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“There’s somethin’ ’bout the way the street looks when it’s just rained, there’s a glow off the pavement.” Taylor Swift sings into my computer’s crackly speakers.
Knock! Knock! Two sharp raps of knuckles hitting my pale lavender bedroom door sound though the chorus of my favorite song. Mom doesn’t wait for an answer before barging in, “Claire, I need you to baby-sit Tyler, I’m going shopping.” She places a hand on her thin waist and cocks her hip out to the side so that the hem of her floral A-line skirt sways slightly around her knees.
“But Mom! I’m busy!” I slam down my computer mouse and swivel in my chair to face her. I decide a grimace and crossing my arms haughtily over my chest will be the cherry on top to get her to leave me alone.
“Doing what?” she smirks, pushing my younger brother into my bedroom, turning on her black patent heels, and softly shutting the door behind her in one fluid motion.
I melt into my white plastic chair and let my jaw drop as I stare after her, as if I could see her through the whitewashed walls. That’s it, I’ve had enough. I spring up and skitter across the carpet to the door. Throwing it open franticly I yell downstairs, “No way mom!” as I make my way towards the stairs to confront her. The end of my sentence is cut short by the sound of the slam of the front door. A few moment later the revving car engine echoes through the silence.
“Crap.” I swear under my breath trudging back to my room and tossing my body onto the bed like a dirty rag. My defeated sigh whispers through my lips as I hide my face in my left forearm.
“Drag me head first, fearless,” singsongs the peppy country singer. I wave my right hand vaguely in the direction of the computer, and I hear Tyler’s feat scuffling across the floor as he goes to the computer and switches the speakers off.
When I finally lift my arm off my face and open my eyes, Tyler is at the side of my bed. His tiny fingers curl over the edge of the mattress as he looks up at me with wide milk-chocolate eyes.
“Well,” I say, pushing myself up against the wall as Tyler continues to stare at me, “What do you want to do?” He looks at me for a moment more. Then turns around and points out the window. I furrow my eyebrows at him as he glances back over his shoulder, and then follow his finger. Right though the white criss-cross window frame is the most brilliant rainbow I’ve ever seen.
“Yeah, it’s a rainbow.” I tell him, kneeling beside him and pointed alongside him. I wonder what he’s missed out on with Mom so frazzled and uninterested with us and Dad at work so much I barely recognize him anymore. Where have I been? The way our parents are now, it sure seems like Tyler could use a better big sister.
He looks at me out of the corners of his eyes, and blinks slowly. He doesn’t talk much, I realize. He jabs his finger at the rainbow again.
“Mhmm, rainbow. What do you want to do with it?” He blinks his long, dark mahogany eyelashes at me again and scrunches his freckled nose. Finally he opens his mouth, “Find the pot of gold.”
For some unfathomable reason, 20 minutes later I find my self ten blocks away from home on my bike beside Tyler on his primary colored plastic tricycle. He got it for fifth birthday in June. Or was it his fourth? I can’t remember. I barely even showed up to the party. Lena and I just came by to pick up my new outfit to wear out that night, and only stayed long enough to scarf down some chocolate cake.
Tyler pedals diligently, his eyes trained intently on the pavement. He doesn’t quite understand the concept of a bike lane. In his mind, it is of the utmost importance to follow exactly the iridescent white strip that marks its boundaries. We’ve tried to explain thousands of times that it’s safer the closer to the side walk, or better yet on the sidewalk, but he just doesn’t get it.
I put a hand over my eyes and peer up at the grey-blue sky. Last night was the first rain of the year, and its half sunny, half gloomy now. The rainbow sparkles brilliantly like the Airheads Extreme candy Jackson Kinkle hands out at school sometimes. It’s bright red, pink, yellow, green, and blue striped, and sprinkled with tiny sugar crystals that twinkle brilliantly when you hold them up to the sunlight.
The end of the rainbow doesn’t look to be too far away, but I wish it was. I can imagine the disappointment on Tyler’s face as he sees there’s not pot of gold, no leprechaun, no magic whatsoever. If it were miles and miles away, we could just keep going until he got tired and gave up, and I could make him a pot of Kraft Mac’n’cheese when we got home, and everything would be alright.
So, it is a huge relief when the road ends a little ways before the rainbow does, and we come to a dusty dead end.
“Aw, man.” I shout with false enthusiasm, and start to turn my bike around. I am halfway down the block in the other direction, when I look back and see Tyler. The traction-lacking plastic tires of his tricycle are trying their hardest to grip the emerald green grass as he pedals up the grassy knoll at the end of the road.
“Tyler!” I shout, turning my bike around and rushing back to him. Just as I arrive at the foot of the hill, he gets to the steepest part of the climb. The wheels lose control, and suddenly, the front one is lifting off the ground and the bike is tipping backwards slowly.
“Tyler!” I shout again, as a look of utter fear and shock distorts his tiny freckled face. The bike lands with a thump and skitters unevenly down the rest of the hill, but Tyler hits hard. His body makes a deep, soul-shaking thump on the hard packed earth, and he begins to roll. He rolls and rolls, his light brown hair flying around him as he tumbles down and finally comes to a skidding stop as he hits the dusty gravel.
I rush over to him and scoop him up into my arms. It has been so long since I’ve held him, I almost falter under his weight, but manage to redeem myself.
“Tyler!” I whisper brushing his hair back from his face and holding onto him tightly, “Are you OK?” He looks up at me slowly, and without even a single tear, nods, and hops down. His face is streaked with mud, his shirt is covered in pale sand colored dust, and there is a jagged rip in the knee of his pants, but no blood.
“C’mon, let’s go home.” I say, putting one hand on the handlebar of his bike, and reaching for his hand with the other. He crosses his arms firmly over his chest and shakes his head frantically. Then he rips the bike out of my hands, and remounts it to attempt the climb upwards again.
“Tyler.” I say softly. He doesn’t look at me, just keeps going.
“Fine.” I say, grabbing the handlebars of my bike, “But at least let’s walk up.”
He smiles at me, gets off his bike, and pushes it the rest of the way up the hill.
On the other side of the hill we find a dense forest. I once again try to convince Tyler to head back, but he refuses. Finally, we hide our bikes in a thicket of bushes, and make our way into the trees. We search and search, finding an empty bird nest and some mysterious animal prints, but no end-of-the-rainbow.
Finally I lean against a tree and let my legs collapse under me until I am sitting at the base of it with my back against its rough trunk.
“Tyler look,” I point up through a gap between the trees, “Its getting dark. We’ve got to go home.” He shakes his head no.
“Yes, Tyler. Let’s go.” I push my self up and began to walk. Tyler refuses to follow.
“You want to be that way? Fine.” I growl, stomping over and grabbing his arm. I begin to drag him back through the trees, but he suddenly loses his footing and trips over a root. He looks up at me from the mossy ground and rubs the harsh red marks my fingers have made on his forearms.
“Shoot. I’m sorry Tyler.” I look at him, and he simply blinks back.
“Seriously, though. We’ve got to go.” He shakes his head no.
“Tyler, please.” Again, he refuses without saying a world.
“Tyler, Mom’ll be worried.” He shakes his head again, even more frantically this time.
“For God’s sake, Tyler, why not?” I snap staring at him with wide eyes. He looks at me for almost ten minutes. Just looks. Our eyes are locked on each others’. Then, slowly, very slowly, a smile spreads across his lips.
“What?” I ask brushing a hair out of my eyes.
“Just look,” he turns slowly, and points to a small clearing amongst the trees. There in the middle of the forest, sits a giant, sparkling, cauldron full of gold.