Painting Rocks


carl2_icon.gif castle_icon.gif kaylee6_icon.gif

Scene Title Painting Rocks
Synopsis Kaylee Thatcher has a pleasant "chance(?)" encounter in the park.
Date October 02, 2020

Jackson Heights: Park near Raytech Campus

It didn’t take long for the kids to notice the stranger in the park in northern Jackson Heights today. While not many kids frequent the park close to the Raytech campus, there were still a few who had moved into the area. Children of employees, children of residents who had come to join the Jackson Heights renovations, and others, but none of them recognized this person sitting cross legged on a patch of pavement in the middle of the park surrounded by collected rocks.

And paints. And brushes. There’s paint dabbed on fingers and even a smudge of yellow on their chin, as they hold up a rock into the light and paint another small face upon the surface. Each of the rocks on one side have something colorful painted upon it. A message, an animal, a creature of some kind, a simile face. Each one is different and unique, drying in the sunlight that casts down upon it. Some kids have gathered to watch, but the skinny masculinely dressed person seems to be caught up in the painting at the moment, though they have spoken to them a few times before.

One of the rocks is painted to look like a coiled dragon, sleeping with its eyes closed, but the one that gets sat down on the pile this time is a purple flower with red stigmas sticking out of the middle.

“Look, mom!”

It’s half shouted with excitement at the sight of all the colorful rocks and the person painting them. Mother and son were walking hand in hand, until the youngest of the pair saw something that interested him. Carl’s hand slips from Kaylee’s before she could tighten her grip, allowing him to run ahead, with a red articulated plastic asian dragon clutched in one hand while Bubba was left behind to hold down the fort against intruders.

“Carl! Wait..” Kaylee calls out, even though he’s already racing ahead. Normally, she wouldn’t feel the need too, but without her telepathy, whoever that is sitting and painting rocks is a mystery.

“You want me to go get him,” asks her shadow, one of Raytech’s security specialists, just behind her.

“No… just hang back Mack,” Kaylee murmurs without looking, leaving the guard to stand there while she follows in her son’s wake, her stomach twisted in a knot. She hated not being able to peek at intentions.

Already, her fearless son was crouching before the person, a foot or so beyond the rocks, with wide-eyed wonder. His mouth drops open watching the stroke of the paintbrush. “Whoa,” Carl whispers out softly shifting his attention to all the pretty rocks. “These are amazing,” he adds breathlessly. “So many colors. Why rocks?” he can’t help but ask, while fingers clutch at his knees, in an attempt to resist the urge to touch. When he spots it, Carl leans a bit closer to peak at the dragon rock.

“Give them space, kiddo,” Kaylee tells her son, stopping just a few steps behind him, eyeing this stranger suspiciously.

“The ones on the outside should be dry,” the person says, with lilting tones that are definitely not from these shores. Irish, really, even if they don’t look very Irish. They’re skin shows better tanning than most, and their hair sits in short dark curls hanging onto their forehead. Appearance doesn’t always mean much, though, because people can look like anything and still be from just about anywhere.

With a friendly grin, the young— but not that young— looking stranger reaches down and swaps the paint brush from left to right hand and plucks up the dragon rock, turning it over to examine it, “Fan of the dragons, eh?” The dragon seems to be a British style one, rather than an Asian serpent looking one, with four legs and wings. “It’s rocks cause it’s better to use things that are already here. You can paint just about anything, really, but why not some rocks? I’m planning to give them out once they’re dry. This one should be dry enough now, I think.”

As the dragon is held out, there’s some hesitation, because, well, a mum is about— pale eyes glance up toward Kaylee and her suspicious gaze and there’s another grin. “The paint is non-toxic. Completely Eco-friendly, even. Like to leave as small a footprint as possible, you know,” is added with a small wink. The rock is offered in her direction instead, if she wishes to examine it first. It is just a simple rock, old gravel that’s been painted to look nice.

Blue eyes couldn’t get much wider as the rock is offered to him. Yeah, Carl may be a fan. When it shifts to his mom, he twists to give her a pleading look. He knows he’s won before the battle even starts. It isn’t the wide eyes, it’s the stranger. The comment about the environment has a corner of her mouth pulling to one side in a faint smile.

Kaylee doesn’t take the rock, just studies this person for a long moment, before motioning with her head towards the rock. “Go ahead, kiddo.”

There is a happy gasp from Carl who holds his hand out, suddenly shy for the rock. “Dragons are really cool. People think they are scary, but I think they are just misunderstood. Just like the Good Dragon. The villagers thought that he was eating their sheep, but they were sneaking out through a hole in the fence.” The boy sounds so serious when talking about dragons.

“Oh, you got him started now,” Kaylee says with a mischievous smile and a hint of a chuckle. Without another thought, she moves to crouch next to her son to look at the rocks, one arm resting on bent knees. “He’s right though, these are really good. Self taught or school?”

“Oh, those sneaky lil sheep. Can’t trust the buggers. You know that saying pulling the wool over your eyes? They’re the ones that actually got the wool, ya know,” is said with another grin, playing right along with the story where the dragon is the misunderstood victim and the sheep are troublemakers. Instead of painting more, Castle shifts around to better face the two, legs still folded indian style in front of them and hands resting on their knees as the paints sit and wait to get used again.

“A little bit of both. I had some teaching, but mostly learned by imitation. Saw what other people did and then tried to do it myself. Until I managed to make something that I didn’t completely — something that was passable.” There may have been a near curse in there, something worse than the bugger from before, but it was stopped before it happened.. “If I mess up, it’s just a rock and I can chuck it over there somewhere,” is said with a gesture, in the direction of the park, which, well, there could be a few discarded rocks in that general direction maybe, but for the moment it didn’t seem to be the case.

“Oh, you can pick one too,” they say to the other kids that have gathered around. “Just one, gotta save some for the others.” What others, who knew, but each of the kids grabs one and starts to move away, playing with it. “The ones I don’t hand out I will probably hide in the park somewhere. Someone will find them eventually. And if they don’t the rain will make them just rocks again eventually.”

Either someone would take them home and enjoy them for a short time, or they would go back to being rocks again. “Do you want one?” is asked of Kaylee with a gesture. “I can paint one special for you too, if you have a request.”

“Exactly!” Carl says rather smugly to the stranger. “Sometimes what you think is bad isn’t bad at all and something you think isn’t… is. Like my Uncle Warren. Everyone thinks he’s crazy, but he’s just got a lot of ideas in his head filling up his head to bursting. He’s not crazy, just really really smart.”

The dragon rock in Carl’s possession, he holds it where his mom can look at it, his smile bright. Kaylee obliges her son, leaning over to look at the painted figure. “Look mommy. It looks a little like the good dragon, but it’s green. Maybe it’s his sister.”

Kaylee chuckles and tells her son, “Maybe it is.” Like any mom, there is a lot of pride and love on display.

The question of if she wants one has her looking at the rocks on display. “No need for making anything special,” thought she is rather flattered. Shifting to one knee, Kaylee leans towards the rocks. The purple flower catches her attention and she reaches for it, only to stop short and ask the stranger, politely, “May I?”

“Too many people do immediately think those who view the world in a different way are bad,” Castle nods in complete agreement with Carl’s words, also understanding the way that the world views people who see things in ways others do not. “Good on you for not being one of those people, kid. And good on you for raising him that way,” is added to Kaylee, cause parents do inform upon their children, after all.

The rock painter is about to ask more questions, possibly about the good dragon, but instead he gets distracted by the blonde woman reaching for the purple flower, only to stop short. There’s a moment where his hand reflexively moves, which may have prompted the hesitation, but then— “No, it’s— it’s okay,” she whispers quietly under her breath. The tone isn’t quite the same as the Irish lilt, something different about it, softer, with different vowel sounds. A different accent entirely, a different tone, a different voice really, while still somehow being the same voice.

“I wasn’t sure it was dry yet.” Their voice is back to the same as before, Irish and calm, with a friendly smile, as if nothing had happened. “It should be fine, though. It’s a saffron crocus. The flower that produces one of the most exotic— and certainly the most expensive— spice in the world.”

The compliment gets a mild flush of Kaylee’s cheeks and she’s quick to shake her head. “Pretty sure it’s his father’s influences not mine.” She sounds almost guilty about it, like she should be a part of that goodness. “Pretty sure his bouts of mischief are my influences.” That gets an impish giggle from the kid who watches his mom pick up the rock, gently as if afraid of touching the paint.

Though her eyes are not on the rock as it’s lifted, but the person who painted it. The shifts are not missed. It made her hesitate a bit more. Kaylee’s head tilts a little like she’s listening to something, but then grimaces as her attempt to reach out to listen mentally fails miserably. There is a flicker of pain in her blue eyes as her gaze falls to the rock in her hands. It hurt to be reminded again that she doesn’t possess an ability anymore.

Castle gets to keep his, hers… their secrets this time.

Able to bring the rock for a closer inspection, Castle can see her studying the rock and the brush strokes. “This is beautiful. Really, you are… an artist. My granny had some saffron in a tiny glass jar. Rarely used it unless it was for a truly special occasion, smacked your hand if you tried to touch it.” Kaylee offers the rock back with a gentle smile, even though there is a touch of suspicious curiosity in her eyes. They were a mystery she needed to solve…. For now though. “Whoever this rock is destined for is lucky. Maybe it will bring a smile to a special kid, hmm?”

“My name's Kaylee, by the way. And this…” She wraps her free arm around her kid's shoulder and hugs him, even though he protests the public display, “…is Carl.”

“Moooom, people are watching,” Carl hisses under his breath, forcing his mom to let go with a patient sigh.

“It’s a good spice to have around,” they say quietly, taking it back when it’s offered and moving to stand up, brushing at their legs with their hands, ignoring the pants smeared on their fingers and a bit on their clothes. And that smudge on their cheek, too. “I’m Castle,” they say simply, even if that doesn’t sound like it should be a name. Perhaps a last name, maybe, or a nickname, but it didn’t sound like a normal name, definitely not a name someone would forget. “Nice to meet you, Carl, and Miss Kaylee.”

Holding the rock in their left hand, it’s tossed once into the air and caught, then held back out, “Did you know that there’s been modern medical research into using saffron to help with clarity of thought and helping with memory? I’m not one for herbalistic remedies, but it’s always fun to think about science and nature working together anyway. And it tastes good when you manage to put it into a dish. If you could manage to get your hands on any of it anymore.”

It had been expensive before, they probably don’t want to find out how much it would take to get enough to cook with these days…

“I feel like there’s another flower out there that would mean more to you, but, this one caught your eye, so, it’s yours.” Once again, it is held out, this time back to her.

“Mmm… There are flowers that hold precious memories and meaning for me, you’re not wrong.” Straightening, Kaylee takes the rock and looks at her down son who stands, too, watching Castle with curiosity and interest. “But… this…” She looks back at the rock painter and shows them their work, “is a new flower with a new memory to go with it…. and I can’t deny the talent behind it. I can barely draw a straight line myself. Not to mention… you seem to get my son’s chatter.” The rock is cradled in both hands, like holding something precious.

“It’s really nice to meet you Castle,” Kaylee offers honestly.

Finding courage in his mother’s interactions, Carl offers a hand to Castle, “It’s nice to meet you. Castle is a cool name, just like castles are cool. Dragons like castles. If I could change my name it would be Dragon. One day I want to go see all castles in England when I grow - ” Kaylee’s hand on his shoulder stems the flow of chatter from the child, but not before he gets out a quick, “-up.”

Kaylee moves to push on… “Do you plan to frequent this park often, Castle? I’d love to bring you some cookies or something to pay you back for the rocks? You’ve put some work into them.” She motions at a complex of buildings down the street from them. “I live over by Raytech, so I could bring you lunch sometime, maybe next time you’re in the park?”

“Nice to meet you as well, Miss Kaylee,” Castle says with a nod of their head, grinning at her. For a moment, there’s a hint that they might even want to do more than nod, their head, perhaps even bow or something, but they restrain themselves before looking back down at the circle of rocks, both unfinished and finished, and the paints. Bending their legs, they sit back down on folded knees and begin to pick up the paints in their small glass containers, screwing the lids back on and placing them into a small woven basket nearby.

“I’ll probably be around. I need to decorate the park a bit. With the rocks. So people can find the ones they’re supposed to find, that sort of thing.” The dragon had been meant for one youngster, and the saffron crocus for his mother. There were little unicorns and dolphins and other critters that someone should find too. And a few other flowers and plants as well. “I also plan to take some of the unpainted ones home and use some glow in the dark paints on them, for Halloween. Little ghosts and stuff,” is said with a mischievous grin.

“Don’t forget to name the dragon. Little lady deserves a name,” is added to Carl with a point of a wet brush, before it’s wiped off, wrapped in a towel and put away in a small wooden case.

“I will!” Carl promises confidently, but then looks at the articulated dragon he’s been holding on too. Then he looks guilty, cause the one Luther gave him still was nameless. “Actually… I’m bad at names so I’ll try

Kaylee watches Castle sit and turns thoughtful, looking at the rock in her hand. They couldn’t be…. naw. Just a turn of phrase or that is what she wants to think. Later this conversation might make her squint, for now… “I think that is a noble cause. The park could use some color.”

Taking a deep breath, preparing to leave, Kaylee rests a hand on her son’s shoulder. “So tomorrow, if you are here, I’ll bring cookies.”

“Can I help?” Carl asks his mom with excitement.

Giving the boy’s shoulder a squeeze, Kaylee gives him an apologetic smile. “Sorry kiddo, once we leave here we’re taking you home. I promised your dad I’d get you home before dinner.” It is obvious that Carl doesn’t live with his mother.

Carl visibly pouts, giving a dramatic sigh, “Fiiiiine.” He gives the rock painter a small sad waves. “Bye Castle.”

“Maybe later, Carl, if your mom’s okay with it. I think I can handle this set. Maybe you can help the other kids find them later though,” Castle says with a wink that— isn’t the best wink ever cause both eyes technically get involved. One of those winks. They aren’t the best at winks it would seem. But not everyone is. “If you can’t think of a name, pick the name of something that you love, like a color or an object. Or a food. That’s usually a good bet. Something that you associate with a good emotion or feeling. If you haven’t thought of one when we meet again, we can brainstorm on it, though.”

It’s said as if Castle very much expects to meet the youngster again at some point, as they wander off. Perhaps it was the promise of cookies. “I do like cookies. Cookie would even be a good name,” is added after a second, with a childlike grin. Even as they give a small wave in response.

“Goodbye~” is said with a wave and a smile, as Castle sits there with legs crossed, watching them go, before returning to putting away supplies.

Mother and son get a short distance away, before Carl stops in his tracks. He turns back towards Castle and hurries back, his mom calling his name. Stopping in front of the person and holds something out for them to take.

“Here. I don’t have much….” he says a bit breathless from running back. “…but this is a Thank you for making my mom smile.” It’s a roll of Smarties held out to Castle. “She doesn’t do it much since….” Carl stops short and looks back at where his mom waits patiently with hands on her hips, clearly she doesn’t know what the boy is doing. With a sigh he looks back at the other person, sad. “I can’t say, but bad things happened to her. A lot of bad things. She doesn’t think I know, but I hear her and Mr. Luther talk when they think I can’t hear.” How often had he been scolded for eavesdropping? A lot.

Carl! Let’s go.” Kaylee calls out, with a touch of impatience, they were going to be late.

“Okay mom!” Carl shouts back, hands cupped around his mouth. “I gotta go,” he says sheepishly to Castle. “Keep making people smile, Castle. You’re good at it.” Carl waves a farewell and races a way to rejoin his mom.

The roll of smarties is taken with a blink of surprise, but, well, it would be rude not to take it, right? Castle looks up at the youngster with a tilt of their head for a moment and then nods in understanding, “Sometimes we gotta take care of our mums, don’t we,” is said in a knowing way, before the boy runs off to rejoin his mom. There’s a quiet moment, before their arm drops down and Castle looks at the piece of candy, opening the wrapper and popping one of the smarties into their mouth.

“Parents really don’t understand how much kids notice, do they?” they say out loud. To no one. To themself. It’s a question that doesn’t need an answer, rhetorical. With a shake of their head, they move to finish packing up and get to their feet. “These rocks won’t hide themselves.”

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