Within the Lines

If you’re a school-age child, there’s a brief window of time each year known as summer vacation. Some view it as temporary parole, but in my case more apt terminology would have been Work Release Program.

My dad began the countdown a month before school ended. He busied himself preparing and planning activities to occupy my time and to protect me from restlessness or boredom. While hoeing two-acre truck patches or shoveling manure, I would often long for the company of my cellmates and the hard, cold concrete walls where we were institutionalized nine months of the year. Summer was no vacation.

If you are new to Friday Flash Fiction, our 100 Word straw-boss is Oholibamah Wisoff-Fields. To learn how to participate in this weekly exercise in madness, head over to her blog for instructions. To rent a box in the FFF Hollywood Squares Authors Block click here.

PHOTO PROMPT © Claire Sheldon

Root Elementary School operated a supply store on the premises. This is where I received my first academic lesson involving the human anatomy.

The size of one’s fingers and hands is inversely proportioned to the size of the required writing instrument. For example, if you have fists like King Kong, your pencil should be no thicker than a toothpick. However, if you have fingers like Tinker Bell, you’re forced to use crayons the size of a baseball bat.

How they expected us to color within the lines when we couldn’t see the paper for the crayon was beyond me.

*the above is an excerpt from “Dragonslayer” in The Perils of Heavy Thinking.

62 Comments on “Within the Lines

  1. Now I’m wondering what baseball bat sized crayons have to do with anything called “dragonslayer.”


  2. Dear Fingers,

    I remember wondering about those humongous crayons. Why were those supposed to be easier to work with? I just won’t go into size and how much it matters. 😉 If I do I’m sure I’ll come up short.
    Incidentally Oholibamah means “most high shrine.” You may bow and kiss my ring.


    Oholibamah herself.


    • Dear Oholibamah,

      Somehow I knew that you would love this week’s name. Yes, I went with it even though I knew it’s meaning. I’ll save my bowing and ring kissing until after your presentation at OWL.

      It makes no sense at all to give a 5 year old a crayon with a diameter of a golf ball. Why not give the oversized scissors and gallon buckets of Elmer’s Glue while you’re at it.

      Happy coloring,


      • The main factor was economy, I’m sure. It took adult force to snap those crayons in half. Have you counted the pieces from a pack of regular-size crayons after they’ve been a week in the hot little hands of an ambitious six-year-old?


      • Don’t start on the math, Christine. Or in my case, arithmetic. All that counting give me a headache. Let’s just say there were gazillions of them and call it good.


    • At first they want you to color within the lines, then when you almost get that mastered, they tell you to think outside the box. It’s all so damn confusing. In or Out, I don’t care, just make up your mind.

      The conflicting directions makes me want to tear up my paper and chew the wrappers off my crayons.


  3. Hahaha So that’s why I had trouble coloring inside the lines, the stupid baseball bat-size crayons.


      • I do remember some bigger pencils, but I don’t remember using them. Maybe I’ve blocked it from my memory 🙂


      • I wonder if I’ll revert back to the big pencils when my kids put me in a nursing home?


  4. O the tricks they play on you at school, but we got our own back when we turned snow into ice right outside the teachers door. It was almost worth getting the cane for.😊


  5. Poor “Shovels”! While you were hard at it in the barn, I wasted my summer holidays at the swimming pool. Or maybe I should say, “My work hours were very fluid.” 🙂


  6. You were obviously one of those restless kid-types who needed a LOT of activity. I had an uncle like that, my mom tells me.

    I DO remember those big crayons! I haven’t thought of that in 50 years! I had both big and small in my scholastic career. Then, first grade came and I switched to the “big people’s” crayons (Crayolas!!!). And you were REALLY cool if you had the Crayola, what was it, 24-pack WITH sharpener? Now THAT was something! For kindergarten, I had that big, red pencil (which we still have in a drawer in my folks’ home) and I think we still have some of those big crayons. Crayolas were better, though. Good smell, lots of colors. Memory Lane.


    • Sometimes, Dad would save a special activity for us to do together–bonding if you will. Such as building a half-mile of fence through the woods and over hills and hollers. There’s nothing like stringing barb wire on a flint rock hillside when it comes to making memories.

      You had a Sharpener? You lucky dog. I always wanted one of those fancy boxes, but was lucky to get an eight-pack of primary colors.


      • No, I never did have that box with the sharpener, but I always aspired to it. Never happened, though. Like you, I was lucky to get an eight-pack as well.

        You strung barbed wire? Ouch! Not a fun task. Now, once, my dad and I carpeted my high school car, a 1960 Ford Falcon on a cold day. I’ll never forget that. The only time we worked together that I didn’t resent. 😀


  7. I remember those crayons. And for some reason I can remember what they tasted like. And how difficult it was to get the stuff off your teeth. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.


  8. hehehe EVRY time I stop by here to see your latest FF, I leave chuckling. You have a gift my friend.

    And I think the crayon people are the same ones that decide how big the screen keyboards are for our phones…


  9. The size of a baseball bat? How dare you discuss my sex life! And how many of the legions of women did you talk to get that information? Stick to writing about elementary school from now on. I’m so upset I’m probably going to disappoint a half dozen women tonight!


    • Nah, you’d only disappoint them if they went out with you. As long as they have another date they’re fine.


  10. Once again, you’ve brought a smile to my face with both the intro and the story. When I was in 4th grade, Nun #4 told me I would never have “pretty” writing and forced me to print. To this day I can write my name in cursive, but little else. Happy Summertime to you!


    • I thought you were going to say she whacked the back of your hand seven times with a wooden ruler. Maybe that was Nun #3.

      I hope to get a copy of your signature inside a novel you’ve written some day.


  11. I loved to color within the lines as a child. Now I find it futile and always want to stray with any effort. Question authority and buck the rules! By the way, both my girls are Root School alum.


    • Nice of you to visit, Lori. I’ve missed seeing you at writers lately. Oh course, my attendance hasn’t been too good of late either.

      I enjoyed my time at Root School. The teachers would often read aloud to us after lunch. They always left us hanging at the end of a chapter and I couldn’t wait until the next reading. I dedicated my first book to those teachers who read to us. Without them, I might not be a writer today.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Ha, ha. I remember those crayons and the paste I used in Grade 1 that smelled like peppermint and dried hard and lumpy. I heard they changed the smell as too many kids were eating it. Always funny and good writing, Russell. 😀 — Suzanne


  13. Perhaps the paste was better than their school lunches. Still, the paste was probably better for you than most of the ready-to-eat foods they feed kids today.


  14. What is it with you guys over there and hand size? Oh, right, there was something… Fun story, I also love the intro. My parents had these ideas as well.


    • It was supposed to be about writing utensils, then Doc Tracey waded in with her size comparison comment and things went downhill from there.

      Yes, most parents in those days viewed time off from school as a captive labor force.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. This crayon discussion seems to going fifty shades of grey. Sadly I never inherited the artistic gene from my father’s side so colouring within the lines was never on.


  16. This sounds like a school that needs to be taken over by the kids so something sensible gets done. Teaching inverse proportions at this age is just cruel.


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