Beyond the cracked sidewalk, and the telephone pole with layers of flyers in a rainbow of colors, and the patch of dry brown grass there stood a ten-foot high concrete block wall, caked with dozens of coats of paint. There was a small shrine at the foot of it, with burnt out candles and dead flowers and a few soggy teddy bears. One word of graffiti filled the wall, red letters on a gold background: Rejoice!
While Dan stood there pondering the only word written, he began to hear a small whimper. Not one like a child but one that was of distress. He silenced his thoughts and tuned into the noises coming from afar. Slowly making his way around the area.
As he closed in on the spot behind the concrete wall the whimpers became more evident. Scouring the ground, he saw her. Slumped under a pile of leaves, barely able to move or breathe. Saddened by the thought of how much the dog was suffering he decided to sweep the leaves away, removed his shirt and wrap her up as carefully as he could.
Gently, Dan lifts her to his chest holding her as firmly and tightly as he could without
causing her to suffer more, “It’s ok girl, I am going to take care of you now, we will get you some help, don’t you worry,” as his words whispered into the furry little ears he could feel her begin to calm a little at a time.
Living in a small town such as Champion, Dan knew only one person who would be able to help out on a Sunday afternoon, as most stores, offices and medical centers were closed, including the veterinary hospital. That one person, was his mom.
Now the thing with his mother was she warned him about being down near the railroad tracks and he knew he was going to be in trouble. See the reason those burnt out candles, dead flowers, and soggy teddy bears sat upon the ground at that very area was every parent's worst nightmare come true.
It was an early spring that year, Heather Glass had wanted to take a short cut through the back woods, but the only way through was to cross the old train bridge that was regularly used to carry goods into the small rural town. The clouds were turning the sky black, lightning began to clash and rain drops fell, a storm rolled in quickly that day and she wanted to get home fast. They say she just didn’t hear the train coming up behind her, with her earbuds in, music blasting and the thunderous slaps echoing across the valley.
Dan's only hope to help the poor suffering animal was to go straight home. His mother was a nurse at the hospital in Champion and she would know what is best for her until tomorrow when the veterinary hospital opens. If he could just keep her alive until then, no amount of time being grounded would matter.
He would be proud to be grounded the rest of his life just to save the life of this poor animal. Still, he was hoping his mother would understand and set aside the fact of where he was. Moving as fast as he could to get home, he finally arrived at the door. Reminding himself this is worth it he took one big, deep, breath and swung the front door open calling for his mom as loudly as he could without scaring the poor animal half to death.
Dan’s mother was upstairs doing laundry, hearing his raring yell through the entire house, she came barreling down the stairs, almost tripping over her own two feet, “What? What is going on? Are you ok? Are you hurt? Are you bleeding? Oh, my god you're bleeding? Where is it from?” she continued to panic while her hands and eyes running over his entire body, wanting to know the answers.
“Mom, mom, mom, I’m fine!” he yelled trying to grab her attention and get her to stop
completely losing her mind. “I’m fine mom, I promise, but this little girl is not.” As he
slowly, carefully unwrapped the shirt that was in his arms, she began to see the little bit of blood-stained golden fur, the eyes of sorrow and pain, she started to hear the slow whimper breathing of this sweet creature.
Finally satisfied that it was not her sons blood covering his bare chest and hands, she gently grasped the wad of shirt that held the small frail dog within. “Go get some clean cloths, warm water and the first aid kit,” she explained.
Quickly moving up the stairs to the hall closet Dan grabbed a handful of clean cloths, ran to the bathroom swinging open the vanity door where the bucket sat under the sink, flipping around to turn the tub tap on as high as he could to get the warm water. As the bucket filled, he ripped open the drawer so quickly it came crashing to the floor, without giving it a second thought he grabbed the first aid kit, the clothes and the bucket.
As he went running down the stairs, water splashed up the sides of the bucket, leaving a trial through the entire house. When he entered the kitchen where his mother had the dog laid out on the table, he breathlessly spoke,” I, I, I think I have everything.”
“That is perfect, thank you, now tell me where did you find her? How long has it been since you found her? Have you given her anything? Water, food, anything?” His mother rambled off without even so much as a breath.
“Well I uh, I," Dan stuttered as he began to try to explain where he was today, without
actually saying it,” I uh found her down by the memorial alongside the train tracks” he
silently muttered as his head and eyes lowered to the ground, incapable of meeting the eyes of his mother while he spoke.
“You what!” her voice raising to a very stern yell, head swinging towards him and her eyes giving a stare he could feel pierce through him. “How could you? You know you are not allowed there? You know how dangerous it is? This conversation is not over child! Not even close! We are going to have a very long conversation later!” turning her attention back to the injured dog, she began to soak a cloth and wipe away the blood that stained the fur. “ We will need to take her to the vet, the damage is too much to care for here, I will call the emergency line and see if they can open up to help her.” just as she was getting off the phone the doorbell rang, it was the pizza delivery kid. This being his final delivery of the evening, he offered to help them out.
Not wanting to poke the bear as they say Dan sat quietly, hands on his lap, watching how lovingly his mother held the animal during the drive. Dan wondered how long he had until she would begin to lay into him about where he had been. Once they arrived, she rushed the animal into the exam room, the vet stitched, bandaged and gave them instructions to return tomorrow. Dan and his mom not having the room to keep an animal the delivery kid offered to have her stay with him as a welcoming distraction. Loading her gently into the car he set off for home.
When the ride ended, she was lifted again. The kid slid her body onto a soft pile of clothing among the boxes in the garage. He pulled an old coat over the top, creating a cave that emanated the sweetness of old ladies who frequently powdered themselves—a light rose motif that played ironically well in the deep recesses of Rainbow’s ancestral brain. The pizza kid lifted her head to help her lap water from a hubcap. He broke bits of pepperoni and crust into bite-sized pieces and left them where her tongue could reach them. Much later, she heard him practicing his orations like songs. Like monks chanting in the distance, they were a comfort.
Having been up most the night practicing, Zak woke with only one thing on his mind, how was that sweet fury animal feeling. Has she survived the night in his garage? Welcoming the thoughts of her he hopped out of bed, grabbed his robe and headed there.
Still curled up in the corner on the pile of clothing she was placed on the night before, she saw him coming in. With a slow but steady whip of her tail, she could feel the instant connection they had made. The excitement his presence brought to her, like the comforting warmth of when a child is hurting and they run to their mother for love and affection. Sliding down to the floor where she lay Zak noticed she had not yet touched her food he broke up for her. “You know you need to eat girl” placing one hand on her head stroking her fur gently, “You are going to need your strength.” Nuzzling into his hand, mustering up all her strength, she sighed, as if she knew he was right and was acknowledging it without words. Feeling exhausted and in pain still, she closed her eyes and embraced the gentle touch he so lovingly offered.
“So, what did you think of my speech?” Zak asked out loud, “I know you can't answer me but I've worked really hard on it for the upcoming memorial service for Heather” Zak had been dating Heather when the accident happened and with her upcoming memorial he had been asked to speak of her and thank everyone for taking time to be there. “I miss her so very much” he sputtered with tears streaming down his face. “With you here to distract me it seems easier, calmer, almost peaceful for me.” As the tears continued to roll down his face, they slowly formed a small puddle below.
Feeling the pain and suffering coming from Zak, she slowly shifted her body towards him a bit more, her head reaching his lap and cold nose nudging his hand, she began licking his hand. Even though she could not speak, her actions were consoling.
“Oh, well hey there girl, thank you” he said,” I'm Zak by the way, what should I call you?” as he looked into her big brown eyes he thought, what would be the best name for her? After all, if he was going to care for her and keep her, she should have a proper name. “How about Rainbow? After all you are bringing light, love and a peaceful calm to me” he exclaimed.
Cocking her head to the side a bit with ears perked she was agreeing in her own way of his choice to call her Rainbow, she did the smallest bark and began to flap her tail a bit harder creating a small amount of wind from it.
With satisfaction in his voice “Well I see you like that name, then it is settled, I shall call you Rainbow”. As he picked up a piece of the pizza, he had torn the night before. Placing it against her lips, she happily ate the food offered to her. Once all the pieces were gone Zak slowly got up from the floor, placing Rainbows head back on the soft pile of clothing. “I will be back in a little while; I have got to get you some proper food and dishes.” As Zak exited the garage to prepare to head out, he looked back, finding his heart so in love with Rainbow already, not wanting to let her go or leave her alone. He did not understand why he felt such a connection to this barely known creature but he knew he could see keeping her forever.
A short while later Zak returned home, bags and bags of items in his hands for Rainbow. He spoiled her, spending nearly four hundred dollars on all the best food, dishes, toys, treats and equipment to care for her the way she deserved. Once he entered the garage, he saw Rainbow slowly lift herself up from the lump of clothing, “Hey girl, I have some great things for you,” he said as he dropped the bags on the floor and headed towards her.
Rainbow still in a great deal of pain, slowly but surely lifted herself off the pile of clothes to greet him. Limping away from where she had laid most of the day, she made her way over to meet him halfway into his journey towards her. “Wow, you are looking better already,” Zak said with a bit of shock in his words, “So great to see you making progress so quickly, would you like to see what I have for you?” as he began to rummage through the bags and pull stuff out, there was a hint of vitality her eyes, she was becoming more alive.
Later that evening Zak remembered he had to take Rainbow back to the vet for another check-up and had better get moving before they were closed. He quickly cleaned up and headed to load Rainbow into the car. She was still in very rough shape and he gently lifted her into the back seat, where she could have enough room to be comfortable for the ride. Not far down the small-town gravel roads Zak arrived at Dr. Jones office.
She owned a working farm with all the animals, every type you can think of, horses, pigs, cows, chickens, the list goes on. She owned approximately eighty acres of free-range land. It was filled with trees, open pastures and a quaint little creek running through it; a piece of paradise. Dr. Jones was open late today and as the sun began to set in the horizon Zak took it all in.
As they came upon the house, Dr. Jones was waiting on the porch to greet the two of them. “Good evening Zak, how was the drive over how is she doing?” She asked with great concern in her voice for the wounded pup in the back seat.
“Evening Dr., she is doing better, making progress, she got up from the floor today and hobbled over to me. I’ve named her Rainbow; it seems fitting as she has brought much comfort to me since I have had her.” he stated very proudly.
“That is just great! Let’s get her in and have look, shall we?” gently removing her from the car and into the house where the office was located, Dr. Jones began to check over her, removing bandages to replace with clean ones, listening to her chest and ensuring there was no infections present. “Well she looks like she is doing good Zak, do you plan to keep her?”
Asking out of curiosity while she washed her hands.
“I would really like to, do you know where she was found, I never got a chance to ask the family that originally found her?” he asked. While waiting patiently for the answer he lifted Rainbow off the table and on to the floor.
Not wanting to upset him, knowing the day was approaching of the anniversary of Heather's death, she took a deep breath in and released, “She was found at Heather's memorial site, behind the concrete wall” she said with both ease and pain in her voice. The stunned look on Zak’s face said it all. His eyes went wide, his mouth somewhat dropped open and he just looked down towards Rainbow. “Oh, that explains a lot” he mumbled, “I knew there was a connection, I just knew it”.
“What do you mean?”, not wanting to pry but only to understand and be able to comfort him through this time. The whole town knew how hard it was on him and have always tried to support him in any way possible.
“Just something about her made me feel connected, calm, loved, like how I felt about
Heather,” with tears welling in his eyes and beginning to roll down his cheeks, he finally understood why he loved Rainbow so much. She was his connection to Heather, the one person he loved more than anyone and had lost.
“I am very sorry Zak, I know the anniversary of losing Heather is almost here and I am so happy Rainbow has brought those feelings to you, I believe it is for a reason” with the sincerity and support in the way she said it, she could tell it had touched him.
“Thank you, Dr. Jones, well it is getting late and I should head back home. I still have some work to do on the speech for the memorial, I look forward to seeing you there and thank you for everything you’ve done for Rainbow” gratefully heading out the door, he waved and loaded Rainbow back into the vehicle again.
Driving back to the house his brain started wondering to all the beautiful memories of
Heather and himself. The days they spent at the river, playing along the train tracks, and hanging out downtown. The nights under the starry skies in the field just waiting for the shooting stars to pass by so they could wish their lives to new places. Wow, did he miss those days he thought to himself.
Arriving back home he knew he had to write the speech again, from the start, forgetting everything he had practiced already. That is what he needed. After getting Rainbow back to her bed in the garage he headed into the house, feeling ready to write the best of Heather. It took him hours to finish it, finally satisfied he went to bed, he would read it to Rainbow in the morning.
Waking the next day Zak put on his robe, grabbed his speech and headed to the garage. “Morning girl, I have something to share with you,” so he began to read,” Sometimes our lives allow us to suffer, we forget the parts that were filled with light and love and we focus on the darkness that creeps in without knowing it. Today I want to bring that light back in, Heather was a beacon of light to many of us. She always had a smile we loved like when the sun kisses the dew filled grass in the mornings. She laughed with all of her heart; it was as contagious as a yawn you didn’t even know you needed. There was never anything she wouldn’t do for others and so today we celebrate her and instead of mourning that she is gone, let us think of the times we had with her and rejoice!” as Zak finished reading, he waited to see how Rainbow would react. She had inspired this; she had come into his life and gave him the feelings of the love he had lost.
Rainbow looked up at Zak, wagged her tail and nuzzled into him. Even without words she was able to agree with him, to show him love, affection and support. She would forever do those things for him because she knew he would always do those things for her. They were meant to be together, in the hardest times of their lives, they were connected.
Jessica Nielsen is a poet, writer and author, born and raised in the British Columbia Kootenay’s. A trained Health Care Aide and mother of seven children she creates her works from experiences and the world around her. Author of So You're Not Supermom It’s ok series, featured with NUHA Foundation blog, YYC POP and Short Edition with Loft 112. Currently collecting for a non-profit LGBTQ+ anthology. Always excelling with the love of writing; she perceives the world in simplistic and unique ways. She believes every person has something inspiring to share. Follow her on instagram @jnsupermom