ene waved to the big smiling moose, and the giant yellow bird, and the dancing clowns.
A clown with a huge red nose waved back to Rene!
"He saw me!" the five-year old called down to his Papa who was holding him up on a railing, over the heads and hats of the huddled crowd.
Later, Santa Claus appeared on a bright red sleigh pulled by magic, flying reindeer, as a band played Christmas music. Rene swayed and danced, but almost lost his balance, if not for his Papa's strong hands.
Just like that, the parade was over. A policeman with a shiny silver whistle told them to take Rene down.
Standing on the sidewalk, Rene could only see people's backpacks, trousers and shoes. He held his parent's hand on each side. Then a little bug perched on Rene's nose and flew away. Rene's nose became so itchy, he wiggled his hands free and scratcheda very wonderful scratch that made him close his eyes and turn around and around. But when he tried to take his Papa's hand again, it was not there. When he tried to take his Mama's hand, it was not there. Rene looked up and only saw the chins and noses of people he did not know.
Then the crowd began to move, taking Rene with it. Soon they were crossing over white painted lines that led to the sidewalk on the other side. He didn't want to go there. So Rene stopped in the middle of the street and stood all by himself, as people walked past him.
With the hood over his head, and in his fluffy down jacket, Rene looked like a little pod on two tiny legs.
Where could his family be?
Rene pulled his hood back to get a better look. To his left, the reindeer sleigh was turning the corner. To his right, the policeman was waving at the cars and blowing his whistle. Then he saw Rene and yelled!
Rene did not run, but covered his face with his hands. He remembered when his family was gathered inside a mosquito net in the darkness of the night, speaking in whispers about bad policemen and bad soldiers. His Papa said he was going to take the whole family to a far away place called New York in a big, wonderful country called America.
But now, Rene wanted to go back inside that mosquito net, and cry.
"Are you okay, little boy?"
Rene peeked between his fingers. There stood a clown with enormous shoes, a big red nose that looked like a bouncing Christmas light bulb, and golden hair that burst out like sunshine. He was the clown in the parade! The one who waved at Rene!
Maybe the clown can help him get away from the policeman.
But the clown took something out of his large baggy pocket-a twirling paper flower with petals of red, white and blue that turned in the wind. And it made Rene smile.
"Everything will be okay, young man." It was the policeman with the whistle!
Quickly, Rene pulled his hood over his head and covered his face with his hands. He was a pod again.
At first, the policeman scratched his head and looked around. Then he smiled and said, "I have an idea."
He put his hands up and blew his whistle in all directions. Suddenly all the cars stopped, and people waited on the sidewalk.
Then the policeman went down on one knee next to Rene.
"Hello in there. Do you want to try this whistle? It's like magic. Listen."
The policeman blew into it softly and it sounded like a bird. Then he blew harder and it sounded like a train siren.
"I'm Officer O'KeefeDanny O'Keefe, whoever you are in there," the policeman said. "I bet you have a name too. I'll let you blow the whistle if you tell me your name."
The little pod did not answer.
"Is it Jose?"
"Is it Ramon?"
The pod shook itself from left to right and back again.
"AhI know!" said Officer O'Keefe as he wiped the whistle with a handkerchief. "It's Maria!"
Rene quickly pulled his hood back and his face popped out. "Rene! My nameRene!"
"Ah, there you are!" said the policeman, placing the whistle in Rene's hand. "Now, Rene, blow it as hard as you can so your family will hear you."
Rene put the tip of the whistle in his mouth, took a deep breath then blew hard for his family. He blew it again, and kept on blowing, louder and louder until the clown covered his ears, and bobbled his head. Rene began to turn around and around as he blew on the whistle, while the clown twirled with him, and people cheered.
Then suddenly, Rene stopped! The clown stopped too, falling down to the ground, feet up.
Rene took the whistle out of his mouth and tried to stand still. But the street kept whirling around him. So the policeman held Rene steady. And when the street finally stopped turning, there was a wonderful sight!
It was his family! His Papa and Mama were running toward him and his two sisters were jumping up and down, calling his name.
Rene hugged them all together. His Mama had tears on her face, and told the policeman and the clown over and over again-"thank you very much."
Then his Papa showed the policeman his wallet. Rene thought his Papa was paying him. But the policeman only wanted to see a picture of Rene's Papa. And Rene's picture was in the wallet too.
Rene held his Papa's strong hand ever so tight, never wanting to let go. But his Papa carried him up on his shoulder as the family began to walk away. Rene looked back at the policeman, waved one last time and called out in a loud five-year-old voice:
"Thank you, policeman O'Keefe!"
"Happy Thanksgiving to you, Rene!" the policeman said. "Happy Thanksgiving to all!"
© Rodney Dakita Garcia