It was not just Mrs Juniper who noticed the change in Cal's demeanour at the next session. Everybody noticed. Even Rodney Dibley noticed, and he was normally so engrossed in the inspection of his... products, that he would not have noticed if a world leader turned up for the session.
"Cal," said Mrs Juniper, her smile radiant, her finger busy, as always. She withdrew it and wiped it subtlely on the back of the moulded chair next to her, then stood. "I am so pleased to see you back again. We all are, aren't we, folks?" She looked around the room, and was answered by eager nods. Denise Rowland gave a shy wave, then edged the tip of her ring finger up along her philtrum, but let it rest just under her right nostril, until Cal had dropped his gaze.
Mrs Juniper made her way over to where he stood, just beyond the doorway, and touched him on the arm. "You seemed to be in some distress, dear, when you left last week." she said, in a quiet tone. " How have you been?"
"Well, I was bad. At a low ebb, that's for sure," he said, smiling at her. "But that was then. Things have changed." He looked over to the rest of the group, then stepped forward.
"I have something to share with you all, if I may?" he said. He sounded confident, even cheerful.
"Have you stopped... picking?" asked Mack Girard. "Did you beat it? Is that it?" He turned to his neighbour, a thin man with bad teeth. "It won't last. Never does," he said, not bothering to lower his voice.
Cal took another step forward. "No. No, I haven't stopped. And I don't want to. In fact, I never, ever want to. I've changed it... into something good."
Mrs Juniper gasped. All around the room, mouths fell open, and fingers stopped moving.
"Well. Please tell us, Cal. We're longing to hear all about it." said Mrs Juniper. "Aren't we?"
There was a chorus of assent.
"I can do better than tell you." said Cal, looking triumphant. "I can show you. Just one moment..." He strode back to the door, opened it, and went out.
The rest of the group looked at the door, then at each other, and started murmuring and muttering amongst themselves. There was a loud bray of laughter from Mack Girard, and an answering nervous giggle from Denise. Then Cal walked back into the room, and silence descended once more.
He was carrying a large artificial leather folder; what looked like an art portfolio. He went to the centre of the group, and laid the folder on the floor. As he unzipped it, the entire group craned forward, to see. Cal opened up the folder, then stood to one side, to enable them all to see what was contained.
"Oh my!" sighed Mrs Juniper. "That's really something."
Rodney Dibley stood up and walked closer, then leaned over the folder to get a better look.
"Very impressive, fella," he said. "Landscape, is it? I especially like that dark section there."
"Thank you, yes. I did that after a couple of days in the city."
"Is that... I mean, did you... Is it all your own... work?" asked Denise, in a whisper.
Cal chuckled. "Yes. It's all my own. But I was going to suggest... a project. We could all work on something together. It's such an inexpensive hobby. We don't even need to buy materials. Except paper, of course." He looked around at the sea of incredulous faces. "Well, what do you think?"