I think Lardo lets Tango watch her mix paint because she once noticed him watching paint-mixing stim vids on his phone.
Like, one day she is walking through the Haus and everything is quiet, which is weird. Then, she notices Tango just chilling on the couch. Then she really confused because it’s quiet and Tango is there and usually you can’t have one with the other. So, she goes over and peeks over his shoulder and he’s scrolling through a paint-mixing stim account on instagram, taking the time to watch the entire video before moving on. There’s the faint sound of the pallet knife sometimes if the colours really attract his attention and he taps to turn on the sound, but, other than that, everything about him is silent.
That’s when Lardo gets an idea. She isn’t busy right now, so she runs up and gets a couple of her tubes of cheap paints (acrylic, oil, some pigmenting, a giant tube of white paint, some paint thinner, ect.), a couple pallet knives, and some glitter. She comes back down and taps on Tango’s head. “Follow me, taddy,” she says, nodding to the door.
Of course he follows, Lardo is mama duck, but that doesn’t mean he does it without question. With slipping his phone in his pocket, the inquiries start a-coming. “Where are we going? What’s in that bag? When did you get home? Am I in trouble? I thought we were allowed to be there if the door was unlocked?? What’s that clanking coming from your bag? How was your day? Where are we going??”
Lardo is a master at letting him just ask without giving real answers (and, frankly, he’s thankful that she doesn’t yell at him like Holster does), and soon their at Lardo’s super secret art studio. At this point, Tango’s been here before and has stopped asking the “Where are we going?” because he recognized the area. But he still had so many questions, even up to the moment Lardo put a small red blob next to a larger light blue one on top of a big smear of white.
When she started mixing, he went absolutely quiet and fixed his eyes on Lardo’s hands, listening to the scrape of the triangular knife on the sheet of plastic she uses as her pallet.
They do this for hours, Lardo even letting him paint a bit on a spare gessoed canvas she uses to swatch the colours on to see what they look like. He isn’t really the best artist but he does get the shape of a multicoloured rubber duck with shades on. It’s mostly purples and blues and greys because those are the colours he said he liked seeing being mixed the most.
He eventually starts buying her the bulk cheap acrylics from A.C. Moore. They spend their Thursday and Sunday afternoons mixing paints.
Lardo puts the piece they made up in her senior art show. “Takes Two to Tony” is the title of the piece (only the hockey players get it, theater kids think it’s about the Tonys and spend too much time trying to figure out what a messy, tecnicolour duck with sunglasses has to do with the relevant plays and musicals of 2016).
It’s the most commented on piece in the guestbook and someone even asks if they could buy it and leaves their number (Lardo never calls them).
Tango is quiet when he looks at it because it reminds him of his mama duck and how she figured out what made him the happiest and used it to help him.
When Lardo graduates, she finds Tango at the ceremony and hugs him, slipping the key to the studio into his hand. “It’s all yours now, Tang. I’ll see you there.” He goes and there is all the paints he got her, the piece of hard plastic pallet, and the painting. It’s now hanging from a rafter, the light from the dusty skylight filtering in and making the metalics and glitters they used on it shimmer. Tango is so happy, he cries.
They still meet every Thursday and Sunday afternoon there.
Tango’s started his own paint-mixing stim account on Instagram and a “mama-duck-lardsy” always comments, saying things like “that blue can be used as a highlight on the duck” or “good job with the pigmenting, who’s your teacher? ;)”.