Baby Rainbow

Mark had spent the last two weeks doing extra chores. He’d weeded his grandmother’s roses and washed her windows. He’d swept the sidewalk in front of his house and swept his neighbor’s porch. He’d vacuumed the stairs and cleaned all the doorknobs.

Finally he had enough money saved up to buy the prism he’d seen in the antique store window.   “Mom,” he said. “I’ve got my coat. Let’s go. What if someone is there buying it right now?”

“If it isn’t already gone, then five minutes probably won’t hurt,” his mom said.   “Sit down and finish your cereal.”

“It’s already soggy,” Mark said. “I don’t want it.”

“Mark, that’s such a waste. Take three more bites.”

Mark folded his arms. “If I take three more bites, then will we go?”

His mom sighed.   “All right. Three more bites and we’ll go.”

Mark shoved three bites of cereal into his mouth at once. “Wed’s go,” he said, mouth full.

“Chew and swallow, Mark. That’s really gross.”

Mark forced himself to chew and swallow the awful mush. “I did it. Let’s go.”

“All right, let me find my purse,” his mom said.

“Mom! Why weren’t you getting ready?”

“I had to make sure you were actually eating three bites,” she said. “So, now I’ll go get my purse. Maybe I’ll change my shoes…”

Mark groaned and flopped onto the couch to wait. He counted his money again. He had just enough. He waited and waited. Eventually, his mom came downstairs again. She was wearing completely different clothes. He decided not to ask.

They got in the car and headed downtown. Mark had first seen the prism when he was walking to the dentist’s office for a check up. They’d walked towards the antique shop just as the sun burst through the clouds.

It hit the window just ahead of them and everything inside had glowed. Mark’s eyes were drawn to the glittering prism. Inside, a baby rainbow pushed against the edges of its prison. It looked so tiny and brave.

“Mom, what’s that?” he asked.

“It’s a prism,” she said.

“A prison?” he asked.

“Prism,” she said.

“Why is the little rainbow inside?” he asked.

“The prism is making the light bend,” she said.

He’d learned a new word. Tiny prisons were called prisms.   And prisms were made to kidnap baby rainbows and make the light bend to the will of humans. He had a new goal. He was going to rescue the baby rainbow and set it free.

So, here they were, two weeks later. The prism was still in the store window. It was still the same price. He breathed out a sigh of relief and opened the store door. He counted out every penny he’d earned onto the store counter and bought the prism.

On the drive home, he whispered reassurances to the baby rainbow. It was probably scared. Even if it didn’t understand his words, perhaps it would find his tone reassuring. It was safe now.

Once home, he ran upstairs and threw open his window. Light flooded in and hit the prism. The rainbow ran in the opposite direction. It had been in the prism so long, it didn’t recognize its parents.   Perhaps if he left the room, they could get reacquainted.

“Goodbye,” he said softly.

When he returned later that evening, his room was dark and the rainbow was gone. He smiled. The rainbow was free. He considered smashing the prism so it couldn’t be used to imprison anything else.   In the end he decided to keep it to remind him of the little rainbow.

Sometimes, on sunny days, the rainbow would come back to play. He’d tell it all he’d done since he last saw it, and it would sit on his wall and listen. It would always go home for the evening to wherever the light goes at night.

He wondered if someday, when it had grown bigger, it would run around in the rainstorms.   And then, when it had grown up, it would turn into sunbeams and have little rainbows of its own. He smiled. Setting the rainbow free had been worth all the hard work.

Brave as a Chicken

Rosemary called the meeting to order. “Hens and Roosters, I have terrible news. The humans all believe us to be cowards.”

Reginald stood and clucked in dismay. “But we are mighty hunters who keep their insect population down.”

Sally waved a wing, “I slept through the whole dog-in-the-henhouse thing. I’m obviously not skittish.”

Reginald puffed out his chest. “I rise with the sun and announce the dawn to the world. I’m not hiding in fear.”

Hannah tilted her head to one side. “What exactly are they saying about us?”

Rosemary cleared her throat. “I overheard the human children speaking to each other. Humans, when they wish to say someone is afraid, call them a chicken.   To the humans, our very species is synonymous with cowardice.”

Sally fluffed up her feathers in outrage. “That’s it!   I say we break free from this prison and let them know that we aren’t afraid of anything.”

“How are we going to get out?” Hannah asked.

Reginald crowed.   “I’ll dig us out. Just watch me work, ladies.” Reginald began to scratch at the dirt at the edge of the pen.   An hour later, his feet hurt and he hadn’t dug very far.

Sally clicked her beak in irritation. “I’ll get a running start and fly out. This is taking too long.” She backed up and ran across the pen, flapping her wings. She got a few feet of lift, but couldn’t clear the edge of the pen. “Let me try again,” she said.

Her next three tries didn’t go any better. “Ouch,” she said. “I’ll just let Reginald dig.”

“My feet hurt,” Reginald said. “Rosemary, Hannah, do you have any ideas?”

“Maybe we can climb the chicken wire,” Hannah said. She put her feet through the holes and tried to pull herself up. She struggled for a moment, flapping her wings and squawking. Finally she let go and fluffed herself up. “Nope.” She groomed her feathers.

“All right, I have a plan,” Rosemary said. “If someone will stand right here, I’ll fly onto your back and launch from there onto the nesting box. I think that from there I can glide over the edge of the pen.”

“Right here?” Reginald said. He moved to the right spot and crouched, wings out to brace himself. “Watch your nails and try not to scratch me.”

Rosemary backed up and flew, launching off Reginald and then the nesting box. She glided over the edge of the pen. The other chickens all cheered.

“Go tell them for us,” Sally said.

“Show them we’re not scared,” Reginald said.

“Be careful,” Hannah said. “The neighbor’s dog sounds mean.”

“Hannah,” Sally said, “We’re trying to encourage her to be fearless.”

“Fearless doesn’t mean foolish,” Hannah said.

“I’m going now,” Rosemary said. She turned and hurried over to the house. It was a beautiful day with a little breeze blowing. The humans were sitting at their outside table eating together.

Rosemary tried to walk up bravely. The neighbor’s dog started barking. It sounded far away. She tried to ignore it. The humans hadn’t seen her yet. Rosemary fluffed up her feathers and pushed her wings back. She stood tall and strutted closer, just as she had seen Reginald do.

The humans still hadn’t noticed. She clucked loudly. One of the human children turned. “Look mom,” he said. “Rosemary is out of the pen. Should I go get her?”

“I’m faster than him,” the other child said. “I should be the one to catch her.”

Rosemary clucked again. The children were arguing and ignored her. The human mother stood up and walked over, her shadow blocking out the sun.   Rosemary managed to stand her ground.

One of the children knocked something over and it landed noisily on the stone patio. A breeze caught a napkin and it fluttered over, flying at Rosemary’s face. It was the last straw. She ran back to the coop in terror. The children chased her, screeching in delight.

As she approached, the other chickens were waiting. “What’s happening?” Sally asked.

“Run, Rosemary!   They’ll catch you,” Hannah said.

“Be brave,” Reginald said.

Rosemary, cornered at the coop door, turned and faced the children.   She widened her stance and fluffed her wings. One of the children scooped her up and held her tightly as she struggled. The other opened the pen. She was tossed in and she fluttered her wings to right herself as the pen door closed.

The children raced off again, laughing.

“I think you showed them,” Sally said.

“You were so brave,” Hannah said.

“It was a great day for us chickens,” Reginald said. He crowed.

“I need a nap,” Rosemary said.


 

The Witch

Melinda checked the order form again and knocked on the door. A tall woman dressed in black opened the door. Her gray hair was pulled back tightly in a bun, and her thick dark eyebrows were pulled down in a glare. “Yes?” the woman said.

“Miss Ganon?” Melinda said, holding the order form in front of her like a shield. “I have your cookies.” She nodded her head at the bag sitting next to her on the front step.

Miss Ganon took the order form and looked over it. “Very well. Bring them in and I’ll get my purse.” She led Melinda into a dark, dusty living room. The curtains were closed and the lamp shone weakly. “Wait here, and I’ll be back,” the woman said. “Don’t touch anything. I’ll know if you do.”

Melinda thought about sitting on the sofa and decided that might be considered touching.   So she stood awkwardly next to the little table in the center of the room. The table was empty except for a chessboard. Melinda looked a little closer. The pieces were surprisingly detailed. She could even see the buttons on their suits and dresses.

Melinda shuffled forward and bent over to peer at a piece that had its mouth open in surprise.   The dust was thicker near the table, and moving closer stirred it up. Melinda began to sneeze and sneeze and sneeze all over the chess pieces.

There was a flash of light and a roar of thunder. When Melinda finished blinking and could finally see again, she looked around in surprise. The chess pieces were gone and the room was filled with people.

There were thundering footsteps on the stairs. The woman was coming back. “Run!” someone said. Every one began to run out of the room away from the footsteps.

“Which way to the door?” A woman yelled.

“Go left,” Melinda said. They all rushed from the house, back into the brilliant sunlight.

“We’ve got to get out of here!” a man yelled. He turned right and kept running. Everyone followed. A little girl grabbed Melinda’s arm and dragged her along. After several minutes, several of the older people started to look ill. They panted and wheezed, and still they ran.

Melinda was shocked that the woman hadn’t caught up with them yet. Perhaps she didn’t want to confront them out in the open. Or maybe she’d gone the wrong way on one of the turns they’d made.

They turned again.   The street looked familiar.   “Turn here,” Melinda said. “You can hide in my back yard.” She directed them to her house and opened the gate.   Everyone hurried through and huddled together under the trees in the far corner of the yard while they caught their breath.

“I’ll go and keep watch,” a little boy said.

“Be careful,” a woman said. “Maybe I’ll come with you.” They hurried across the yard and crouched by the gate.

“This is all your fault,” an older woman said to a woman dressed in a poofy white wedding dress.   “You’re the one who didn’t invite her.”

“I sent invitations to everyone on the list dad gave me,” the bride said.

“I thought she was dead,” a middle-aged man said. “There was an obituary and everything. You thought she was dead too.”

The older woman scowled. “We should have gone to the funeral and made sure she was dead.”

“We didn’t have any notice and it was on the other side of the country,” the man said.

“Why did she even want to come to the wedding?” the bride asked. She smoothed down her dress. “She hates all of us. I think she was just looking for an excuse to come and curse us.”

The man standing next to her straightened his tuxedo and frowned. “So your aunt is a witch or something?”

The girl sighed.   “Great-aunt, and apparently so.”

Just then, the little boy came running up. “She’s coming! What do we do?”

“Into the house,” Melinda yelled. Everyone ran.

Melinda’s mom came into the living room. “Melinda, who are all these people?”

“Um…” Melinda began. The doorbell rang. “Mom, tell her I’m not here!”

Melinda’s mom rolled her eyes and left. She came back a few minutes later. “Melinda, Miss Ganon brought over the rest of your cookie orders. She said you left them at her house. She said her chess set is missing too. She’ll come back later to talk to you about it.   Melinda, what is going on?”

That’s right.   The order form had her address on it.   Miss Ganon hadn’t needed to follow them at all. “Mom, how hard would it be to just leave on vacation for a few weeks? Before she comes back?” Melinda asked.

“Melinda.”

“Who wants to help me explain?” Melinda asked.

 

A Hero with Shining Scales

The traveler tipped his head back and checked the position of the sun. It would be time to set up camp soon. The terrain was suitably rocky. Perhaps there would be a small cave nearby where he could find some shelter for the night.

He checked the sky again. It might rain in the night.   He’d better start looking for a nice cave now. So, he stepped off the path and began to pick his way around the side of the mountain. It was a slow process. If there weren’t so many trees, he’d try flying.

The traveler paused and perched on a tall boulder and scanned the area. There had to be a faster way to do this. He sat still for a moment to think. A cool breeze blew by, and it carried with it the faint sound of someone crying. He decided to follow the sound. Perhaps if he found a way to help them, they’d be grateful enough to point out a place for him to stay for the night.

He picked up his bag in his talons and swung it over his shoulder. He followed the sound through the woods to a pretty meadow on the other side. A dragaina was hunched over, wings limp, sobbing. “Hey pretty lady, why are you crying?” the traveler asked.

“A horrible human princess stole my baby,” the dragaina said. “I tried to rescue him, but a knight held me off until another could sneak up and hit me in the head with a metal club. When I awoke, they were gone and I don’t know how to find them.”

“Don’t cry.   I will help you find him,” the traveler said.

The dragaina’s wings perked up and her eyes were wide with hope. “Really? Could you find him?”

“I’ll do my best,” he said. “Dragon’s honor.”

“Oh, thank you!” she said. “He’s all that I have left of my husband who was killed by those evil knights. They stole all our hoard too.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Ma’am. Tell me where the nearest river is and I’ll start looking for your little one,” the traveler said. Unfortunately, he had heard many stories like this in his travels. It was fortunate that in this case some of the family had survived.

He followed the dragaina’s directions to the river and began to walk downstream. Human settlements needed water, and they didn’t like to work hard to get it if they didn’t have to. Sure enough, he soon found a bridge spanning the river. On either side was a wide human road.

He followed the road away from the woods into a valley. In the center of the valley, a human town was settled snugly inside a stone wall with a large keep at its center. That was probably where the fledgling was being held captive.

He waited until night. The storm cloud rolled in and blotted out the moonlight. A fine misty rain put out the torches and sent the guards to huddle inside their guardhouses. The traveler glided in silently without being seen. They never looked up.

He flew around the keep and peeked into the windows. It wasn’t too hard to spot the princess’s room. Her enormous bed was draped with embroidered silks. The fledgling was curled up on the rug beside the bed, shivering. He was collared and chained to the wall. Humans were always so barbaric.

The traveler used his claws to slowly pry the window open. The princess didn’t stir, but the fledgling lifted his head and looked around, sniffing the air. When he saw the traveler he stood and raised his wings in greeting. The traveler smiled.

He bit through the leather collar and helped the fledgling out the window. The fledgling perched on the window ledge while the traveler closed the window, careful to make as little noise as possible.

Unfortunately, the princess woke up. “Stop!” she shrieked, racing towards the window. The fledgling froze. The traveler scooped him up and jumped, just as the window burst open and the princess called to the guards. He spiraled up, higher and higher, pushing through the heavy rain and avoiding the arrows. Then he flew through the clouds back to the dragaina.

Mother and son hugged each other and cried. “Thank you,” the dragaina said. “I don’t know how to repay you.”

“Do you know of somewhere I can stay out of the rain tonight?” he asked.

“Of course.   Let me feed you a meal as well,” she said.

He followed her to her cave. They ate a quick meal, and then the fledgling fell asleep, curled against his mother’s side. The traveler sighed and looked out into the dark night outside the cave. “You can’t stay here any longer you know,” he said.   “It’s not safe.”

“But where will we go?” she asked. “We don’t have any other family.”

“I don’t know,” the traveler said. “I’ve been looking for a safe place for long time.”

“I’ll come with you,” she said. “There’s nothing left for us here. We can leave in the morning.”

The traveler thought for a moment of the danger of traveling in groups. But he knew that she could use the help, and it would be nice to not be alone. “All right,” he said at last. “Perhaps together we can find a place where our people will be safe and humans can’t find us.”

“I think we will,” she said. “And maybe the humans will forget about us and stop looking for us. It would be nice if my son didn’t have to grow up in fear.”

“If we do find a place, we can gather our people,” the traveler said.   “And maybe their grandchildren will someday believe that humans only exist in stories.”

“I will do all I can to make it happen,” the dragaina said. And together, they did.

 

Charlie’s Room: The Blanket

Marianne came back from tucking Charlie in. “I think his blankie needs to be retired soon,” she said. “It may not make it through another wash cycle.”

“Oh no,” Isaac said. “He’s going to be so sad.   It’s been such a good blanket.   He’s had it since before he was born.   It’s even older than Socks.”

“Yes, well, socks hasn’t had to go through the wash nearly as often,” Marianne said.

“Good thing too,” Isaac said. “Cats hate water. We’d probably wake up covered in scratches.”

Marianne laughed.   “It’s a good thing his claws are just painted on then.” She sighed.   “The blanket wouldn’t get dirty so often if he didn’t insist on wearing it to breakfast.”

“You’re probably right,” Isaac said.

“Well, it’s too late now.” Marianne picked up her book. “Luckily we don’t need to worry about it just yet. I think it might last a few weeks longer.” She found her page and started reading. Isaac picked up his book and joined her.

Unfortunately, two days later, Charlie didn’t notice he was shutting the corner of his blanket in the door. When he started to walk away, the blanket tore, leaving a jagged zigzag gap from corner to corner. Isaac came running when he heard the dismayed yelp.

“Charlie, what happened?” he asked.

“My blankie!” Charlie said. He started to tear up a bit.

Isaac started to put an arm around him and realized that he was still holding his toothbrush.   He hugged Charlie with his other arm.   “Come on. Let’s take it to Mom and see if she can patch it up again.”

Marianne was in the kitchen rinsing the pot Isaac had used to make the oatmeal.   She shut off the water and turned. “Why the sad faces?” she asked.

“My blankie got caught in the door and it tore,” Charlie said.

“Oh dear,” Marianne said. “Let me see.” She examined the tear. “I don’t think I can fix this. The fabric is just too worn out.”

Charlie started to sniffle a little. “Can’t you put a patch on?” he asked.

“It will just tear again,” Marianne said. “Probably while I’m trying to sew it. Why don’t you wrap yourself in it for breakfast one more time and maybe this evening we can give it a funeral.”

Charlie slid into his seat and arranged the torn blanket around his shoulders. Marianne tried to help. Isaac rinsed his toothbrush and put it away and came back.   The blanket still wasn’t tucked in quite right.

Isaac tried to help tuck an end under so that the fluffy tear wasn’t tickling Charlie’s face. “Well, that sort of worked,” he said. The blanket managed to untuck itself and slide down Charlie’s shoulder.   Charlie giggled. “I spoke too soon,” Isaac said.

The blanket kept trying to resist their efforts to tuck it around Charlie. In the end, they finally managed to get it to stay put.   By that point, they were all laughing.   They left the house smiling.

By afternoon, Charlie was sad again. “Can I bury my blankie in the back yard so that I can visit its grave?” he asked.

“It’s made out of cotton, so I guess that would be fine,” Isaac said. Charlie looked confused. “Natural fibers should be safe for the animals that live there,” Isaac explained.

“Oh, okay,” Charlie said. “I’ll get my shovel and dig a hole under the tree. You ask mom if we can pick some of her daffodils.”

“She’s more likely to say yes if you ask her,” Isaac said.

“Then tell her its me asking,” Charlie said.

“All right.”   Isaac found Marianne. She agreed to donate the flowers for the funeral and picked them herself.

After an appropriately solemn funeral, they went inside for a quiet evening. Charlie had a hard time falling asleep. Isaac read him four chapters from their book, and finally he heard soft snores. He turned out the light and whispered goodnight.

He went to the kitchen for a drink of water. After that much reading, his throat felt really dry. He stood in the dark kitchen that was softly illuminated by the light of the streetlights outside and looked at the tree in the backyard.

Something was moving in the shadows at its base. Was an animal digging up Charlie’s blanket? Isaac stepped closer to the window and looked out. He couldn’t tell what it was. He pressed his face to the glass.

It was the blanket. Somehow, it was pulling itself out of the dirt. Ragged and torn, it rose from the ground at last, suspended from its center by an unseen thread like a Halloween ghost.

As Isaac watched, it began to fade. It grew lighter, and lighter, thinning out like the edges of a bank of fog. Then it was gone.

Isaac opened the door and looked out. The yard was quiet. He walked over to the edge of the grave. The earth looked turned up at the center.

Isaac patted the dirt back down. He wasn’t sure what had just happened. He hoped the blanket was happy wherever it just went. It had been a very good blanket, after all.