Friday, Nov. 22, 2002, 1:38 AM

Childhood art and frog legs

I miss Etch-A-Sketch. I miss Light-brite. I miss Spin-art. I miss the artistic outlets of youth. They were creative and fun, and let's face it, the competition was non too stiff. I mean, how good can an Etch-A-Sketch drawing really be? How intricate can a Light-brite pattern really get with such a small grid, and who can control the tempers of the spinning canvas and gravitational paint to actually manufacture a work of art? Come to think of it, Spin-art is very Pollock in a way.

Why do I torture myself by writing these entries at ungodly hours of the night when I have to be up to manage a company in the wee hours of the morning? Such are the mysteries of life. Such are the mysteries of me, hee hee.

Here's a gender-bending story for the world at large:

He said he was looking for the meaning of life at the bottom of a cup of tea. I saw him every time I came in--sitting alone, staring holes through his table. I almost talked to him once, but the chiding from my girlfriends kept me and my curiosity at bay. I'd watch him fold napkins into animals and write on the backs of the placemats. The waitresses wouldn't even look, just crumple it all into a garbage bag and send it to fill up some hole in the countryside. I'd watch his hands fold the wings on a dove, or craft the antlers of a deer. He sat bent, his bangs almost obscuring my view. His menagerie would then stare idly while his pen threaded letters into words. When his empty mugs fortified his table he would pull a bill from his pocket and shuffle out the door, sliding his feet all the way.

I rescued one of his placemats. The animals didn't put up much of a fight. Most fell on their sides from the draft. Not even the paper soldier with his sword waving in the air--he bent beneath my breath.

"I should have gotten out of this town when I had the chance. It's like a stagnant pond. You swim and swim and swim until you realize there's no way out and then you grow old, grow mold, sink to the bottom and die. I had my chance, but she listened to my Friends who told her I was only a frog and nothing else. She didn't see my crown, just my skinny legs."

I had never noticed his legs, and he had never noticed me. I wore leather with heels, or baby-doll dresses with combat boots, or polka-dot nylons with too much hairspray, but all he did was drink and write. I would sit one table away watching every time he finished a cup of tea, held the mug upside down and shook his head when nothing came out. If only I could fit, I would let him add sugar and cream, just as long as he didn't shake his head when I came out. I wonder if he would take me straight? I would take his skinny legs.