Billy was sitting with his forehead on the table. He could hear Mommy moving around in the kitchen. He could hear the clock ticking. He could hear the rain on the window. His nose touched the smooth wood of the table. This close, he could see the little lines running through the wood, like rivers. The wood grain, his father had told him but they still looked like rivers to him. He imagined that he was on a boat on one of those rivers, the sun shining so brightly it made the surface of the water sparkle and glow. He could feel his little boat rocking gently as the river pulled it along…
“Don’t you want your snack?” said Mommy. Billy blinked and sat up. In front of him was a glass of milk and two graham crackers. He stared at them for a moment, and then picked up a cracker and took a big bite.
“Yesh,” he said through his mouthful.
Mommy laughed and ruffled his hair. “What were you thinking about?”
“Boats,” said Billy, remembering. He looked out the window at the rain. It flung itself hard against the window, like waves against the side of a boat. “And the sun.”
“Sun and boats sounds nice,” Mommy smiled, “especially on a rainy day like this.” She looked at Billy, staring out the window. “I know. Would you like to paint a picture of your boat?”
Billy nodded and Mommy got out paint and brushes and a piece of paper. He watched while Mommy poured a little paint into some old yogurt pots: red, yellow, blue. “Lots of blue,” said Billy. Then green and white.
Billy pushed his brush into the blue. Then he dragged it across his paper. Wet, the paint glistened like water. He made the blue stripe wider. He could see his river, almost bigger than the sky with trees on either side and silver fish down deep. He painted more and more blue onto the paper…
“Uh-ho,” said Billy. His paper was blue from edge to edge. “It’s not working.” He held up the floppy sheet. “Look, it’s all river. There’s no room for the boat. Or for the sun.”
“Hmm,” said Mommy, looking at Billy’s painting. “I see. What do you think we should do?”
Billy ran a finger down the middle of his river. It made a ripple. “Maybe a bigger piece of paper?”
“Okay,” said Mommy. She took the stepstool and rummaged around on top of the big cupboard. She came back down with a roll of paper. She unrolled a bit, cut it and spread it out in front of Billy. “Is that big enough?”
“Yes,” said Billy. This time, he painted a river wide enough for boats and fish and even some twigs and little rocks. He painted some trees and then leaned way across the table to paint the sun…
“Uh-ho,” said Billy. Now his shirt was all blue where he had leant on his river. He looked at his stomach. “Sorry.”
“Nothing to worry about.” Mommy grinned and picked up the paint bottle. “Can you read that word?” She pointed. Billy looked but he wasn’t sure he felt like reading. His picture wasn’t working and now his shirt was covered in paint. He looked again. The word started with W.
“Wa. Wash. Washa. Washa…”
“Washable,” Mommy helped. “That means it won’t stain your shirt. So don’t worry.”
Billy was quiet for a moment. His shirt felt damp and now his painting was all smushed where he had leaned on it and he still couldn’t reach the top. He sniffed.
“I know! A mural!” said Mommy suddenly. She took the roll of paper and cut another piece, even larger than the last one. She taped it to the kitchen wall. Then she cut another just as large and taped it next to the first.
“There,” she said. “Do you think that will be big enough?”
“Oh yes!” cried Billy and stood up. He carefully carried his cups of paint over to the paper-covered wall. Then he started painting. He painted a blue river as wide as the sky and a sky a little bit wider. He painted a sun as hot as summer. He painted trees and flowers next to the river. He painted orange fish swimming deep down. He painted a little red boat on the river, rocking in the water. Then he painted himself in the boat, smiling.
“Come look! Come look!” he shouted. Mommy came and they looked at Billy’s mural together. “It makes the whole room seem bright,” she said. “Even though it’s raining.”
Billy listened to the rain. It sounded like a river rushing along. But in the kitchen it was sunny.