“Rainbows”

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Despite my revulsion of being cheesy and predictable, I really am a romantic (as in the Romantic era) at heart. This story is romantic in that sense. I originally wrote this story when I was in college. Let’s just say I haven’t been an undergrad in awhile… I have always liked this story, but I was never satisfied with it. It has dialect, magic, and pain, which makes for a different sort of combination. I wrote it as a fairy tale in a creative writing class, but it isn’t a love story; I have mostly thought of it as a children’s story. I attempted revising this several times, but I had some serious creative writing blocks over the years until recently. I just did a final revision, and the formatting for this story on my blog isn’t my ideal (I’m a blog novice)–Jack’s monologue is intended to be similar to a block quote. When I wrote “Rainbows,” most of my friends seemed to like it. So, to you, my blog-reading friends, Enjoy!

“Rainbows” by Christine Flower 

Once upon a time there was a man named Mr. Browning who owned a small coffee shop, The Magician’s Nephew.  Legend says that he adds a dash of magic to his coffee beans, and only one who is worthy of his magic would receive the desire of his heart.  This person would need to have a deep, unconditional love for another person which would exceed his love for himself. Simple enough, but not easily achieved.

The walls, ceilings and floors of The Magician’s Nephew were midnight blue with gold stars, moons, and planets scattered in various places. Standing ten feet high were twenty-four blocks of glass stacked on top of and next to one another, forming the front door.  In the afternoon the sun shone through this door, casting rainbows on the shiny tile floor. Smells of coffee and chocolate-mint lingered in the air, while sounds of spinning galaxies, shooting stars, flutes and keyboards enticed the ears.

Ted Mansfield was a regular customer of Mr. Browning’s coffee shop. He had a wife of eleven years named Sharon, and they had an eight year old daughter named Molly. Ted’s family was unusual by most folks’ standards. While Ted worked from 8 to 3 at the Salvation Army store downtown, Sharon worked at the Sontacque Corporation as the head of the Department of International Services. Molly attended the Bronson School for the Blind. Every day after work Ted picked up Molly from school and took her to The Magician’s Nephew where they would order the usual: a chocolate mint cappuccino for Ted and a hot chocolate with three marshmallows and whipped cream off to the side for Molly.

In the evenings Sharon fixed dinner for Molly, Ted, and any guests that Ted brought home from work. Ted’s guests have included some homeless men, women and children.  Other guests have included some stray dogs and cats that now frequent the Mansfield home.

The neighbors often gossiped about this “strange Mansfield family.” Mrs. Higley, the next door neighbor lady with a perfectly cut lawn and flowers that looked as prim as her poodle, complained about the “filthy people” that were always coming in and out of the Mansfields’ house.

“Who do they think they are? …Why, why someone might take advantage of their niceness and rob them blind…That’ll show them.  Serves them right…feeding strangers and all.”

Though the Mansfields took no offense at their neighbors, Sharon sometimes entertained her family with an imitation of Mrs. Higley, “Mr. Mansfield, do you realize the reputation you are giving this neighborhood by bringing in those people?”

Ted would interrupt, “She’s not that bad.” His face was always a mixture of bright eyes, sounds of suppressed laughter, and a tone that said, “I kind of feel sorry for the old woman.” Then he would add, “You just have to learn to like her in her own way.”

Whatever that meant, thought Sharon. “You’re right,” Sharon said. We don’t want to insult Mrs. Higley, but you’ve got to admit, she can be a bit ridiculous at times.”

“True,” admitted Ted, “but we can all be ridiculous at times.”

As Ted and Sharon carried on this conversation, Molly listened intently while wondering why Mrs. Higley acted so grouchy to everyone.  Maybe she’s just lonely, she thought.  After all, everyone knew she lies alone with only her poodle, Ruby, for a companion.

One evening Ted brought home a guest named Jack, but everyone down at The Salvation Army knew him as “Jack the Story Man” because he loved to tell stories; he always had something to say about something.  Jack’s stories were not campfire ghost stories or fairy tales. They were stories about his life—and what a life this man had lived! There were stories about the time he hitchhiked from Louisiana to New York. There were stories about his long lost love, Miss Ida he called her.  And there were stories about growing up the oldest of six kids.

That evening when the Mansfields and Jack were eating dinner, Ted piped up and asked, “Jack, when are you going to tell us one of your famous stories?”

Jack replied with relief, “I was wonderin’ when you was goin’ to let me talk.  My mouth don’t know what ta do when it ain’t talkin’.  Now, y’all just sit tight and git quiet ‘cause I got a story to tell:

Tonight when we was drivin’ here I saw this shoe shop, an’ it reminded me of the time when I was twelve yea’s ol’.  Now when I was twelve, my father died, leavin’ me an’ Mama to raise my younga brothas an’ sistas. Now there was six of us kids; so Mama had her han’s full. An’ since I bein’ the oldes’, I had to he’p her, ya see.  Anyhow, we was in bad times, bein’ my father died an’ Mama not havin’ much money.  So, I had to go get me a job an’ he’p feed the kids an’ pay the bills.  Now these was bad times with the Depression an’ all, an’ jobs don’t come easy, ‘specially to kids.

One day when I was walkin’ home from school, I got me this silly notion to go into Mr. Harry’s shoe shop to see if I could get me a job. An’ he did get me a job jest like that. I worked ev’ryday afta schoo’ an’ on  Saturdays too. This he’ped out Mama a whole bunch till Mickey—that’s my younger brother got real sick ‘round Thanksgivin’. Ooh, we was in trouble!  Mickey need’ a docta real bad, but we didn’ have no money for a docta.  Now Mr. Harry was real good to me.  He treated me just like I was his son.  He was always askin’ about me an’ Mama an’ the other kids; so he knew all ‘bout Mickey.

Wheneva’ I would talk ‘bout my fam’ly, his face got all bright like a           shiny new penny.  It was like he was glowin’ inside or somethin’.  He was always tellin’ me to believe in my dreams an’ to love ev’rybody real good.  So, I did best I could.  He was a real unusual man that Mr. Harry was.  Some people was afraid of him, says he was magic or  somethin’. Well, I knew he was good, even if he was magic. Anyhow, Mickey was real sick an’ needed a doctoa, and I still didn’ have ‘nough money an’ Mr. Harry was even payin’ me a little extra.  I was afraid Mickey would die or somethin’. So, one night I lay in my bed an’ talk to Jesus. I said, ‘Jesus, if you’re up there, would you help Mickey?’  I was sure Mickey was gonna get better. The next mornin’ was Saturday; so, I got up ‘fore everyone else to he’p out Mama with the cleanin’ and get ready for work.  When I put on my coat, I felt somethin’ strange in my coat pocket.  There was an  env’lope in there.  It was grey an’ said “Jack Jones” on it.  Now, I didn’ remember no one givin’ me no letter. I was a little afraid ‘bout this whole thing. Well, I opened that letter, an’ you would never believe what was inside. There was $1,000 an’ a piece a yella paper that said, ‘Your dream has not been forgotten.’  That paper wasn’ signed or nothin’. So, of course I woke up Mama right away an’ showed her what I got.  Now normally Mama never took no money from no one, but this had no name.  She just cried; I ain’ never seen Mama so happy.  We had    more money than we need for the doctor.  It was just a miracle.  ‘Course she couldn’t visit the doctor till Monday; so, we had to wait a couple a days.  In the meantime, I had to go to work before I was late…I was EXCITED! I walked so fast that mornin’. I just couldn’t wait to tell Mr. Harry about the money an’ the strange paper that come with it.

When I got there, it was the strangest thing, though.  When I got to work, Mr. Harry wasn’t there, an’ his shoe shop was empty.  Then, after standin’ there a minute scratchin’ my head, an’ I remember   what them people said about Mr. Harry.  They said he was magic. Well, after that I believe them because he always told me about believin’ in my dreams…an’ then the note with the money said my dreams weren’ forgotten.  Yep.  I just knew it was him.  Now, he was gone.  Strange man, that Mr. Harry.  I swear that’s a true story.

“Wow!” said Molly. “Did that really happen?”

“Sure did, sweethar’.  An’ I still got that note at home to prove it.  It’s pretty ol’ like me, but I still got it.”

That evening when Ted and Molly dropped Jack home, he invited them in for a few minutes.  “Now Molly,” said Jack. “I got somethin’ I wan’ to give you.” Just then Jacked walked over to the closet and pulled down an old shoe box that said, “Harry’s Shoe Shop.”  The box was brown cardboard with dusty, red writing. Jack lifted the lid and pulled out a wrinkled, yellow slip of paper with rough edges.  It said, “Your dream has not been forgotten.”

Jack explained, “Molly, this is the paper I got in my jacket pocket one mornin’ when I was a little older than you.  Now you’re a young lady, and young ladies got dreams.  I want to give you this piece a paper so you won’t forget that your dreams can come true too.  Now, I ain’ rich or nothin’, but I got a lot of dreams come true.  I think the secret is believin’ in them, even when people think you crazy or somethin’.”

“Thank you, Jack” replied Molly.  She held the paper in her left hand while her right hand traveled slowly across it. The paper felt like cloth because it was badly wrinkled, and the paper fibers made it feel like cotton. Then, she held it up to her nose and sniffed it.  It smelled like old leather because it had been in that shoe box with an old pair of Jack’s leather shoes.

That night while Molly lay in bed, she held that old piece of paper tightly clenched in her hands.  Her imagination ran wild as she thought about her dream.  “If I could see, I would color pretty pictures of rainbows and trees and cats…I could go to the circus and see the performers…Oh, I would just…just SEE!”

Monday morning was Molly’s eye doctor appointment with Dr. McKinney.  Dr. McKinney was a slender man who towered to 6’5”.  His hair was charcoal-colored and neatly combed.  As he walked, there was a bounce in his step.  He smiled whenever his patients entered the office.  When he got excited, his voice rose, and Ted secretly referred to him as “Jiminy Cricket.”

“I would like to go ahead and try the surgery on Molly,” Dr. McKinney said.  “There are no guarantees that she’ll be able to see, but there is a chance it might work.”

Ted’s thoughts wandered as Dr. McKinney spoke. He knew how much Molly wanted to see, but the surgery would be expensive.  Of course Molly’s worth it, but what if it doesn’t work?  She’ll be so disappointed. Ted decided to step outside to call Sharon.  “What do you think we should do, hon?” Ted quietly whispered to his wife outside the office door.

“We can’t hurt by trying, but I think the person we should be asking is Molly,” Sharon insightfully responded. She was good at doing that.

Ted stepped back inside to talk with Molly, and Molly could sense the tension in her father’s voice.  Ted asked, “Baby, would you like to try the surgery?”

“Yeah,” she replied very nonchalantly.

Ted faced Dr. McKinney and said, “Alright, we’re ready to do this.”

Dr. McKinney inquired, “How does a week from tomorrow sound?”

“That’ll be fine,” responded Ted with quiet relief and trepidation.

“I’ll tell Joyce to schedule you for Tuesday, the fourth at 9:00 a.m.  I’ll see you then.  Take care Molly; you’ll do just fine.”

“Thank you, Dr. McKinney,” said Molly.

“You’re welcome.  I’ll see you soon.”

Later on that afternoon Ted and Molly went to The Magician’s Nephew. As they walked in the front door, the sounds of synthesizers, clinking metal and jets reminded Molly of the feeling she got while riding a roller coaster last year at the State Fair.

Mr. Browning looked up while finishing his cappuccino.  As he smiled, his eyes lit up like a warm campfire.  “Hello Molly. Hi Ted.  Can I get you two the usual?”

“Yeah,” replied Ted.

“So what have you two been up to today?” said Mr. Browning.

“We…we just got back from…” Ted started to reply.

Molly interrupted, “Daddy, can I tell him?”

“Go ahead, Baby.”

“We just went to Dr. McKinney’s, and he said maybe he can make me see next week.”

Ted quickly added, “Dr. McKinney is Molly’s ophthalmologist.  He’s scheduled Molly for an experimental eye surgery a week from tomorrow, and if it’s successful, Molly will be able to see.”

“Well, today your hot chocolate and cappuccino are on me!” exclaimed Mr. Browning.

“Mr. Browning, you don’t have to do that,” said Ted gratefully.

“Well, what else are we lonely magicians supposed to do?  I’m sure that surgery isn’t cheap,” Mr. Browning added, “and every little bit helps.”

“Are you sure?” asked Ted.

“Ted, I want to,” said Mr. Browning.

“Thanks,” said Ted.  “Can I ask you a silly question?  Why do you always call yourself a magician?”

“Well, my friend, who do you think the magician is in The Magician’s Nephew coffee shop?”  Just then Ted placed his hand over his daughter’s and Mr. Browning added, “You’ve got to believe in your dreams.”

The next several days were days of preparation for everyone in the Mansfield household, especially for Molly.  She was determined to see.  Every night before falling asleep, she thought of all the things she could finally do when she finally had sight, but what she wanted to see most was the circus.

Even Ted had become a little giddy at the thought of Molly seeing.  His hopes were high, and the possibility of Molly’s surgery failing seemed to fade.  He thought, First, we’ll have to take her to the zoo…no…we’ll take her to the park for a picnic…no…we’ll take her to the ocean.  It was as if he were planning how to spend his money when he won the lottery.

Sharon, on the other hand, remained calm and reasonable. Facts and statistics on the possible failure/success rate ran through her mind like a business report. This stability was also her weakness, because sometimes she was a little too realistic, bursting both Molly’s and Ted’s dreams. But she meant well; she did love them both very much.

On the day of the surgery, Molly was neither nervous, nor afraid. Instead, she was so excited that she couldn’t wait to get started.  Sharon and Ted anxiously sat in the waiting room while Molly underwent her surgery.  They didn’t know why they were so nervous since her bandages wouldn’t be off for a few weeks.  Nevertheless, Ted bit his nails, while Sharon compulsively read her magazines.

When the surgery was over, Sharon, Ted, and Molly were all relieved.  Sharon and Ted were glad because no parents like to think of their child in surgery; Molly was happy because she knew she was going to be able to see. In the meantime, they would have to wait for the bandages to come off.

Sharon and Molly had the easiest time waiting, but Ted was so nervous that he had no fingernails left to bite. For Ted, the clock seemed to tick slower and slower until it seemed that time would almost run backwards. By the end of the last week, Ted couldn’t even plan what he wanted to do with Molly when she could see.  Finally, though, he decided to sit down and relax.  After all, he couldn’t make her see.

At the doctor’s office, Sharon and Ted sat around Molly and Dr. McKinney; their hands were sweating. Dr. McKinney slowly lifted the left bandage off. Molly made no indication that she could see.  Then he removed the right bandage.  As he did this, he asked her the long-awaited question, “Can you see anything, Molly?”

Sharon and Ted drew in a deep breath right before Molly spoke. “No.” Molly said.

“What?!” Ted asked in disbelief.  Just then Molly began to cry.  The one thing she had hoped for with all of her heart had failed. Ted and Sharon hugged their daughter while Dr. McKinney could only bring himself to say a heartfelt, “I’m sorry.” There wasn’t really anything else to say since all of them knew that this surgery might not work.

“It’s not your fault.  You said there was a chance,” replied Sharon.  As the three of them walked out of the doctor’s office, Joyce looked up to ask how it went but decided not to when she saw their faces.  Instead, she looked at them with concern in her eyes, gave a gentle smile, and politely said, “Good-bye.”

That evening, neither Molly nor Ted were very hungry, but they still forced down a little food. Dinner was fairly quiet, except for the cats meowing in the living room and Sharon failing to make Ted and Molly smile.

After dinner, Molly lay in bed dreading the thought of having to go back to school.  It wasn’t that she disliked her school; it was just that she told her friends and teachers that she was going to be able to see—she just knew that she would.  Now she had to face them all with her sad, failed dream.

The days back at school were rough for Molly, but not as bad as she thought they would be.  Every once in a while someone would tease her, but that was immediately stopped by Molly’s teacher Mrs. Patterson. During this time, she and Mrs. Patterson became close because Molly’s friends frequently changed their minds about if Molly was really their friend. Actually, though, what Molly didn’t know is that they were jealous of her. Most of them didn’t even have the chance for this surgery.  They were either too poor to afford or didn’t medically qualify for participation in this experimental procedure.

One day Molly and Mrs. Patterson were talking during lunch.  Mrs. Patterson shared with Molly about the time she wished for a little girl. For months, she and Mr. Patterson waited, and finally she became pregnant with a little girl.  She carried this baby inside of her for a few months, but the baby died before she was born.  Mr. and Mrs. Patterson were really said, but they still didn’t give up their hope of someday having a little girl.

Molly cried at lunch that day because somebody else knew what it was like to lose a dream, and she wasn’t alone anymore.  In fact, learning about what happened to Mrs. Patterson gave her hope again.

After school, when Molly and Ted were at The Magician’s Nephew, Molly told her dad about lunch with Mrs. Patterson. As Molly shared her story, Ted began squinting his eyes a little and biting down on his bottom lip.  He realized that he had forgotten about his little girl.  All this time Molly had been alone; Ted had forgotten her by holding onto his dead dream for her—that one day Molly would see.

Since the day that Molly had lunch with Mrs. Patterson, Molly began improving in school, and she started smiling again.  Molly no longer cared what the kids at school said about her because she knew she was not alone. She also came to accept that it’s okay for dreams to die because if Mrs. Patterson could make it, then she could too.

One day at school Mrs. Patterson gave an especially interesting lesson; it was about rainbows. They read in Braille about the many beautiful colors of the rainbow.  As Molly’s fingers moved across the pages, she was imagining different flavors of her favorite foods. I bet each color is like a different flavor, she thought. When they came to the color red, Mrs. Patterson said it was warm like a summer day.  The made Molly think of The Magician’s Nephew because it was warm inside—just right, and Mr. Browning served nice warm things to drink, like her favorite hot chocolate and her dad’s favorite chocolate-mint cappuccino.  I wonder if red is as good as hot chocolate, she thought. I bet it is.

That day while Molly and Ted were at The Magician’s Nephew, Ted asked Molly about her day at school as Mr. Browning secretly listened. “Today we read about rainbows—the colors sound so neat!” I think they’re like different flavors, and red is like Mr. Browning and his coffee shop, especially his hot chocolate.”

As Molly gave her little speech about the rainbows they learned about in class that day, Ted’s mind wandered.  He sipped his cappuccino and thought about Molly and her rainbows,  I wish Molly could see her rainbows.

“And when we got to violet, I remembered the pretty-smelling flowers in the garden.  I wonder if violet looks like I think it smells?”  Molly continued.

“What do flowers smell like?” asked Ted.

“Like fruit or Mommy’s perfume.”

That afternoon before Sharon returned home from work, Ted was reading Molly a story, and a strange sensation came over Molly.  She became frightened and began screaming, “Daddy!  Daddy! What’s happening to me?!” Her eyes grew warmer and then started to tingle.

“What’s wrong?” Ted asked.

“My eyes!” she screamed.  Ted didn’t know what to do.  Maybe she has an infection from the surgery? he thought.  As Ted began searching for his phone to call Dr. McKinney, a fuzzy haze appeared in front of Molly’s eyes. When he began dialing, still trying to somehow calm Molly down, she began to see faint images.

“Daddy!  I can see!”  she happily screamed.

“What?!”  he responded in a daze, as he started putting the phone down.

“I can see!” The images gradually came into focus, and for the first time, Molly could see her dad.  Just then Molly reached out and hugged her dad.  They just held each other and cried.  This couldn’t be happening, but to their amazement, it was.  Of course they wanted to call Sharon, but they both decided they HAD to tell her in person, not on the lousy phone.  So, they decided to run and tell Mr. Browning before Sharon returned.

They grabbed their jackets, and as Ted was putting his on jacket, he reached into his pocket for his keys and found a piece of paper folded inside.  He took it out, and on the front it said, “Ted Mansfield.”  When he opened it, all that it said was, “Your dream has not been forgotten.”

Wonder where this came from? he thought. He told Molly because she was there, and this was whole thing was happy and odd.

She said, “That’s like Jack’s paper. Remember?”

Of course, he did remember.  Hmmm, was all he could think.

When they got to The Magician’s Nephew, they tried the door, but it wouldn’t open.  It was locked. Then they looked in the window and found the coffee shop completely empty.  There was no furniture, no coffee, and no Mr. Browning.

Just then Ted realized that all of the day’s strangeness was Mr. Browning’s doing.  As Ted and Molly peered through the window once more before leaving, Ted pointed out the rainbows reflecting on the floor from the glass-block door.  “Look there, Molly.  There’s your rainbows!”

They both smiled and stared at the rainbows; their dream had not been forgotten.

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