Castle Roland

Short Story

Posted: 24 Dec 15

Rainbow Ranger Rescue

A Rick Beck Story

It's anywhere, halfway between here and there. Jack Frost is nipping at every nose that pokes itself outside. The days have grown short and shorter. People are hustling and bustling, going from shop to shop in Smallville, U.S.A.

Some folks are just getting home from work and their kids are coming in from school. Tonight there will be Christmas shopping and a stop at the lot next to the drug store for the Christmas tree.

Nothing like shopping to build a good appetite.

"Father, look! It's just like the ornaments Mama had on her tree. Don't you remember? Let's buy a box. They're only $5.00 a piece. It'll be just like when I was a girl," the mother explained.

The purchases are made. The car is loaded with packages. The tree is tied to the top of the car. Mama, Papa, brother, and sister are exhausted, and hungry, very hungry. What a wonderful day it's been.

Now for a stop by the pizza parlor on the way home for one of those everything on it pizza, hold the anchovies please. There are tons of fun at the pizza palace for a mere pittance.

Maybe they'll stop at the hamburger shop on the corner. Get a bag of burgers to go and those extra greasy fries, lots of fries, and maybe some of that apple pie that's nothing like Mama ever made. That way they can eat at home in front of the new wide screen TV.

What a wonderful life it is.

Richie Vickers can only watch through the windows at the family eating the French fries faster than the girl can load them into the bag. Oh what he wouldn't give to be inside and feel the warmth and smell those French fries, but he'd already been invited to "Scram, kid," by the manager, who has his eye on Richie.

Richie's coat has holes in it. He lost his gloves... somewhere. His shoes were in sad shape too. He could feel the rocks on the road, when he didn't watch his step. Richie always had to watch his step.

He stomps his feet to get the feeling going in them. Pulling himself out of the corner of the hamburger shop window, he takes a final peak at the happy family inside.

"Merry Christmas," he says softly, as if it was a family he knew.

Richie is hungry. Richie is cold. Richie has nowhere to go. He needs a shower. What he wouldn't give for a nice hot bath like he remembered from a faded past. He remembered sitting in a hot tub of water and wished he could sit in one now.

The horn blew as he stepped into the street in the middle of his bath. Brakes squeal.

"Look where the hell you're going, kid. You want to get run over?"

"Merry Christmas," Richie said with a wave.

"Merry Christmas," the irate motorist said softly to himself.

He'd forgotten to look again. The daydreams came at inopportune times. He was daydreaming more. He didn't know where he was half the time.

'Am I going crazy?' He wondered, paying better attention.

'Maybe I'd be better off if someone did run over me,' he thought.

Richie remembered there had been better times. Times when he was warm and snug in his bed at night. He remembered a time when he wasn't hungry and he didn't wait until he collapsed to allow himself to fall asleep and not feel the cold.

The memories did make him smile. He'd once had a family. Memories were all there was to warmed him now. He wasn't going to get a bath. There wasn't going to be any food, and he would only get colder as the night went on and the swiftly moving people went home.

Richie imagined one of them would stop and see past the dirt and smell. They'd see a nice boy who needed a meal, who needs to get warm for a few minutes. He didn't take up much room and he was very very quiet. He'd learned to be nearly invisible.

He knew he could go back to the home, but he wouldn't. The bigger boys took his food, his blankets, and anything else they wanted off him. He wasn't very big. They were very very big.

Richie was small for his age. Richie was small. Richie was no match for the bigger boys at the group home. As miserable as he was now, he wouldn't go back there.

He knew he needed to keep moving.

It was getting colder by the minute. If he sat down, stopped walking, he was sure he'd freeze on a night as cold as this one.

No he couldn't go back to the home. He'd rather be cold and hungry. The hunger did go away in time, for a few minutes. The cold never did. December was a bad month to go on the road.

Why hadn't he slipped away in the summertime. He could have swam in a lake to get clean and wash his clothes there. He could eat wild blackberries and blueberries. Someone might have liked him and taken him in if it was summer and he didn't smell like....

He had been accused of poor planning in the past. This was a perfect demonstration of it.

Why wasn't he from Los Angeles or Hawaii?

'That would be the ticket. Hula girls and surfer boys. Sweet balmy nights and pineapples hanging off the trees, and coconuts! Oh yeah, what I wouldn't give for a coconut with the milk in the middle. How would I get that sucker open? Poor planning is what it was. I should have picked one of those pineapple.'

Richie was sure he'd like pineapple.

He'd like Hawaii. It was warm in Hawaii.

It was getting later and colder. He stood by the door of a shop at the end of the last block in town. He felt the heat when someone went in or came out. It was a restaurant. He smell food.

"Oh, man, smell that food," he said to himself.

He loved the smell of pizza. That was the ticket.

People hesitated to walk around the boy in the doorway. People began to come toward the door. It was time to move on.

Richie shoved his hands in his pockets and he began to walk. He was warmer when he kept moving. He'd walked all day yesterday. He was still cold, and still hungry, always the hunger biting his stomach.

What town was this? Didn't matter. They were all the same. There would be another town tomorrow and then one the day after that. He didn't remember names all that well.

He'd offer to help a lady put her groceries in the car in the next town. He'd help an old lady cross a the street.

"Yeah, walk her right out in front of a car. Not too bright, Richie," he said to himself.

Maybe he'd panhandle enough to get some of those French fries. That would be the ticket. He'd just smell them for a while before he ate them.

The car slowed and the window came down as he walked past the last building in the tiny town. He didn't look but the car stayed beside him. There had been other cars; other men; other offers.

'Ignore him, Richie. Ignore him. You aren't that bad off yet. You know what he wants. You ain't that hungry yet. He'd have the heat on high. Maybe just get in for a minute to get warm. No, I won't do that. I'm not that cold yet.'

He didn't look at the driver or at the open window. He knew what the offer would be. He'd have to take them up on their offer when it got bad enough. When he was too hungry to resist, too cold to care, but not tonight. He wouldn't get into a car with a strange man yet.

No, he could go a while longer. The hunger wasn't that bad yet.

"Hey, kid," the gruff voice said after two minutes of pacing him.

There were no other cars. There was nowhere to run.

Richie looked so he didn't need to hear that sour voice again.

"Want to make some money, kid?"

The man leaned on his arm to look over at the merchandise.

Richie shoved his hands deeper in his pockets and looked away. He didn't want to make any money, not tonight. Men who stopped to offer you money weren't looking to help you out. They wanted to help themselves to the only thing of value a kid on the street had, but not tonight.

When you did that, you sold yourself and you sold your soul. He knew that. He'd only do it when he couldn't stand the hunger any longer, and he had no more use for his soul. Richie had heard plenty about men in cars who stopped for kids, but not tonight.

Richie knew the ways of the world before he left for parts unknown. He'd been on his own before. He knew it wasn't going to be easy before he decided to run. He wished it wasn't so cold was all. He wished he had a little food is all. He wished... he wished....

If only wishes came true.

"Who are you?" Richie asked as the bright light shined upon him and an elf size boy, smaller than Richie, popped in and out of the bright warming light.

"Cold you are, I think," the small boy said, appearing and disappearing enough to make Richie dizzy.

"Stop it. You're making me dizzy," Richie declared.

The light was warm enough to make Richie stop. He didn't want to walk out of the heat. He was warm through and through. A warm light? How did that work? He hadn't been so warm since..., since he didn't remember when. He could fall asleep standing in that light. It was a gloriously warm light.

'Where'd that elf go?'

"Where'd you go, little guy? Did I dream you up? Did I dream the light up?"

"Where you going?" a colorfully clad lad no older than him asked.

He was just there. He wasn't and then he was.

"Don't know. Just going is all," Richie said. "Why is that light so warm?"

"Aren't you cold? You looked cold. We can make it colder if you like," the small boy said.

"Warm! Warm! I like that. Oh, it's warm," Richie said, holding his hands like he was warming them over a fire. "Would you stand still. You're making me dizzy."

"Warm is the best, don't you think? I hate being cold. Don't you? When you're here with us, you can have it your way, no matter which way that is. We'll see to it. We aim to please."

"What are you dressed for? You look.... You look like...."

"Me? I'm dressed for you. I like bright lights and bright colors too. Don't you?"

"You a fairy or something? You look like a fairy," Richie said, wondering where the loudly dressed boy was from.

"We prefer pixies, but yes, we're from the land of enchantment. You can refer to us as fairies if you like."

"Where you say you're from?"

"We're from the land of enchantment. You know, where the flowers are candy, the clouds are marshmallow, and no one is ever hungry or cold, and we never get old."

"Right!" Richie said. "You're nuts. There is no such place. Who dresses like that? Do you have a keeper?"

"You hungry, Richie?" the colorful boy asked.

"How do you know my name? I never told you my name."

"I'm a fairy, remember? It's what fairies do. We know who everyone is, Richie. We know when someone needs us, and you look as though you need someone, Richie."

"Who are you really?" Richie asked, shaking his head and thinking he must be dreaming or freezing like the little match girl did. She was dreaming about being warm when she froze.

"Thought you'd never ask," the colorful lad said. "Let's hit it, boys. Come on. Come on. Keep the line straight. Hit it."

He was quickly joined by three other boys who were all dressed in colorful costumes like the first boy. They were all Richie's age and none was bigger than he was.

They took time to form a line, putting there arms over each other's shoulders. Kicking their legs above their heads, one leg at a time of course, they began to sing.

"We are the Rainbow Rescue Rangers. We're here to rescue you."

"We are the Rainbow Rescue Rangers, here to see you get your do."

"We sing, we dance, we prance for you, because we're the Rainbow Rescue Rangers. We've come to warm your heart. We've come to feed you too, because we're the Rainbow Rescue Rangers, and we've come for you," and they all pointed at Richie.

Richie reasoned, 'They got to be real. Who could dream this up?'

"We are the Rainbow Rescue Rangers," the four lads sang on. "We've come to take you where no one is too cold or too hot, days never end, and the fun never stops."

"Oh, we're the Rainbow Rescue Rangers and we've come to take you home. We are the Rainbow Rescue Rangers of the enchantment zone, and we want to take you home with us. We want to take you home. We don't have a Cadillac car, so we brought the Rainbow bus," they sang, pointing at an outrageously painted bus.

"Who are you really?" asked a giggling Richie.

He hadn't had much to giggle about lately. He forgot he was cold and hungry. He was enchanted by the boys.

Each of the boys pointed at another, speaking all at once, "He's, she's, we're the Rainbow Rescue Rangers and we're here because you wished it was true. We're the Rainbow Rescue Rangers and we're here to rescue you," and the colorfully clad lads pointed at Richie, and this time he believed it was really real.

In most cities in western society there are homeless children and 40% of homeless kids are LGBTQ; in other words, they're our kids.

Let's rescue each other this year and especially let's reach out to include at least one homeless child in the bounty we share. Let's turn on the warm lights in our hearts to rescue kids who need to find us.

Feed someone over the holidays and all year long. Let's feed each other. We have much to be thankful for.

Happy Christmas and let's make this the best New Years ever.

Peace & Love, Rick Beck

Happy Holidays! Keep reading.