Little Tommy's lost and his only way home lies in a magical rainbow.
“Wake up, Tommy! It’s time to eat your breakfast before it gets cold!”
Tommy grumbled and sat up in bed, rubbing his eyes wearily with a very wide yawn. He never liked waking up in the mornings, since it meant having to do his chores, take a bath, and then get ready for school. He placed his hand beneath his chin and remembered that today was Report Day. He knew that Mrs. Robinson, his teacher, was going to give him a bad grade. He thought of his mother’s face when she’d see the paper and how she’d make him go without dinner or double his chores.
“I’ll skip school today,” he finally said with a nod. “And I’ll go far away where no one can find me.”
He got up and made his bed. He then washed his face, brushed his teeth, and put on his finest shirt and pants. Even Mother was impressed at how good he looked.
“Why, what’s the occasion, Tommy?” she asked, with a smile of pride. Although her little boy could be a troublemaker sometimes, she still loved him all the same.
“Nothing, mother. I just wanted to look good today,” Tommy replied as he ate his cold cereal and toast with gusto. Sometimes he wished he could have hot bagels and tea every morning like Richard Dawson from across the street, but Tommy knew that they were not as rich as the Dawsons and never would be. Father was fighting in the war and Mother worked at the factory for many long hours.
With a kiss on his cheek, which he suffered with a low grumble, he waved goodbye to his mother and began the long walk to school.
It was another beautiful spring day in Bloomville. The sky was as blue as the ocean that Tommy sometimes saw in picture books, the clouds extra fluffy and white as snow. In the shapes of clouds, he imagined seeing a whole farmyard of animals. As he walked, he thought of ways to make his grand escape. He thought it would be fun to use the train - he had saved up enough money from selling empty soda bottles - and he'd go up North where there were no schools for boys. Richard had told him that.
"And for my tenth birthday, I'll buy whatever I want when I get there. Lots and lots of candy and liquorices."
He grinned in delight and swung his school books gently, hardly paying attention to where he was going, and when he finally did look down, he froze in mid-stride at the sight before him.
Where was the narrow path filled with wiggling vines? Where was Mrs. Pickerson’s familiar white fence with the pink and white rose bushes? Where was the stray black dog, who Tommy had secretly named ‘Spot’ because of the small white spot on its nose, the one who always walked with him to school? Where was the sound and sight of Mr. Bean’s milk-truck as he got ready to make the last deliveries for the morning?
He stared at the stretch of trees before him and tried not to be afraid. He couldn’t remember how he had gotten here, but he had been in the woods with Richard before and ought to know his way back to the main roads. He began to re-trace his steps by walking backwards, hoping it would be the fastest way home. But the further he walked, the thicker the bushes and trees became. Suddenly, a memory of something his father had said to him came to mind.
‘Remember, Tommy. Whenever you’re lost in the woods, it’s much safer to remain in one place, so that it’s easy to find you.’
“Okay, Dad,” Tommy whispered as he sat on a dead tree stump and tried to think of what to do next. He couldn’t be far from home, and yet, this area felt unfamiliar to him. For one thing, the trees here looked much bigger, taller and sturdier than the ones near his home. Why, if one wished, he could build a house in one of them and live in it! The trunks were wide enough for such a thing.
But as the minutes ticked away, Tommy became even more afraid and lonely. He wondered if his wish to run away and never be found had come true. He didn’t think it was such a good idea anymore. He wanted to see his friends again and would have gladly suffered Mrs. Robinson's scolding for getting such poor grades. He wanted to see his father return from the war, but most importantly, he wanted to see his mother again.
A lonely tear slid down his cheek as he thought of her warm smile, her hugs and her kisses. He now wished he hadn’t turned away so quickly this morning. He wished he had given her one last look before going to school.
Soon weary from crying, he felt his lashes growing heavier and he struggled to stay awake; however, a happy bark made Tommy sit upright in amazement when Spot came running into the clearing. He yipped and leaped with pleasure at the sight of the boy, licking the tear-streaked face as he was hugged gently.
“Spot!” Tommy cried out, happily. “You found me!”
“Ho ho, so that’s what got him all excited,” came the raspy but friendly voice as a man stepped out of the shadows of the trees. He was short and stout with hair and beard as white as the clouds. But it was his outfit that had Tommy gawking in awe, for this jolly little man seemed to be clothed in a suit made of shimmering colors of the rainbow. Blues and reds mingled and danced with yellows and greens, while indigos and violets appeared and reappeared mischievously.
“Hello, Tommy!” the man greeted with a wave and a tip of his stovepipe hat.
“Hey … how did you know my name? Where am I?” Tommy asked quickly. “And who are you? You look just like Santa Claus.”
“Santa Claus? Ho ho ho! A popular misconception, dear Tommy,” said the jolly old man. “But no, I am not Mr. Claus. I am…” He did a little jig and bowed again. “The Man Who Lives at the End of the Rainbow.”
“Huh?” Tommy looked skeptical. “I thought those were leprechauns.”
“Oh yes, those little imps,” the man mumbled. “But never fear. They only show up in the early months, take all the gold and run away. They should be gone by now.”
“But if you live at the end of the rainbow,” Curious Tommy asked. “Where is it?” He looked all around him and up in the sky, but could not see a rainbow in sight.
“Ah, but you see, a rainbow can be anywhere,” said the jolly old man, and with a grin and a flourish, he clapped his hands together. Tommy watched as sparkling dust-like sprinkles filled the air. They suddenly changed into seven little fairies, with gossamer wings each representing a color of the rainbow.
“Now then, Tommy,” the Man at the End of the Rainbow said. “You seem to be lost and my good friends here will be more than happy to lead you back home. There’s Indigo, Violet, Ruby, Buttercup, Bluebell, Emerald and Sunset. Say hello, my dears.”
The fairies flew around Tommy’s head and began to sing in the most beautiful voices he had ever heard:
Little Tommy’s lost his way
Naughty thoughts to start his day
To find your way home
You must not be a gnome
Remember Mommy loves you
And misses you too
Tommy lowered his head in shame at the memory of all the trouble he had caused in the past. He wiped the tears from his eyes and sniffled sadly.
“I promise to be good and to make mother happy. I’ll work twice as hard and stop being naughty. So please, dear fairies and my jolly good fellow, take me back home so I can see her again.”
“Promises are easily made,” said the old man with a wag of his finger. “But keeping them is another thing altogether. It’s hard to be a good boy all the time, dear Tommy, but remember to always keep your own special rainbow in your heart and things will turn out just fine. I’ll always be here if you ever need my help.”
Tommy nodded and smiled as warmth filled his heart, and watched as the jolly old man danced another little jig.
“Now close your eyes and think of home, of warm cookies, milk and hugs. And when you open them you’ll be back where you belong, in the arms of parents who care.”
Tommy did as he was told and waited with a thumping heart.
“Mother. Dearest mother,” he whispered as he heard the fairies singing again. Soon, he felt himself being lifted off the ground, floating higher and higher until…
“Wake up, Tommy! It’s time to eat your breakfast before it gets cold!”
He sat up with a start and rubbed his eyes quickly. He couldn’t believe it! Why, he was back in his bed! His nightwear still on, his school books still on the desk. Had it all been a dream and none of it real?
He heard a familiar sound and jumped out of bed, and then ran to the window to peer outside in excitement. It was a small green truck with a star on its side, and as the man stepped out of it with a large duffel bag in tow, Tommy laughed in pleasure as Father walked home.
He looked to the heavens with tears in his eyes, for he now knew that it hadn’t been a dream. For there amongst the clouds, he could still hear his seven good friends singing and the faint, hearty laughter of the jolly old Man at the End of the Rainbow.
Word Count: 1753
Notes: This is dedicated to my niece, who always makes me smile even when I feel at my worst.