Mark had spent the last two weeks doing extra chores. He’d weeded his grandmother’s roses and washed her windows. He’d swept the sidewalk in front of his house and swept his neighbor’s porch. He’d vacuumed the stairs and cleaned all the doorknobs.
Finally he had enough money saved up to buy the prism he’d seen in the antique store window. “Mom,” he said. “I’ve got my coat. Let’s go. What if someone is there buying it right now?”
“If it isn’t already gone, then five minutes probably won’t hurt,” his mom said. “Sit down and finish your cereal.”
“It’s already soggy,” Mark said. “I don’t want it.”
“Mark, that’s such a waste. Take three more bites.”
Mark folded his arms. “If I take three more bites, then will we go?”
His mom sighed. “All right. Three more bites and we’ll go.”
Mark shoved three bites of cereal into his mouth at once. “Wed’s go,” he said, mouth full.
“Chew and swallow, Mark. That’s really gross.”
Mark forced himself to chew and swallow the awful mush. “I did it. Let’s go.”
“All right, let me find my purse,” his mom said.
“Mom! Why weren’t you getting ready?”
“I had to make sure you were actually eating three bites,” she said. “So, now I’ll go get my purse. Maybe I’ll change my shoes…”
Mark groaned and flopped onto the couch to wait. He counted his money again. He had just enough. He waited and waited. Eventually, his mom came downstairs again. She was wearing completely different clothes. He decided not to ask.
They got in the car and headed downtown. Mark had first seen the prism when he was walking to the dentist’s office for a check up. They’d walked towards the antique shop just as the sun burst through the clouds.
It hit the window just ahead of them and everything inside had glowed. Mark’s eyes were drawn to the glittering prism. Inside, a baby rainbow pushed against the edges of its prison. It looked so tiny and brave.
“Mom, what’s that?” he asked.
“It’s a prism,” she said.
“A prison?” he asked.
“Prism,” she said.
“Why is the little rainbow inside?” he asked.
“The prism is making the light bend,” she said.
He’d learned a new word. Tiny prisons were called prisms. And prisms were made to kidnap baby rainbows and make the light bend to the will of humans. He had a new goal. He was going to rescue the baby rainbow and set it free.
So, here they were, two weeks later. The prism was still in the store window. It was still the same price. He breathed out a sigh of relief and opened the store door. He counted out every penny he’d earned onto the store counter and bought the prism.
On the drive home, he whispered reassurances to the baby rainbow. It was probably scared. Even if it didn’t understand his words, perhaps it would find his tone reassuring. It was safe now.
Once home, he ran upstairs and threw open his window. Light flooded in and hit the prism. The rainbow ran in the opposite direction. It had been in the prism so long, it didn’t recognize its parents. Perhaps if he left the room, they could get reacquainted.
“Goodbye,” he said softly.
When he returned later that evening, his room was dark and the rainbow was gone. He smiled. The rainbow was free. He considered smashing the prism so it couldn’t be used to imprison anything else. In the end he decided to keep it to remind him of the little rainbow.
Sometimes, on sunny days, the rainbow would come back to play. He’d tell it all he’d done since he last saw it, and it would sit on his wall and listen. It would always go home for the evening to wherever the light goes at night.
He wondered if someday, when it had grown bigger, it would run around in the rainstorms. And then, when it had grown up, it would turn into sunbeams and have little rainbows of its own. He smiled. Setting the rainbow free had been worth all the hard work.