Once upon a time there was a drawing student named Henry. He worked at Disney and believed in Jesus. He drew Bibles, crosses and mouse ears when given the chance, and he hated the instructor. He knew, just knew that the man had no faith in Christ or Walt Disney. And the instructor frowned every time Henry brought out his pictures of his lovely wife and two darling children. Didn’t he like children? Or didn’t he believe that Henry was their father? Why couldn’t he be the father? He had the right equipment and knew how to use it. The instructor didn’t care that Henry did his absolute best, had put his past permanently behind him. Jesus saved him, and then he found Lisa, and now he was happy. Really, really happy…What did the instructor know about anything but drawing bottles and boxes? He could talk all day about perspective, but did he have any? Did he understand true suffering, the suffering of Jesus for mankind, the suffering of mankind trying to be like Jesus no matter how much it hurt? That smug bastard was the king of his classroom, but not King of the Universe. Henry wanted to be there when God gave the instructor his Final Grade.
Helen sat next to Henry. She hated the instructor too, but wasn’t sure why until Henry told her that the instructor was arrogant. Helen hated arrogant men, and this teacher (He wasn’t a real professor, was he?) was dirty minded too. The instructor had asked her if Robert bothered her and didn’t believe it when she told him that she liked Robert. Robert was funny. The instructor said, “I saw you bend over to pick up your back pack off the floor, and Robert bent over your back, hugged you from behind, and whispered in your ear, ‘See you next Tuesday.’ You’re okay with that?” Helen was fine with that. Robert just kidded around, and she hadn’t felt anything sexual. The hug had been funny and nice, and she didn’t care whether Robert had pressed up against her butt and his hands accidentally grazed her…The instructor was the real pervert imagining filth when grown people were just having a bit of fun, horsing around. She wasn’t a weak woman like her mother who let men do what they wanted and pretended to like it. Helen could take care of herself better than some fake professor who saw harassment in one harmless little hug. Arrogant bastard.
Robert sat two easels away from Helen, but he’d already decided that she wasn’t the one for him. Too old and lean. Stringy blond hair. There were several girls in the class, younger, juicier, who deserved his attention. But one stood out: Charlotte. She was a tough chick who wore work boots, skinny jeans, tank tops, and pink lipstick. She smoked cigarettes with him during break. She liked his jokes, dirty girl, and paid close attention when he got close to her and touched her shoulder and told her about his mother, the artist. Most girls thought that he was weird when he went on and on about Mom, but Charlotte listened…Mom knew that he was a special and had lots and lots of talent. Robert didn’t care that the instructor gave him Cs. He knew that it didn’t matter if he drew abstract textures while everyone else drew still lives. Real artists didn’t bother with anything but abstraction and the human form. He loved the human form. And it didn’t matter that Charlotte asked him to stop touching her arm, her shoulder, to stop bumping his hip against hers (“Oops again, hah-hah!”) when he passed by her easel. She pretended to be pure but acted like she had plenty of experience. He could tell. Girls liked to put up some resistance at first, but gave in eventually. Most did.
Joseph knew that the instructor didn’t respect him. The instructor was annoyingly tall and walked around like the giant god of the world. But Joseph had talent, more talent than the instructor, and he would show the man how good he was once the instructor brought in models. Joseph had signed up to draw nudes, but that man made him draw bottles and boxes, toys, a doll and a beach ball. Junk didn’t inspire him, and an artist needs inspiration to do his best work. At midterm that prick had given him a D and told him to do some homework in the second half. He might get a B if he applied himself. Joseph did not do B work, but he did choose what kind of work he did. And he didn’t do homework. Homework was boring. Homework was useless practice when he, Joseph, already knew how to draw his hand, a still life, the interior of a room. Couldn’t the man see that? Maybe he was too tall to look down and see Joseph.
Mary was tired, really tired of being told what to do. She worked as an airline stewardess and took the class for fun, as an escape. She spent the week slaving for people who acted as if she were a servant, and now she wanted things to follow her terms. She’d paid good money for this class, and technically, though he’d never admit it, the instructor was her employee. And he was so rude to her, never saying anything nice about her work when it was obvious that she was the best drawer in the class. Oh, he gave her As on nearly every assignment, but he always slipped in some nitpicking criticism about any little mistake he could find. He must spend hours finding a line that wobbled a sixteenth of an inch, a tone that smudged slightly. Why couldn’t he tell her just once how good she was, and then shut up and go away?
The instructor could tell that half the class hated him. Henry was meticulously polite but sneered at him when he thought that the instructor wasn’t looking. He whispered like a conspirator with Helen during breaks. Helen glared at him as if his very existence offended her. Joseph stared stone faced whenever the instructor looked at his drawings. Nothing he said made an impression on Joseph. Mary thought that she was running the show. She lectured him on his duties as an instructor. She told him one day, “First you have to greet me, say ‘Good morning, Mary.’ Then you have to praise me. Then you can tell me all the things you think I’ve done wrong!” Robert oddly enough, thought they were buddies. But Robert was a loon and a lecher who had taken the class to harass women. And Robert’s sketchbook had odd little poems about suicide, about using a piece of glass to slash his wrists. The instructor had reported him to the dean’s office, but they were worried about legalities and seemed to think that the instructor showed a negative bias toward Robert. Thank God there were a few students who took him seriously, who worked hard and tried to improve.
The instructor’s wife pretended to listen when he complained about the class. He joked, but wasn’t really joking, when he said, “My quest to be loved by everyone at all times has failed once again!” She sighed and said what she always said at times like these: “There’s always another class. There’s always another semester.”