Frank Kent looked at his latest disaster. He had never been good with cleaning, his parents reminded him of that every day, but this is the first time that while cleaning he ended up making a worse mess. Somehow, a bag of sugar had fallen from its cabinet when he was putting stuff into it and now it had split open and had spilled everywhere. Of course, due to bad timing, Mother came into the room just as it happened and was now screaming at Frank and calling him “useless” and “pathetic”. He just bowed his head and with each word he got hurt more. Sometimes he wished he’d disappear completely.
Mother told him to leave the kitchen, so he did, and she began cleaning up the mess while muttering mean statements just loudly enough that he could hear. He shuffled away to his room, his fortress of solitude, even if it was made of glass. He used to defend himself every time something like this happened, but now he agreed with every painful word that spewed forth from his parents’ mouths. He was useless. He was pathetic. He was good-for-nothing. Why didn’t he just disappear? Nobody would notice or if they did they wouldn’t care. All Frank Kent was ever good at was getting in the way and making things worse.
Frank sat on a stool in his room, before him was an easel with a canvass on it. Without thinking he began to paint. Each stroke calmed his nerves, and brought him to a comfortable place in his mind that no one could disturb. The scene he painted was dark, dreary, and depressing. It was so powerful in its themes that when he was done with it he valued himself even less. “I can’t even paint something happy and beautiful.”
“You can paint something powerful and dark and beautiful.” Rachel, Frank’s sister, had been standing there the entire time, watching him paint.
He jumped at the sound of her voice. “More along the lines of something dark and depressing. Nothing I do is any good, not even this.”
Rachel stepped into his room. “Hey, don’t you get all down on yourself. You’re art is fantastic. This is one of your best pieces, that I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen everything. Why don’t you show this or any of your art in art shows and stuff?”
Frank flopped on his bed, not caring about the paint stains that would be added to it later. “It’s not good enough. I’m never good enough.”
Rachel glared at him. “Just because Mom and Dad call you useless all the time doesn’t mean you are. You used to fight back all the time. What happened to you?”
Frank winced at the word “useless” and frowned. “Mom and Dad are right. I’m no good at cleaning, I’m no good at school, I’m no good at helping around the house, and I’m no good at painting.”
Rachel sighed. “Fine, when it’s dry can I take your no good painting? Because I like it.”
Frank waved at her dismissively. “Sure, I don’t care.”
Rachel stomped down the stairs and found Mom, who had just finished cleaning up the sugar disaster, and proceeded to yell at her trying to defend Frank for him. She pointed out the condition he’s in, and declared that he needed some kind of support and not being put down all the time. Mother hollered back a whole lot of nothing and eventually sent Rachel to her room, a useless gesture, but Rachel stormed off to her room anyway.
When Rachel made it to her room, she looked at the pamphlet on her dresser. It announced an art show this weekend that she was going to ask Frank to show his art there, but in his state that wasn’t an option. She decided that she would present his art on his behalf and force him to see other people’s reactions to his works. She had already sent two other pieces of his to be presented at the show, this third piece would be the last one. She hoped that Frank would make it through the rest of the week, but five days would be very long and painful for him.
The next day, she took the dried work of art, framed it for Frank, and brought it to the manager of the art show who gladly accepted it.
“Your brother’s works are some of the best I’ve ever seen, I do hope he shows up this weekend,” the manager told her.
She smiled. “I’ll make him. I know he’ll love it.”
When Rachel got back home, she had discovered that no incidents had happened, but aside from Frank going to school he had never left his room. When she investigated he was scrawling away on a sketch pad and several drawings were scattered on the floor. She quietly closed the door and whispered. “Hold on in there Frank, don’t lose yourself.”
The rest of the week skidded by. One day, Rachel heard about a teacher raising his voice at Frank and saying some mean things. She tried to get Frank to a counselor, but he refused to even try it. Another day, Dad exploded at him, fortunately Rachel was their to mitigate the explosion, but it didn’t really help Frank too much anyway. At least Dad showed some remorse and apologized to Frank. Mother yelled at him a few times. By the end of the week, Frank was a total wreck, and Rachel had to somehow get him to show up to the art show.
Frank was hiding in his room when Rachel found him to ask him to go to the show. “Frank, you need to get out of the house. Come with me, I’m going to be seeing a movie tonight and I want you to join.”
Frank glanced over to her. “A movie? Why would you want me to come with you to a movie?”
Rachel glared. “We need some brother-sister time. Come on.”
She walked over to him and grabbed his arm. He didn’t really struggle as he was pulled and practically dragged to Rachel’s car. “Fine, I’ll come,” he said halfway there.
Rachel smiled and started the engine as soon as Frank put his seat belt on. She backed out of the drive way and began to head to the art show. Frank noticed the direction they were going in. “I thought we were going to the movies, not the school.”
Rachel quickly glanced at him. “We’re going to stop at the school first before we go to the movies. You’re going to come with me.”
Frank shrugged. “OK.”
It took fifteen minutes to get there, and a few more for them to get inside. When Frank was inside, he noticed the place was having an art show. From a quick glance he saw his own art pieces, including the depressing one. Against his own will, his feet made him move closer to his works. Part of him really wanted to know what other people thought of his art. Rachel followed him, closely behind.
The things Frank heard were “I like the dark one, it expresses very powerful emotion”, “This is beautiful”, and other things very much like that. A couple tears rolled down his cheeks for the first time since he could remember the emotion called happiness erupted in his heart. He looked back at Rachel. “Thank you, you’re the best sister a brother could ask for.”