by Amy Mullis
My mom, usually a sane, reasonable woman, frowned upon graffiti of any sort in the house. Oh, sure, my stuff was good enough for the refrigerator, but not refined enough for the living room wall.
If Michelangelo had suffered such restrictions, we may never have beheld the beauty that is the Sistine Chapel. Of course if I could have reached the ceiling, she may never have noticed. But I was barely four. Which, by definition, is short. The closet door would have to do.
The medium was lipstick; luscious, thick, and red.
The work? Untitled.
Although my older sister was having great success in teaching me to read, my writing skills were still somewhat shaky. The string of letters that covered the wall looked more like the first draft of War and Peace than anything else, but as the writer, I can’t guarantee any similarities between the works.
Also, I’m fairly certain that Tolstoy did not inscribe his deepest thoughts on the living room semi-gloss.
I finished and admired my handiwork, tried on a little of the lipstick and noted that it gave a certain charm to my arms and legs. Unfortunately I was small enough to be enchanted by lipstick, but without the cognitive powers to plan an effective alibi to cover me in case of discovery. I was also the youngest child in the coop by five years and the next oldest, my brother, had never shown much creative interest in lipstick art. No alibi, no scapegoat, and no clue. I was a triple threat to somebody’s sanity.
Having finished my masterpiece, I wandered off to vandalize my sister’s bride doll.
I don’t know what event caused the coven to gather at our house that summer evening, but a distant aunt and some wayward cousins were scattered about the living room like dirty laundry. It didn’t seem like so many people until the chase scene.
Mom. So help me the woman was a prosecutor savant attuned to the identity of underage household criminals. Even at four, I knew that when punctuation followed my name we were in a Special Forces situation. I reacted in the best possible way.
Marines navigating a boot camp obstacle course couldn’t perform any better than I did that day, but rounding the hallway look-at chair, I was nabbed by an operative and returned to the scene of the crime.
“Amy, why did you do this?” Mom was too sly to ask if I did the deed and give me the chance for a well placed lie, a skill I was on the brink of appreciating the need for.
“I don’t know.” Children are born with this answer pre-programmed, just like a television with preset channels. Having no legal counsel, I had to represent myself, and at four I was more concerned with my potty skills than my fast-talk skills.
“Why did you run?”
I looked at the faces. They stared back. Monsters under the bed could take lessons from these guys. But I guess my answer wasn’t what they expected from a four-year-old expecting to die before growing out of toddler clothes.
A thousand eyes searched my soul. Truth was the only option.
I drew a breath to fill four-year-old lungs.
“I was MORTIFIED!”
The laughter followed me up the stairs as Daddy carried me to bed. I decided right then that making people laugh is the best revenge.
Even though the sting of censorship made it uncomfortable to sit down for a few days.
Amy Mullis lives in South Carolina with husband Bill, and sons, Thing One, her muse of perplexing questions and inappropriate dinner conversation, and Thing Two, her muse of sarcastic answers and undeserved persecution. Both boys have a decided talent for urban art. If you're feeling lucky, visit her at www.mindovermullis.com for a closer look at how everyday life can go horribly wrong.