I got my five prompts:
- Amy- A Whiskey Jack flew into my apartment window (that’s a Canadian bird)
- Cameron- They’re hiking the mountains at an elevation of 80,000 feet!
- Erika- Pineapple and pepperoni pizza
- Jen- Where do you start a story? Character or plot?
- Wendy- What really is over the rainbow?
And back in January, my wife and I had a baby girl. One of her favorite songs is Somewhere over the Rainbow, especially the cover performed by Iz. So, it was no contest. I went with door number 5 and this is the result. Hope you enjoy.
Rainbows on Water
She looks up at me with her big eyes and asks, “What’s really at the end of the rainbow?”
“What do you mean that you’re giving the Rothberger project to Tom?” My voice almost cracked with the outrage. “I earned that project. I need that project to get the AIA Design Award.”
Simon took a breath, as though he thought he was explaining to a child. “I told you already Greg, these German folk are tough, you don’t need that stress.”
“I can handle it!”
“That’s not the issue here, Greg.”
“What the hell is the issue?”
“Until you’re sure that this health thing has blown over, I need you to take it easy and get some of our other second tier projects handled.”
“Second tier projects are exactly what Tom’s group ought to be doing.”
“And they have proven themselves doing that.”
Simon’s eyes shot over my shoulder. “Hey, Tom.”
Tom rocked from foot to foot in the door to Simon’s office, uncertain whether he ought to come in or not. I wanted to jump up and punch the s.o.b. in his oversized nose. “Am I interrupting something? I can come back later…”
“No, Greg was just leaving. He’ll need the design materials for the Cruxion, Denelles, and Axiom projects—his team will take those over.”
“Sure, I’ll be happy to.”
I stared at Simon, clenching and unclenching my fists. “Are you at least going to credit me with the design? It is elegant and fits the space and the client’s needs—”
“If we use any of it, we will credit you,” said Tom.
I whirled to face him. “What do you mean if?”
“The client has misgivings—”
“The client doesn’t know which end of the model is up. He couldn’t design a straight line on a clean piece of paper with a ruler.”
“Greg, Tom, both of you shut it.” Simon stood. “Greg, take a break, head home and come back tomorrow ready to hit the ground running.”
I looked from one to the other, raised my fists in the air and growled at them in frustration before pushing past Tom and shredding the carpet with every step back to my office. I picked up the Rothberger model and threw it against the wall. My heart seized up again, and I had to sit down and catch my breath. As the pain subsided, I closed the laptop and packed my bag. Tomorrow, I would come back and knock those second tier jobs out of the park. My design team would do such a better job so much faster than Tom’s that Simon would be forced to give me the Rothberger project back.
I lurched into my R8 and grinned as the reverberations of the engine echoed through the parking garage. I roared down the ramps, tires squealing, and shot out onto 280, heading north. The only good thing about being off at this hour was that there was no traffic and 280 was my own private airstrip, as I slid between the cars I began to feel better. The stress simply couldn’t keep up—that was the best way to deal with it—outrun it. The doctors were all wrong. A beat-to-hell white Honda with rust marks pulled into the fast lane going about 35mph. I slammed on the brakes and honked. They sat there, oblivious, slowly accelerating to 50. I shouted at them and then noticed that the plates had rainbows—Hawaiian plates. F’ing Hawaii. Without the bonus that I would have gotten for winning an award, how was I going to fund our trip to Hawaii? Nikki had already chosen the most expensive hotel on the island—our two week stay would cost more than our San Francisco mortgage. Finding an opening in the traffic, I shot around the Hawaiian car, flipping them off as I screamed past. If only she’d allowed us to do the remodel of the condo piecemeal—we wouldn’t be so in the red. My heart started skipping again. I forced myself to breathe. I shouldn’t worry. The commission she made on her sales would cover the mortgage. But, she also expected me to propose, and for that I’d need a Nikki-approved ring. God only knew what that would cost. I could just max out the cards and pay it off when I won the award next year…maybe.
Nikki’s voice drifted down through the spiral stair of the condo as I came up from the garage. I couldn’t make out all of what she was saying, she must have been in the bedroom on the phone. At least this surprise was going to brighten my day, I started mentally removing her clothes in anticipation as I came up the stairs.
“Greg just doesn’t make me feel that way anymore.”
That sentence poked a hole in my libido, sending it spurting through the room like a punctured balloon. A low voice answered her; I couldn’t make out his words, but she laughed and said, “honey, you couldn’t afford me.” I stomped up the last stairs and she was sitting up in bed, not even trying to cover her breasts with the sheet. The owner of the low voice—I recognized him belatedly as her personal trainer—rolled out of bed, and was pulling up his boxers.
“What are you doing here?” She shrieked.
I looked from her to him and back. I couldn’t speak. My heart hammered in my chest, causing my vision to blur. The pain doused the fire out of my fury; I felt like one of those useless paper napkins that had soaked up too much stain. “I can’t believe you would do this to me.” It was a whisper, an admission of defeat and I didn’t know if I hated her or myself more for it. I wanted to be angry, to throw things, to punch this gym rat in the middle of his sculpted abs, but I didn’t. I shuffled past him, snatched a change of clothes and stomped back downstairs.
“Greg!” Nikki ran after me, tying her cashmere robe together. “Greg, talk to me!”
She put her hand on my shoulder and it scoured my shoulder like hot sandpaper. I shoved it away and turned on her. “Don’t touch me!”
I kept going down. She didn’t follow into the garage. I stuffed the change of clothes into the car and noticed my ancient surfboard and wetsuit tethered to the wall with cobwebs. Reclining the passenger seat, I wrangled both of them into the car and tore out of our neighborhood. The clouds met my mood as I crested the rise between the city and Pacifica. I liked the fog. The cold drizzle spitting against the window matched the hollow, icy feeling in my gut. I couldn’t believe her. I was going to propose to her—she’d talked about it—she had dropped so many hints I had been looking at rings for three months. Thank God I didn’t buy anything yet. How could she?
I pulled into the beach, and spent twenty embarrassing minutes coaxing my body into the wetsuit—it barely fit. No wonder she was after the trainer. I was just getting older and fatter. Salt spray stung my eye. I blamed it on the ocean, even though I knew better. Walking like the Michelin man, I trundled toward the water; surfboard affixed under one arm. I didn’t know how I was going to paddle, or if I was going to even get out of the breakwater, but it didn’t matter.
I could drown and it wouldn’t matter.
I dove into the icy water, and my body stiffened, seizing in shock as the wetsuit saturated. I got pummeled by three waves on the paddle out and my teeth were chattering by the time I was safe to sit on the board. The conditions were terrible and no one else was desperate enough to tempt them. I thought about the trip to Hawaii that we’d planned; the reservations that would need to be canceled. And I started to cry. I wouldn’t win any awards with these two bit clients, and the bills just kept piling up. I sobbed. Nikki only stayed with me because I could afford her. And I wept. A stealth wave, one of those giants that lurks between sets, picked me up and dashed me off the board. I came up sputtering and cold and climbed back on the board with clammy fingers that would barely flex. The sun cleared some of the clouds and threw a rainbow on the water. One end danced in multicolored light on a nearby section of gray ocean while the other end stretched far out to sea.
“What the hell…” I dropped onto my chest and started paddling.
I was far behind the line where the waves broke, behind me were the rocks that populated this section of Linda Mar’s beach. The small of my back was on fire when I finally stroked into the multi-colored light that danced on the water. I couldn’t see the rainbow anymore—it was more of a thin layer of multi-colored mist. But I did feel the warm weight of the sun as it nuzzled into my suit. At the end of the rainbow you find…well there certainly wasn’t a pot of gold or a leprechaun or anything like that. It was warmth on the water. And as the waves rolled under me, I realized that it was just a patch of water and light, and that any part of the ocean could be the same patch of water and light. My mind expanded faster than my thoughts could fly and I could feel the Pacific kissing the beaches of Hawaii, caressing the warm reefs of Thailand, cuddling against the bright shores of Tahiti. All of it was connected to here, to this place that was both a patch of water and sunlight and the end of the rainbow and nothing special all at the same time. My heart calmed. My breath slowed. The wetsuit gave a little more. The water wasn’t as cold. I sat there, bobbing with the waves and watched the light play on the water as the sun danced among the clouds. The rainbow reappeared farther out to sea, just another patch of lucky water and sunlight.
“Daddy, did you hear me?” She shakes my arm.
I don’t know how long I’ve been standing here, thinking about the day my whole life changed.
“Perspective, honey.” I swoop her tiny frame up and hold her against my chest. “Perspective is what’s at the end of the rainbow.”