Perfectly Good Reasons
By Dagmar Buse
Six Months Later
"Billy, over here!"
Jason's shout drew the attention of Mr. Cranston
as he handed a packet of sausages to Liz Scott. He watched with a smile
as his son deftly sent a bright orange frisbee whizzing off to his friend,
who jumped, caught it and passed the disk on to Trini. The game had been
going on for half an hour now, the other fathers playing just as enthusiastically
as their offspring, while the mothers took care of preparing the food and
guarding the barbecue, so that the burgers sizzling on the grid wouldn't
turn into lumps of charcoal. There were a few wistful glances towards the
players from Liz Scott, but as the other women had begged off, claiming
they couldn't keep up with a bunch of overenergetic kids (which included
their equally enthusiastic husbands), she reluctantly stayed at the picnic
tables. Oh well, there would be other times. Her musings were interrupted
by Billy's father.
"I can't thank you enough for doing this," Henry
Cranston said softly. "Ever since my wife died, I haven't known how to
make Billy's birthday into the fun occasion he deserves to have."
"They do have fun, don't they?" Liz smiled, tucking
a strand of blonde hair behind her ear as she helped Marsha Taylor put
out paper plates and napkins. "But it was all the kids' idea; they planned
the menu, did the shopping … all we did was to prepare the food. For which
be paying, by the way." She winked at the slight man, whose usually
somber eyes twinkled back at her. "Besides, every boy needs to have a party
when he turns 13."
"And doing the barbecue here in the park certainly
beats having this horde trampling my flower beds," Janice Kwan added, her
almond eyes sparkling.
"No cleanup at home afterwards, either," Melissa
Hart smiled, opening plastic containers with potato salad and brownies.
"No kidding! The last time the gang was over at
our place, I thought World War III had happened. My basement will never
be the same," Marsha grinned. It was obvious that she didn't mind at all.
"Still … it is truly amazing how much Billy has
changed ever since he became friends with your children. Funding a party
for fourteen seems a very small price to pay in exchange – literally,"
Henry murmured. "When I think of how subdued he was last year … and now
this!" He gestured towards his flushed, happy son, who was engaged in a
good-natured tug-of-war over the frisbee with Kimberly. His dark-blond
hair was tousled, his overalls grass-stained, and his eyes shone brightly
behind his glasses. Clearly, Billy was a very happy child right now, even
if the petite brunette was scampering off laughingly with her prize held
high, all three boys in hot pursuit.
Gratefully, Henry Cranston accepted the cup of coffee
Melissa poured him from a thermos jug. Sipping slowly, he met the women's
eyes one after the other.
"Ladies … I'm not one to make a lot of words, but
just this once let me express my appreciation of what your children have
done for my son," he said a bit formally. "And not only them, but all of
you; when I think of the way you've so generously accepted him into your
homes …" he had to swallow once, clearly embarrassed by how emotional he
was feeling. Then he smiled a bit wryly."I must admit, when I learned the
reasons why all of the kids had been sent into remedial classes, I was
very much concerned; theirs seemed so much worse than Billy's relatively
"No kidding," Marsha answered, distinctly echoing
exuberant Zack's tone. "But as the kids found out, it wasn't as bad as
it sounded after all.
"Indeed. And Billy has benefitted so much … given
his mental capabilities, it will always be nearly impossible for him to
find an intellectual equal, but he has learned that life is much more than
burying one's nose in a book, or sitting in front of a computer monitor."
It was a simple statement of fact, not bragging, and was accepted as such
by the women. Billy's intelligence was a given that everybody had come
to take more or less for granted. "Your children have taught him that,
and I'm truly grateful. He still spends a lot of time with his experiments,
or studying, but now he also goes out to play, to just have fun … and thank
you again, by the way, for allowing Kimberly to introduce him to her gymnastics
coach," Mr. Cranston told Mrs. Hart. "His coordination is much better already."
"You're very welcome," Melissa replied. "According
to Coach, Billy is really quite talented – if he'd started earlier and
had more interest in the sport, he thinks he could even have competed."
Henry laughed softly. "That's good to know, but
I doubt Billy would ever have wanted that. He's always been more interested
in competing on other, more cerebral grounds – not physically, anyway.
However, mens sana in corpore sano now has gained meaning for him."
At the women's questioning look, he translated. "A sound mind in a sound
body. And being around your children, he now has both. Thank you."
Liz Scott sat down next to the slight man, topping
off his coffee cup while keeping a practiced eye both on the barbecue and
the frisbee game. Not that she didn't trust Jason's father, but … he had
passed on his energetic nature to his son, and both sometimes had trouble
controlling their strength. With Jeff, maturity had brought reticence,
and Jason … Jason was learning, most of all through his new friends, who
managed to let him know with just a look or a small joke when he needed
to hold back.
"You're welcome, but if we're saying thanks, I need
to get in line myself," she said. "The benefits of our children's friendship
… it hasn't been all one-sided," the blonde woman added. "If Billy has
learned how to play, then Jason has learned how to study. Not that he was
a bad student before, his grades were always acceptable to us, but those
regular study sessions with Trini and Billy are really starting to pay
off. At the very least, he's learning diligence from them."
Janice snorted, a tiny, ladylike sound. "I think
the fact that I won't let Trini go outside before she's finished her assignments
has something to do with it, too."
"That, and Kim's challenge that the boys couldn't
possibly turn in homework as neat and well-presented as she does," Marsha
Taylor grinned. "Of course they had to prove her wrong!"
"I wondered what that was about," Liz smiled. "The
boys couldn't let themselves be shown up by a girl, or did they want to
"Probably both," Janice said drily. "They're getting
to that age. And Trini is behind Kim every step of the way. I'm really
glad those two have found each other – Trini couldn't decide what she'd
rather be, a tomboy, or a little lady. With Kim she can talk fashion and
boys, she has Billy to keep her on her toes at school, and Jason to share
martial arts with. And as for Zack," she turned towards Marsha, "he's showing
her that to have fun, one doesn't need great preparations. I'm afraid she
was getting a bit too serious about her environmental concerns."
"It's a good thing that Zack is learning how to
focus on some things instead of trying to be a jack-of-all-trades," Mrs.
Taylor put in her two cents' worth. "Learning karate with Jason takes care
of his excess energy, he's getting more patient with his little cousins
… and ever since the girls persuaded him to perform a few magic tricks
at the Christmas party in the Senior Citizen's Home, his interest in showbiz
things has found a harmless outlet that is MUCH better for him than try
to show off on his skateboard or breakdancing with some 'homies'. Besides,
it's good for him to experience first-hand that there are indeed people
out there for whom prejudice is just a word."
"I hear you," Mrs Scott murmured. "Jason is finally
getting to the point in his karate where competing isn't everything – by
introducing Zack to the sport and practising with him, even crosstraining
with Trini, he's becoming more interested in teaching. And by teaching,
he learns. Which is all to the good, as far as I'm concerned."
"I must admit, I was a bit worried when my Kimberly
started hanging out with the boys," Melissa Hart blushed slightly. Her
hands folded around her coffee cup before she could bring herself to meet
the eyes of the parents in question. "I won't let her date yet, not as
a couple anyway, and ever since she made the cheerleading squad, sometimes
all she could talk about was which boy was cute, what made her look best
… but Jason, Zack and Billy won't play those games with her. To them, she's
just a person first, a girl later. And they don't exactly treat her like
a baby sister, either, like her brother does."
"No, they let her boss them around," Liz laughed.
"You should see her with Jason sometimes; big and strong as he is, when
Kim gets a bee in her bonnet about something he's done, or what she thinks
he should do, he doesn't stand a chance!"
"Really? Whenever they're at our house, all three
are perfect gentlemen towards Trini and Kimberly … even if they tease them
awfully at times." Melissa had to suppress a smile herself. "But the point
I was trying to make … my daughter is learning that not every good-looking
boy is there for her personal amusement, that having brains doesn't mean
a person is not worth knowing, and that 'being popular' is not the be-all
and end-all of her school days. I'm very glad she can be friends with nice,
normal boys first before romance enters the picture."
There were agreeing nods all around, as the four
mothers sat with Billy's father, each contemplating what had been shared
just now. Mutual benefits indeed.
"I'd say the same holds true for our sons as well,"
Henry said hesitantly, feeling his way through a potential minefield he
really hadn't wanted to see for several years yet. "I mean, the boys learn
that it is possible to be friends with a girl or two without behaving like
bantam cocks in the henhouse … that not every girl is … well … a lust object,"
he stammered, blushing painfully. "If you know what I'm getting at …"
"We do," Liz consoled him. "I've already noticed Jason ogling pictures of actresses or singers here or there – which is perfectly natural for a boy his age. The less clothes they're wearing, the better. But it does him a world of good to have Kim and Trini burst one or two of his bubbles when they point out all the little tricks the ladies in question are using to look the way they do on the photo shoots. Too bad that he gets his illusions shattered so thoroughly," Liz added with a patently false pious expressions, making the others chuckle with the kind of fiendish delight only parents of very young teenagers are able to share.
The laughter drew the attention of the frisbee players
who spontaneously decided they were getting too hungry to play any longer,
and soon a noisy group of nine parents and five children was gathered around
the picnic area, doling out food and soft drinks while the birthday boy
divided his attention between his heaped plate and the presents his friends
had chosen for him. A paperback science fiction novel from Jason, a personally-recorded
tape with music Billy had liked from Zack, a book with science puzzles
from Trini, and a set of pens, rulers, erasers and other writing paraphernalia
for his experiments from Kimberly. Not a single gift was very expensive,
but had been chosen with care and with regard to his special interests
that made them more special to him than the elaborate bicycle his father
had bought him so he could keep up with his friends.
There was much laughter as the families got to know
each other – not only whenever their children dropped by at the respective
houses, but also the adults among themselves. To their delighted surprise,
they found that even they shared interests and many thought that it might
be well worthwhile to cultivate these new relationships, for any number
of reasons. Some of those were maybe a tad selfish … Mike Hart was sure
he wasn't the only one who thought that Jeff Scott's construction business
might give him an in with various workmen he might need someday, or followed
Marsha Taylor's train of thought that Janice Kwan, manager of a homeopathic
store, might be useful to know in case someone got sick. However, that
counted little in the face of their children's obvious enjoyment.
"This was my best birthday ever," Billy beamed with
shining eyes as even the generous amounts of food prepared by his friends'
mothers began to dwindle. "I am extremely grateful for the efforts everyone
present has extended, from procuring and preparing nourishment to assisting
in entertaining my associates and myself!"
There was a brief moment of silence. Eight of the
adults were trying to puzzle their way through the boy's statement, Henry
Cranston was at a loss of how to make his son's words understandable without
embarrassing him too much, when the children neatly solved the dilemma.
"Billy!" Zack groaned exaggeratedly. "English, man!"
"Yeah, you promised," Kim added, bopping him on
the arm with a flickering gesture. "Sheesh!"
Jason laughed at Billy's chagrined expression. "Good
thing you have your personal translator around," he jibed good-naturedly.
The slender Asian girl shook her head at Billy,
who ducked. But his smile echoed hers as he apologized easily. "Sorry.
Rolling her eyes heavenward, Trini ignored Kim's
giggle as she reformulated. "He says thanks for the food and for playing
"Oh. I knew that," Bob Taylor said with a straight
face, his eyes twinkling behind his glasses.
"Sure you did," George Kwan muttered. "Just like
you could catch that frisbee before it landed in the trees." He grinned.
"Good thing Jeff here can climb so well!"
"Yeah," Mike laughed. "All I could think of was
calling the fire department!"
"You wouldn't have!" Melissa gasped, and when her husband looked only marginally guilty as he nodded, she started scolding him and everybody else – only to find that nobody took her seriously. She pretended to be insulted, which was thoroughly spoiled as she surreptitiously placed a large brownie on her husband's plate. At long last the whole argument ended in general laughter, to which the five children listened with barely-concealed amusement. Feeling smugly superior, they took their sodas to a separate table, leaving the adults to their conversation as they talked about their plans for the weekend, the next week, spring, summer …
When the April sun was setting over the lake, everybody
helped gather their trash and the supplies, packing and foil-wrapping as
best they could while sorting out which items would go back to what household.
Talk somehow had meandered back to the circumstances under which the five
children had first met, and while he was loading utensils and plastic containers
into a large carrybox, Bob Taylor winked at the youngsters as they handed
him his belongings.
"Well, kids … have you ever thought about which
particular crime somebody has to commit to be admitted into your little
misfit convention?" He waggled his eyebrows comically. The five blushed;
they were able to laugh about things now, but it was still a pretty sore
point for all of them. Pretending not to notice, Bob started to enumerate.
"Here's my little thug," he cuffed Zack lightly
on the shoulder, who scowled at his father, "helping the junkie stack tupperware."
He grinned at Trini, who faked a smile. She still hated the expression,
but knew Zack's father didn't mean any harm, so she kept silent. "The slacker
is counting forks," an ironic bow towards Billy, who had to fight the temptation
to stick out his tongue. "And the bully is carrying trash produced by-"
"Bob!" He was interrupted sharply by Marsha. "Watch
it!" She'd seen the rebellious look enter Kim's eyes, Jason didn't seem
too happy about the epithet, either, and she didn't want the day's good
mood to end on a discordant note.
Bob acknowledged her warning with a quick smile
and nod. "I was going to say our junior Gypsy Rose Lee," he bowed to the
petite girl, who pouted, but didn't comment. One storm successfully averted!
However, none of the children answered right away. Jeff Scott took pity
on Bob at last, seeing that the other man was starting to feel a tad hot
around the collar.
"It's a legitimate question," he remarked casually,
telling Jason with a look to keep his temper under control. The boy obeyed
with a hidden grimace. "We know you kids are not at all like you appeared
at first." Jeff soothed the obviously ruffled feathers with a wink and
a grin of his own. "But just for the sake of argument … let's say there
was another kid who wanted to be friends with all of you, and to be that,
he or she had to do something apparently bad, like you did … what would
it be? I mean, among the five of you, you already have covered most
major schoolyard crimes," he laughed.
He succeeded in lightening the atmosphere. Smooth
teenaged foreheads wrinkled in thought while the cleanup progressed. Trini
was the first to venture an opinion.
"The only thing I can think of that none of us was
accused of is stealing," she mused, "and I doubt I'd want to be friends
with someone who took something that doesn't belong to them – whether intentionally
"Yeah," Kimberly chimed in. "And being really rude
isn't exactly right, either – because that's, like, something what people
don't just do for a lark, is it?"
"No. It has to be something more serious," Billy
agreed. "What else is there, though?"
Jason suddenly grinned. Taking pains to be out of
reach of his father's hands, he barely suppressed a wicked chuckle. "Oh,
I dunno. There's still a couple things left …"
"Like what?" Zack challenged him, his dark eyes
beginning to dance as well as an idea occurred to him.
Jason shrugged with pretend nonchalance. "Well,
trying to kill us is one – and the other would be to go for world domination,"
he amended hastily, as Liz glared a warning at him. "Really, Mom – how
likely is that going to happen?" the boy demanded to know. "About
as much as Trini trying to deal drugs!"
"Hmph. Maybe. But watch it, young man," Mrs Scott
accepted the dubious humor with a scowl. "That's not very funny."
"But this is," irrepressible Zack announced with
his most angelic expression. The others glanced at him curiously. They
already were quite familiar with that look, and it usually meant one of
them was in for a major tease. Zack skilfully drew out the suspense by
pretending to hesitate. Finally, Billy caved in and posed the question
he knew Zack was waiting for.
The dark-skinned boy polished his nails on his tee-shirt.
"Oh, nothing much," he drawled, winking at Jason. "I was just thinking
… if it's a guy, his unforgivable sin could be that … he'd try dating Kimberly!"
There was an outraged squeal from the petite gymnast as the others broke into startled laughter. Knowing what was good for him, Zack dashed off at high speed, Kimberly chasing after him.
Famous last words …
"As it turned out, I did all three," Tommy sighed
comically as the Gold Ranger finished his tale. Rocky, Kat, Tanya and Adam
regarded Jason and Billy with wide incredulous eyes.
"Hey, we loved you anyway," Jason elbowed his best
friend. "Besides, you weren't responsible for the first two things; Rita
made you do it."
"But at least technically it fulfilled the perquisite
for Tommy to join our 'misfit convention', as Zack's father called it,"
Billy commented. He deemed it better not to dwell on Tommy's recently terminated
relationship with the first Pink Ranger; that wound was still too fresh.
"You're kidding," Rocky finally gasped. "Detention?
The two senior members of the Rangers shared a wry
smile. They'd know Tanya's innocent question would elicit this response.
"At least we weren't always the 'goody-two-shoes
squad' Bulk and Skull thought we were," Jason said lightly. They'd all
come such a long way since then … even the bumbling duo had grown beyond
their Junior High personas.
"I'll say," Kat chuckled. "But still … who'd have
thought it?" She found the idea of her friends once having been classified
as delinquents highly amusing – especially as nobody who knew Jason, Billy
or Kimberly would EVER think of them as other than the very embodiment
of what was good and proper. "The Power Rangers in Remedial Classes!"
"The mind boggles," Adam muttered, causing everybody
"It explains a lot, though," Tanya shook her head
in wonder. "I mean, you guys are all so different … on the surface, you
seem to have absolutely nothing in common, and I couldn't help wondering
how you got to be friends before Zordon picked you to be Rangers."
"Well, it certainly took some time," Jason admitted.
"What I've given you was just the Reader's Digest version. But at least
it laid the groundworks."
"A very solid foundation," Billy agreed. "And I
for one am glad it happened – even if you all scared me half to death at
first." He could admit as much now, six years after the fact. And he had
his friends to thank for giving him the self-confidence to do so.
Adam laughed suddenly. Leaning back in his chair,
he looked at each of his friends in turn.
"I was just thinking … how do the rest of us fit
in, then? Kat's easy – same reasons as Tommy," he enumerated. "Aisha could
get awfully bossy – remember when she was elected the school's fire captain?"
Rocky groaned dramatically while Billy and Tommy laughed. Another story
to share, with Jason, Kat and Tanya this time.
"Rocky used to be a prankster," Adam said next,
dodging his longtime friend's swat with a skill born of practice. The Blue
"Which leaves Tanya and you. And we'll find something
to qualify you two," he threatened amidst much laughter. Every single suggestion
Rocky made was shot down, however, frustrating him no end. He was only
marginally satisfied when the group accepted Tanya's choice of Shawn as
her first boyfriend as sufficient reason. It seemed impossible, however,
to find anything that would include Adam under the category of "reformed
character". The Green Ranger grinned smugly.
"I'll find something – eventually," Rocky promised,
ignoring the good-natured jibes the others directed at him. "Even if it
takes me until graduation!"
Just then, seven communicators chimed almost in
unison. Chairs were pushed back, and the teens left the Youth Center to
find a safe place to teleport to the Power Chamber – duty called, and waited
for no-one. However, just as beams of multicoloured light shot skywards,
Rocky's slightly desperate voice could be heard as he addressed Adam one
last time before dematerialising completely.
"You look lousy in green. Does that count?"