Verity came home without the colored pencil drawing that she’d done in school. Instead she get a note for her parents that her teacher wanted to talk to one of them.
“I didn’t do anything,” she offered to her father as she handed it over, before he had a chance to ask her. By the look on his face he wasn’t terribly convinced, but she needed the chance to catch her breath after running home anyway. It didn’t seem like there was going to be a before-dinner lesson today, even if there should be.
“What was it?” he asked, solidifying the idea that she wasn’t fooling him with the innocent expression on her six-year-old face. She kept it up anyway until he started again, looking over the note and the folder that she’d brought home. She could see when he figured out what was missing. “Verity, we’ve talked about this. It’s okay to draw what the mice want you to when it’s at home, but when you’re at school there are certain topics that we don’t want to draw.”
Verity couldn’t really understand it, because last year it had been fine to draw knights and dragons, it had even been in one of the stories that they’d read, along with talking owls and mice. Her teacher had even called her creative, in a good way. It had made the mice happy, and her parents hadn’t really cared. “It wasn’t on your list,” she said, jutting her chin out.
“We’ll talk about this after we talk to the teacher,” her mother said, but her father held up his hand.
“I think we need to understand what we’re walking into. What did you draw, Very?”
“They wanted us to make what we wanted for Christmas,” Verity said, waving her hands in a gesture that didn’t add any particular light to what she was saying, but by the expressions on her parents’ faces, it didn’t need to.
Her mother brought her hand to her head and rubbed at her temple like she had a headache. “Verity?” she said.
“You said sometime this year I’d finally get a proper knife,” Verity said. “And I know it’s soon, but I want it as early as possible so I can start practicing with it and so when the mice come to me I can cut the cake for them.”
“Hail the first cut made by the child with her own knife,” cheered the mice, and Verity grinned at them. At least they understood.
“No,” her mother said sternly. “We do not hail things which result in parents having to go in to school to talk to teachers.”
“Except for graduations,” her father clarified.
“Except for graduations,” her mother agreed.
Verity’s grin dropped off her face. “You didn’t say that I couldn’t draw weapons and besides last week we had to make a picture for that story where the good guy fights the bad guy and there were police and they had guns, and guns are way more deadly than the knife that I want. But I’m not allowed to have a gun of my own for a long time still you said and all one of the other kids was drawing a new tooth because he’s been humming that song and the teacher should really care about the tooth fairy and not about the knife that I want. Even if I do really want it, because we need knives to stand against things like the tooth fairy.”
Verity’s mother put her head in her hands. “Kevin?” she said.
“Why don’t you talk to the teacher tomorrow?” he suggested. “Verity, come to the kitchen with me. We can talk while we make dinner.”
“Hail the conflict resolution that occurs in the kitchen!” the mice cheered, and they followed, likely in the hopes of getting some cheese or cake for themselves.
“I think that in the future you should only draw weapons if the teacher says that there should be weapons,” her father said, taking out a frying pan and dropping part of a stick of butter into it.
“But anything can be a weapon. Am I supposed to stop drawing people now too?”
“You know what I mean.” Her father stopped what he was doing to meet her eyes, until Verity reluctantly nodded. “No weapons, unless asked for,” he said.
Verity kicked the leg of the table. “Can I still draw whatever I want at home?”
“As long as it’s not something you bring into school later.”
Verity considered that for a moment, and decided that it was fair. “As long as you still put it on the refrigerator if the mice like it,” she said.
“We will,” her father promised.
“Hail!” cheered the mice.
“And you can still make them pictures of cheese or dessert at school. They like that.”
“Give thanks for the drawings of things to eat!” the mice agreed.
“Give thanks for the eating of things,” said only one tiny mouse voice. Verity wondered if he was a radical or just very excited.
Her father took out the stool for her, and put the cutting board, knife, and a stalk of broccoli in front of her on the table.
Verity made a face, but she started to cut it. She’d known it wouldn’t be as easy as getting talked to in the kitchen. She focused on cutting thin lines that were all the same as the last one, to prove that she could be trusted with a different kind of knife. (A kitchen knife could still do enough damage to be effective, but she was under very firm instructions not to take any of the knives out of the kitchen for anything short of a ‘dire emergency’ and in this one the mice were on her parents’ side. They were very effective at tattling.)
“I still think you should be more worried about Warren and the fact that he was drawing teeth,” Verity said, when her broccoli was reduced to slices and crumble from the top bits.
“Warren?” her father repeated, and Verity nodded. “I think we’ll let his parents take care of that.”
“But dad,” Verity whined.
“Trust me,” he said, as he took the broccoli away and replaced it with a couple of carrots and a smaller knife to peel them with. “It’s better that way.”