There’s this really weird book. You should totally check it out.

The other day my friend Ashley and I went to Texas Art Supply, which is one of the most awesome stores in Houston, partially because it contains all the Dover coloring books and copyright-free image books.

Whenever I go there, I have to look at every single new coloring book so that I can purchase at least one of them, then take it home and put it in a drawer in my vanity, next to my unused box of Prismacolors. That is my habit. That is my way. Right now, I have the following Dover coloring books in that drawer:

Old-Time Children’s Fashions Coloring Book
Gods of Ancient Egypt
Chinese Fashions
Japanese Fashions
Classic Cars of the Fifties

I’m very picky about them. I can’t just buy any coloring book and then take it home and never color in it. The ones I pick must have particular characteristics as far as facial expressions, line thickness, and color variety potential are concerned.

So, like I said, I was very carefully going through the new coloring books, trying to decide between medieval fashions and fairies, and Ashley was keeping me company. She’d found a book of illustrations of scenes from the Bible and was entertaining me greatly by commenting on it aloud.

“I love the Old Testament,” she said. I don’t love it, myself, particularly, but I appreciated her enthusiasm.

“Oh, God,” she said. “Look what they did to Jacob. This is horrible.” I think Jacob was the name of the guy who had to wrestle the angel. It was, as Ashley pointed out, a very lackluster illustration. Jacob looked tired and more like he was hanging on the angel, begging for lenience, than wrestling him. Ashley said this was an injustice, since Jacob (or whoever) had actually put up a pretty good fight until the very end.

At that point, I noticed a man walk near us. On the back of his calf, he had a tattoo of a red, winged devil woman. She was nude and had large, red, devil breasts. I whispered for Ashley to look at the tattoo. She said it was awesome. We went back to the Bible.

“This one’s my favorite,” said Ashley. She showed me a picture of Lot, his wife, and his daughters fleeing Sodom. “Did you know that, after they left and Lot’s wife looked back and turned to salt, Lot and his daughters went to a cave, and his daughters got him drunk and…”

“Had sex with him?” I said. “So they’d get pregnant?”

“Yes!” said Ashley. “Isn’t that awesome, that out of the four people in Sodom who weren’t sinners, three of them ended up performing incest?” We looked for a picture of the incest, but there wasn’t one.

The guy with the devil woman tattoo had a wife. Or a girlfriend. She was pushing a stroller, and the child in it let out a cry. The guy went to join them. He and his woman talked inaudibly, into each other’s ear.

I had a thought. “Find the one,” I told Ashley, “where the guy has sex with his handmaid, while the wife watches.”

“Ooh. Is that… Abraham?” She found Abraham and Rebecca, and then a grown-up Ishmael, but no actual illustrations of handmaid-impregnating menages a troix.

“Did you know,” I said, “that people think Cho Seung-Hui identified with Ishmael, and that’s why he wrote Ismail Ax on his arm? And, like, in Muslim culture, the story’s opposite — Ishmael’s the one who inherited, and Isaac didn’t?”

The tattooed guy and his family were still within earshot, I noticed. They seemed to be moving in a semi-circle around us, close enough to hear us but not close enough for me to hear their whispering. They looked annoyed. I saw the woman roll her eyes.

“I think those people want to look at the coloring books,” I said. They’re waiting for us to get out of the way.”

“Screw them,” said Ashley.

“I know,” I said. “Why don’t they just come up and look at them? It’s not like there isn’t room.”

“Okay, who the hell is this?” Ashley exclaimed, showing me a picture of the Garden of Eden. It contained Adam and Eve, obviously, but also a giant, forlorn man who looked like Rodin’s Thinker or maybe the Jolly Green Giant. “Who is this guy?”

“I don’t know. The giant guy that David fought? The devil?”

“No… I think it’s supposed to be Gabriel,” said Ashley, pointing to the winged Gabriel on the previous page. “And he took on the form of man… but why does he look so ridiculous?”

“Maybe he smelled the apple and morphed into the Jolly Green Giant. Because… you know… vegetables.” Really, I know the New Testament way better than I know the Old one, because they never read the Old Testament at church when I was singing in the choir. How did Ashley know so much about it, I suddenly wondered. Had she actually read the Bible? Knowing her crazy ways, she probably did. She’s artsy like that. She only works part time, then does art and/or reads obscure texts all the rest of the day. Or photographs her friends partially clothed near the bayou. Or takes the bus to Whole Foods and buys herself a coconut. She’s a bohemian. That’s why she fascinates me, I think. I would never, ever be a bohemian (because I grew up poor), but it’s fun sometimes to watch her be one.

By now, the tattooed guy and his lady were openly sneering at us. Was it because they wanted unfettered access to the coloring books? Was it because we were speaking of the Biblical art in a less-than-respectful tone? Was it because we were ignorant of Gabriel’s giant phase and too obviously dense for them to explain it to us? I wondered if maybe I should read the Old Testament. But then I decided that, no, I’m probably too delicate for it.

I ended up getting the coloring book with fairy tales scenes that related to flowers. And fairies. There was a gothic alphabet coloring book, and it turned out that Ashley knew the author. But I didn’t get that one because I didn’t like its lines. Sorry, Heather.

I also got a pencil sharpener, so I can sharpen my Prismacolors, now that Ashley’s shown me how to properly open their box. Who knows — I might actually color a fairy this week.

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Posted in books, pop culture, stories on 07/20/2007 11:13 am

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