Keesha hand shook causing the blue paint to zig zag uncontrollably across the cement canvas.
“Crap!” she shouted.
The near-perfect replica of the blue sky, white clouds, brown and green trees, and cityscape was now interrupted by a thick solid blue stipe that crashed through the scene like a lightning bolt. Keesha and everyone else working on the mural paused in their work and looked around for the source of the “boom” that had caused Keesha to disrupt her creative process. John craned his head upwards. Marcus and Lucy stood up and ran to the corner. They peered around, turned back toward the group, and shrugged.
Keesha refocused on her mural. “Crap,” she exclaimed again to no one in particular. “That totally ruined my sky! I was minutes from being finished.”
No one else in the group seemed upset by her mistake in the painting. Her mural team was used to her outbursts. The whole mural had been her vision. She wrinkled her brow and assessed the damage.
Lucy asked the boy standing beside her, “But what was that?” There has been a loud rumble, and the ground had seemed to gently sway beneath them. The water in the clear glass Bell jars, loaded with brushes, was still dancing around with tiny ripples.
The question was met with murmurs. Keesha remained silent. She was too busy being furious that two months of dedication were just brought down with a single blue accidental stroke. She pulled at her short braids, rubbing the large beads between her thumb and forefinger the way she did whenever she was considering something. She made sure to always have at least five beads fitted into her short weave because she secretly believed this made her a more creative thinker.
The mural was the last one in a series that the community economic network had commissioned Keesha and a small group of young people to complete; the task was to “tell the story of the neighborhood”-painted on the walls of the newly rehabbed row homes and offices for all the world to see (or at least the passers-by crossing the intersection between Dulaney St. and 5th Ave). A visual history of her community.
Keesha’s mom disapproved. But what else was new?
“Why are you bothering to paint on the sides of walls, Keesha?” her mom Susan would say, and shake her head. “You know I can get you a job at The Gallery anytime you want.”
By the time Keesha was twelve she had started thinking of her mom as a corporate sell-out. Susan Franks had moved away from their neighborhood for a six figure multiyear grant from the Museum of Art to work on their cultural exhibit, leaving behind her two daughters: Keesha and Keesha’s older sister Naomi. “Left behind” was not a wholly accurate description of what Susan had done to her daughters. The girls had chosen to stay in what, for them, was “home.” Susan was inwardly disappointed, but she honored her daughters’ wishes to remain in the community.
Keesha knew her father only as “Donor X.” Single and professionally successful, too busy for love, Susan had decided at the age of 35 that she would become a mother, with or without the help of a husband — and having none she decided to find a donor instead. Then, just one year ago, when the girls had grown to the ages of 17 and 14, she received “the job offer of a life time” and moved out of their “off script” neighborhood and into South Wick, the corporate sponsored neighborhood that had been introduced decades ago as “smart cities.” The marketing had been brilliant by design.
Naomi, the ever “older- than- her- years” daughter stepped up to raise Keesha, while the two occasioned the train on weekends to visit Susan in her studio condo on the 15th floor of the Romer Onyx Industry complex.
“Being on script isn’t so bad, you know, Keesha,” Susan said one morning while clipping the delicate blue flowers off the potted hydrangea that flourished on the rooftop Romer Onyx rooftop garden. Keesha looked at her feet and winced. “You’re getting so tall, now,” Susan said gently. She was indeed one of the taller girls in her age group. Her mother smiled and stroked the side of Keesha’s left arm. She didn’t want to disappoint her mom. But something in her was just “drawn” differently than her mom. Standing at only five feet two inches tall, compared to her mother’s nearly six foot tall stature, the difference inside and out were both noticeable. Who could she blame for being who she was? Donor X?
“Mom. I love you. But it’s just not my kind of art. I like being off script.”
Susan sighed. “Keesha. You’ll see. When you grow up, you’ll see. The real world doesn’t work that way. That’s just a fantasy land is all it is. How long is that gonna last you think. Huh?”
Sure, the Indigenous Intersections, linking city- to- city all over the country and completely subverting the on script grid of corporate ownership was growing. But who really knew what would happen next? How long could it last?
Keesha didn’t care. This…here…this community was her home, with, or without, her mother. She would make her own way. She had Naomi. And there was Ryder and Deacon, her two best friends.
Keesha examined the blue sky in the mural. Maybe it is fixable, she assured herself.
“Anyone know what that noise was?” asked the short stocky boy standing beside Keesha. Keesha dropped her paint brush into the Bell jar of watery blue liquid, wiped her hands on the sides of her denim pants and stood up. She turned back to look at the fat blue misplaced streak on the wall across her nearly completed frame. She would have to fix it later.
Keesha had her theories about the cause of the low rumble and shaking ground. Really, she wasn’t surprised by the unidentified sound. Part of her had been waiting for it. But she didn’t want to say it out loud. She had to tell D. and Ride, first.