Excerpts from The Rooming House Gallery – Connecting the Dot
Josh tried to focus on the paperwork in front of him, only to be interrupted by a knock on the door. One of the high school volunteers Andres recruited from the high school art club stood, holding the hand of a small brown-skinned girl with huge brown eyes and black hair. She was dressed in blue jeans, a White Sox shirt and wearing a Sox cap with her long dark braid pulled through the back of it.
“This little girl showed up today, but her parents never registered her and classes started weeks ago and she doesn’t know her phone number. Can you help deal with it? Andres is filling in for a sick volunteer. I’ve got the rowdy bunch today and can’t leave them unattended.”
“Sure. What’s your name?” Josh asked the girl.
“It’s Eva. Eva Arca.” Her eyes stared directly into his, not at all intimidated by her circumstances.
“Where do you live?”
“I don’t know my address. I don’t know my phone. I live over there.” She pointed vaguely toward the street.
“Hmm, what’s your parents’ name? Who’s your mommy?”
“My mommy’s name is Selena Arca. You can’t call her. She’s in jail. She might have killed someone.”
How do you reply to that? Josh paused, then responded, “Wow. That’s kind of sad. Who are you living with now?”
“I don’t know her real name. She says just call her Mrs. T.”
Josh thought. Oh, Lord. The past few weeks, it’s been so quiet over there. I thought the Thompsons quit taking in foster children after Fly and Nando moved to the group home. Wonder what they’re up to.
Josh looked down at Eva. “Do you live with Mr. and Mrs. Thompson? They’re our friends who live across the street.”
She nodded. “They’re my new foster parents. I’ve had a bunch.”
“Why did you come to the art class?”
“Well, I seed the kids coming in and thought maybe I could meet some, so I just followed them in and did what they did until that big girl counted and said I was an extra. Can I go do art now?”
“Does Mrs. T know you’re here? Did she give you permission?”
“No. Why’s she need to know?”
“Maybe because she’s worried about you? Did you think of that?”
“Nah, foster parents don’t care. I wanna go make art now.”
“Tell you what, I’ll let you make art, but I’m going across the street to tell Mrs. T where you are and if she says you have to come home, then you must go home. Understand?”
Eva flashed a smile that said she just won this battle.
Mrs. T signed Eva up for one class that met after school on Mondays and Wednesdays and one on Saturday mornings. Eva showed up for every class offered each day; except Friday and Sunday, the only days classes weren’t offered. She was the first to arrive and the last to leave. She began bringing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich she’d nibble on between classes. Several times, she forgot and, one time, Andres found her making a sandwich on their kitchen counter. Almost as much peanut butter was going on the counter as on the bread. “Ain’t you got no strawberry jam? I like crunchy peanut butter best.”
Josh noticed Andres began buying strawberry jam and jars of crunchy along with the smooth which Josh liked. One day, Josh heard Andres tell her to wipe up after herself, they didn’t have maids to clean up after her. He watched as she stuck her tongue out at him, but she always cleaned up after that.
It didn’t matter the age group or the media being taught. If Eva was too young and not yet skilled enough, she became the helper, washing out brushes, sharpening the pencils, unwrapping and stacking the paper in the correct bins, cleaning the paint cups, changing the paper on the tables, sweeping the floors and telling the kids to quiet down when they became too noisy. At times, she became too bossy and was ready to enforce obedience with her little fists. Those times, she sat in a chair in the office or off to the side of the room, holding a rag doll, until she could get her temper under control. Andres found the ancient rag doll with a missing eye somewhere during remodeling. He shook the dust off and told her she could hold it when she was in trouble during art classes.
There’s more of Eva coming…Watch for her next Wednesday…