Paint by Numbers

by Larry Lawrence

THE TEMPTATION for him was too great
with all of the boxes stacked on the ends
of each aisle, pushing the merchandise.
He had no choice but to rip open the box
in the middle of A.C. Moore Arts and Crafts.
There was no turning back once he saw
the little round thimble-sized cups with caps,
strung together in a row by a plastic tab.

And since no one was looking, he grabbed
the red handled paintbrush, its wiry bristles
uneven and all together cheap looking.
He dipped it into the burnt sienna and raw umber,
making the decision to ignore the numbers
this time, painting the horse and foal, Prussian blue
with cadmium orange manes, glowing magenta eyes.
The sky was colored in with alizarin crimson and
the grass and trees colored Van Dyke brown
with flecks of bronze, Davy's gray and rose.

And when the store manager came upon the man
he didn't question him as to why he was painting
the middle of the floor of his store. He did not ask
the man if he intended to pay for the used item.
Instead he wanted to know why it was that the man
purposely neglected to follow the number code
and wondered what kind of example the man was
setting for the children shopping with their parents.

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