Well, I think that’s what he told me but whatever was going to happen, he was very happy about it. I had him stand in front of me and I decided to paint him into a cat. He smelled faintly of dust and sunshine, a smell I knew well from my short stay. The heat had placed a shine on all of our faces, and the mountain breeze, while cooling, carried with it a thin dusting of the dry dirt road. He was dressed in a sleeveless navy and white sweater vest with khaki pants bunched around his waist and piled on his shoes. He wouldn’t grow into those pants before they dry rotted, they were that big. He had short black hair, which was clean, but I can’t tell you anything else about how he looked because his sparkling eyes had me held captive. I felt relief at having him stand in front of me because I was sure that this child knew love. This child had love pouring from his eyes and for those few minutes, it was directed at me, a stranger with a paint brush. When the brush touched his nose, he giggled.
Last to light on the chair in front of my paint brush was a girl-like child, sired, I’m sure, by a dancing fairy. I don’t remember her name but I will call her Tinkerbell. She mostly consisted of rag bag clothes and long, black curls, but there was enough cheek underneath her hair to paint on the flower she asked for. She smelled like gardenias and roses and wet grass which was strange in this dry, dusty place. She chose yellow, and as I, and the brush, stroked on the first petal, she moved and the petal magically grew from that of a pansy to a sunflower. The flower ended up filling the whole side of her face, as large as her personality. The leaves followed her jaw line and the stem raced down her neck. I have no idea how it looked as a finished product because she flitted off without even checking it out in the mirror. In her world of hummed songs and magic, she was just a few steps beyond normal, and there was little room for earthly paintings.