Sunday, September 13, 2009

from Erin Fitzgerald

Pegasus and Ralph

There's a chapter in the Beverly Cleary book "Beezus and Ramona" where the two sisters are in an art class, under directive to paint a picture of an imaginary animal. After endless rumination (and self pity over not being inherently creative), ten year old Beezus decides to try for a carefully rendered Pegasus.

Meanwhile, four year old Ramona doesn't stop to think. She paints a blue stripe across the top of the page for the sky -- lots of little kids do this, actually. She tufts footprints across the page, which are meant to represent Ralph, the imaginary lizard who follows Ramona everywhere. After about five minutes of painting, Ramona steals the lollipop of the boy sitting next to her. Chaos ensues, she goes out to the playground, and her painting is never completed.

Beezus is frustrated by her Mobil Gas-like Pegasus -- she's only finished the sky, and an outline. She has a moment of inspiration: Why not paint a picture of Ralph as if he were visible? After all, since Ralph isn't real or visible, she's free to do what she likes! Beezus sets aside Pegasus, and gets another piece of paper. As she paints Ralph, she makes him breathe cotton candy and adds lollipops to his spine. Why? Because it just seems right.

For the first time ever, other people admire her work. Her teacher tells her that her picture will be hung in the center spot of the bulletin board. Much more important? For the first time, Beezus truly enjoys painting. And she no longer worries about whether she is creative.

It's hard to set aside Pegasus. It's hard to believe that Ralph can truly matter. But sometimes, at the end of art class? It's so obvious that you could kick yourself for not having seen it sooner.

Bio: Erin Fitzgerald got an MFA in writing a long time ago, and wrote a lot of short stories and novellas before she wrote any flash fiction. She lives in Connecticut, and is editor of The Northville Review.

Read "Four Sieges" at Hobart

Read "Early Decision," "Riposte," and "Waiting Room" at PANK


  1. this is so thought-provoking and so true. when writing for others (class, professor, workshop, editor), it is easy to lock yourself into what you think they may want.

    way to stifle creativity and pure genius...

  2. "But sometimes, at the end of art class? It's so obvious that you could kick yourself for not having seen it sooner."

    I love this, Erin, thank you.