The Rainbow Ruckus by Thomas McColl


It’s well known that there’s always a crock of gold at the end of a rainbow. What isn’t so well known is that a double rainbow’s different, and at the end of that there’s simply a big ruckus.


Had Ellie been aware of that, she might have thought twice about posting, on her Facebook timeline, what she reasonably assumed, at the time, to be a completely innocuous statement: There’s a double rainbow outside my window, which means there’s nothing else for it but to make a wish!!


If the camera on her phone had been working, she wouldn’t have made that statement, but in lieu of being able to post a photo, writing something fun, she reasoned, was the next best thing and, one way or another, hadn’t been able to resist the urge to share the moment. As soon as she’d seen there was an amazing rainbow outside the landing window, Ellie had rushed downstairs to get her phone, then ran back upstairs and, as soon as she’d logged in to Facebook, hurriedly wrote her message, glancing once or twice at the already fading spectacle as she did so.


However, after pressing send, Ellie couldn’t resist quickly scrolling down her newsfeed, and ended up clicking on a shared video clip about animal cruelty that was so disturbing she wished she hadn’t.


Not that that was the actual wish she made – but, as if Facebook knew that Ellie wanted her mind taken off all thoughts of animal cruelty, a notification alert popped up in that very same instant, and Ellie, knowing it was something to do with her double rainbow post, clicked on it and saw that her best friend, Lucy, had replied: Yay! Good for you. Rainbows bring good luck.


Delighted by her friend’s quick response, Ellie liked the message and straightaway answered: Thanks, Lucy! I’m so lucky to actually see a double rainbow. I’m right now staring out of the window in awe of it. 


That wasn’t exactly true, however, as Ellie was right now typing the message while sat on the loo, but though cringing slightly at telling a white lie (or was it a multi-coloured lie?), Ellie, knowing her best friend was none the wiser, and wanting to keep this pleasant conversation going, added: It’s so lovely to watch a beautiful rainbow. Then, putting the phone down to wash her hands, Ellie saw, on glancing in the mirror, the dark circles around her eyes from all the late nights she’d been having – because of her constant addiction to Snapchat, and looking up videos sometimes till 4 or 5 am – and, in that instant, wanted to smash the glass of the mirror with her fist.


The phone beeped – Lucy again: Yes, you’re right, it is so lovely, and it’s inspired me to make a wish myself. Rainbows represent new beginnings, and a double rainbow is surely a sign.


Ellie was cheered by that but before she could reply, another friend, Susan, joined in – albeit with a slightly weird and jarring query: Not having a go – I really want to understand – but who says Rainbows are anything more than simple scientific fact, i.e. refracted light that’s bent through raindrops acting like tiny prisms? Why insist they’re ‘lucky’ or ‘represent new beginnings’? Seriously, I just want to understand this conversation.


Ellie frowned, not knowing what to make of this unexpected intervention. It was definitely very Susan – all the sensible, geeky logic – but even so, and despite being amused that Susan referred to rainbows with a capital R, Ellie was bemused that Susan seemed to be taking her and Lucy’s comments so seriously.


Lucy, on the other hand, was neither amused nor bemused. She was furious, and directly underneath Susan’s intervention, typed: WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO STOP PEOPLE’S BELIEFS?


Whoa! thought Ellie. This sudden switch from talking rainbows to trading blows had caught her unprepared. In any event, her phone’s battery was down to two per cent, so she had no choice but to rush from the bathroom (and past the landing window without looking out) in order to quickly get to the bedroom where the charger was, and by the time she’d plugged the phone in the mains, Susan had responded to Lucy’s furious outburst – with, once again, a query: I’m unsure why you think I’m trying to stop people’s beliefs. Surely, it’s reasonable for me to ask why someone believes what they do, especially when it’s declared on social media. Sorry you feel attacked, as I’m only enquiring. Best wishes. No offence intended.


Ellie, however, had barely managed to read – let alone process – Susan’s reply, when Lucy shot back: FINE, YOU HAVE YOUR BELIEFS – BUT LET OTHERS HAVE THEIRS!


Fuck, thought Ellie. This has gone completely out of control. Mortified, she slumped down against the side of the bed and, placing the phone on her lap and letting it go to screensaver, stared at it intently while repeating in her mind the wish she’d made on initially seeing the double rainbow – ‘Please make everything bad in my life go away’ – then, finding that she couldn’t last any longer not knowing, returned to her now wracked-by-friendly-fire post on Facebook, and there, beneath Lucy’s searing salvo, was a cowed reply from Susan: You’re clearly aggrieved, Lucy, but I wasn’t trying to censor anyone’s beliefs. Sorry.


Half relieved, but half worried that, even with Susan backing down, Lucy, smelling blood, might still attack, Ellie decided she had to intervene. Without time to really think at all about what she was writing, she quickly typed the message: Hi Susan, no need to apologise. I’m certainly not feeling attacked or censored, and thanks for raising the questions. I don’t know much about rainbows, and certainly don’t have evidence that they’re ‘lucky’ or that they ‘represent new beginnings’, but with so much negativity in the world, I just wanted to make a cheery, positive statement.


Ellie pressed send, then winced on reading the message back, unsure how it would be taken – by Lucy, let alone Susan. Then, as it dawned on her that all these exchanges on Facebook had distracted her from fully appreciating the main event itself, Ellie sprang up and rushed to the landing window, only to find the amazing double rainbow had completely disappeared.


Gutted, Ellie returned to the bedroom and back on Facebook, was shocked to find that Lucy had only gone and deleted her angry comments, so it now appeared that Susan had been talking to herself – and, already regretting joining the fray (albeit to try to make the peace), Ellie reacted by immediately deleting her hastily-written response as well.

Deflated, and unable to bear to look at her ill-fated, bowdlerized post any longer, Ellie returned to her newsfeed, in the hope of it providing some much-needed distraction, which she found as soon as she clicked on You Won’t Believe It When You See What These Child Stars Look Like Now and saw what Haley Joel Osment, who’d she’d never heard of, looked like.


Thomas McColl lives in London, and has had poems and short stories published in magazines such as Envoi, Iota, Bare Fiction, Fictive Dream and Smoke: A London Peculiar. He has had two collections of poetry published: ‘Being With Me Will Help You Learn’ (Listen Softly London Press, 2016) and ‘Grenade Genie’ (Fly on the Wall Press, 2020). He currently works in Procedural Publishing at the House of Commons, having previously worked in bookselling.

19 April 2021