The Color of Courage
Itís been an ordinary mission. Textbook, really.
If there were textbooks about the stuff we do. Typically, Daniel
chatters away with the chief while Carter picks at tasty treats
on her plate, praying that none of them are crawling. Tealícís doing
his thing keeping a wary eye on the kids. And Iím entertaining myself
and the chiefís kid with a little slight of hand. Now you see the
snail on Carterís plate; now itís crawling out of Tealícís ear.
Oh yeah, Carter, you so owe me for that one. God, I love to hear
a kidís laughter. Itís the same on any planet. Pure and honest.
Dinnerís over and everyone gets up to watch tonightís
entertainment. Thatís when I see it and suddenly that damn snail
and all his kin have taken up lodging in my gut. Ugly, rough-hewn
braces, harsh against the pale skin of withered legs. Dammit!
He looks at me and I try to feign nonchalance,
like it freakiní doesnít matter. The kid gifts me with an understanding
smile. I know Iím busted. He grabs his crutches and hobbles towards
me. God bless this kidís unquenchable mettle. He doesnít want my
pity. He doesnít need it. He wants my friendship. He wants to be
treated like every other kid. I can do that. "Grab another
snail," I whisper. "Weíll let it crawl down Danielís pants."
He grins in conspiratorial delight and suddenly my world is a little
brighter. Itís the color of a childís courage.