Tue. Sep 29th, 2020

(c) Vickey Stamps 12/4/13

Not Sam, not Sam Junior, but Sam the third, and he was darn tired of being darn tired.  He’d a job to do and he wasn’t  willing to do it.  It had been well over 6 months, and he’d gotten close to what he’d called  the “Hole in the wall Studio”.  Yet again,he’d found another excuse not to go.  Christmas would soon be here and he wasn’t going to let  it get ruined by this silly behavior of his. 

Papa Sam or Grandpa had passed away.  He’d sat there at the bedside with the old grandma, each on a side of the bed.  She held one hand and he  the other, trying to smile, trying to find a way past the sorrow that left a lump in his throat, that made him gasp for breath.  His last words had been “The hole in the wall, Sam.  It’s yours.  Do with it, what you will.”  He’d squeezed his hand.  With a turn of his face, he had given a final gentle smile to his wife and was gone. 

Sam figured  if anyone should live forever it was his Grandpa.  He loved his mom and dad, but there was something so special, so forever in his heart for Papa Sam.  Sam the third was a painter as had been his grandpa.  His dad could hardly draw a stick man, but was his own success in the world of business.  If a person wanted to know how to  begin a business and the key to making it work, his dad was the person to go to to find out.  Sam had his own business and like his Papa Sam, was a painter.  He’d gotten so caught up  in the hype of success, it had, and to a large extent gone to his head.  He had his own gallery and a  following of admirers or patrons.  He gloried in it for the most part.  He’d begged his Papa Sam to come into the business with him, to leave what he snobishly called his “Hole in the wall studio” and be  a partner with him.  He’d told him ‘thanks but no thanks’,  that his world was far too big for him to fit into. He was happy as he was.

Now, his steps seemed to drag as he neared Papa Sam’s Studio.  He told himself, he should of hired someone to go in and pack everything up, maybe donate it to some struggling artist or maybe give to an art school. He could rent out the space to someone that couldn’t afford anything better.  His grandpa  hadn’t wanted better.  He’d wanted what he had and no more. For that reason, and because somethng tender in his heart, he hadn’t been able to do that.  His mind filled with memories as his feet took him nearer. 

The air in the small rooms was heavy and musky with the smell of loneliness and desertion.  Sam switched on the lights, looking around at everything.  Before him was the tilted table where Papa Sam had done most of his work.  All, as always, was neat and tidy, each item having its own place.  He sat on the bench before the table, knees bent, remembering the first time he’d sat there beside his grandpa when his own feet couldn’t even reach the first rung across the legs.  He could almost have told the moment he knew, the moment when love and magic joined hands, when grandpa put the brush in his hand, when paint touched brush and brush touched paper, when he knew when painting was everything he’d ever want to do. In a small frame on the desk was something he remembered all over again. it held a handwritten note from a young boy that has touched his grandpa’s heart. 

To know why he’d been happy in what Sam had called “The Hole in the Wall”, one had to of known Papa Sam.  He’d never been rich or famous, or so he would have one believe. He was wealthy in all that mattered to him and Grandma. He’d loved drawing little animals and children and started a card and short story business called Sam’s.  There were the greeting cards he’d illustrated, with things like a little squirrel looking ‘cheeky’ at the base of a tree or scampering along a branch, of a bunny peeking out from its shelter of dried brush, or one squirming in the arms of a child.  There were so many of the little creatures  he’d made.  It had made him smile and made the verse or other words in the cards and books come to life.  Always on the back of the card or the simple books, and above the signature that simply said ‘Sam’s’ , he’d put a small purple alligator, its cheeks puffed out, its whole being looking wiggly and happy.  Inside the frame were the words a young fan had written him. “Dear Mr. Sam’s, I love the card you painted with all my heart.  It was a birthday card and it made me laugh.  I’ve been pretty sick and don’t feel very happy most of the time.  My mama put it in a frame and it is on my bedroom wall.   I hope when you get a birthday, someone gets you a card this wonderful.  I love the alligator on the back.  I wish you a world full of ‘happy purple alligators’.  Thank you.” He hadn’t understood then why a tear had ran down his grandpa’s face.  He thought perhaps he was begining to again understood.

Looking to the right he saw a glass and knew it to be the one Papa Sam always filled half full of water, so the brushes could be washed, or a brush-tip of water applied to a paint to thin it a bit.  He picked it up.  “You are nearly all dried up!” he said to himself.  Beside the glass was a small sea sponge. He tipped the water glass over the tiny sponge, watching as one drop fell.  Ah” the sponge might of said, in delight.  “Life again!”  Sam looked down  at the sponge now in his hand.  “How many times did I see Papa Sam use that sea sponge to put texture into his little people and the animals, wetting it with water, then squeezing it out before touching and lifting and touching again the sponge to just the right area of a furry animal figure?” Turning again to the sponge, he spoke “”Not much water there, little fella. Let’s see if we can’t do better!”   Having said so, he went to the sink, turning on the faucet,  watching the sponge double itself as it swallowed in great thirst.

Back his mind went again, remembering the sponge in his grandpa’s fingers, fingers that had grown gnarled over the years.   He remembered the times when something happened to ruin a piece of a Sam’s work, or something had brought anger to his mind, times when his grandpa had gritted his teeth and closed his eyes tight against the anger, then always, and never changing…He’d pop himself gently on the head, smile and say “Now why did I let such a little thing bother me?  Dang, Darn and purple alligators!.”    

More than one tear left Sam’s eyes. Whatever was wrong with him. He wasn’t one to cry these days.  He thought he’d used them all up when his grandpa died, when they’d had to put grandma in the nursing home.  She’d fallen and become unable to care for herself anymore.  He’d pulled himself together, been the tough guy and gone on with his life.

How had it happened? one might wonder, that the brush found itself in his hand.  There was the paint on the brush and the brush had gone to the paper.  Beside the paper, and to the right, a half-filled glass lay waiting to help, in whatever way it could.  Was it his imagination, or was Papa Sam standing behind him, watching from over his shoulder as the brush produced little bits of nature, and little animals so dear to his heart.   The sea sponge twisted itself closer, so it would be easier to use for the bits of texture a bit of painting might need it for.  It had been such a long time since he’d draw such simple and happy things.

Thoughts raced through his mind.  Maybe he could find kids that wanted to paint, and couldn’t afford to learn … but didn’t know how to do that without someone helping them.  Maybe in his spare time, he could turn this studio into a school for them.  He’d call it ‘Papa Sam’s’. He’d paint a happy Purple Alligator on the door.  The lessons and supplies would be free.  He could afford to do that.  It would be a Christmas present for his life, and a gift to the memory of his grandpa.

He’d call his fiance and they’d go shopping for the Grandma. He knew this first Christmas without her sweetheart was going to be so hard on them all, but especially Grandma.  They’d buy her a dress.  It would be a red dress. She’d always loved that color….had always loved the joy and spirit of Christmas.  They’d check her out for the evening.  She could get all ‘fancied’ up, and they’d all go out to eat.  They’d go  to the huge Christmas tree down at the mall and listen to the choirs singing there. They’d enjoy every night of this special season.  It was a blessing he had finally come here. He smiled to himself.  “Gosh.  Isn’t life great.   I’ve missed the love in Papa Sam’s ‘Hole in the Wall’.  Dang, darn and purple alligators, makes me mad at myself to see how foolish I’ve been.   Grandpa, I know where you are, and it’s got to be wonderful.  I wish you a world of happy purple Alligators.  Merry Christmas Grandpa.”  Perhaps, had Sam turned around, and glimpsed the world of magic and miracles, he might have seen Papa Sam in the shadows.  He may of seen his generous smile and heard the echo of his fragrant advise …that……

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