This is a belated Sunday Photo Fictionsubmission. Thanks, as always, to Al Forbes for the photographic inspiration
“So, I can ask for anything…?” He asked, hoping the layers of affected cynicism had buried his underlying hope.
“Anything you want,” said the grizzled gnome who was tending the wishing well, “Wish for it, and the well will deliver.”
“So, I could…,” He began, but the gnome was interrupted before he’d had the chance to complete the sentence.
“Whatever you like,” he said, “As long as you’re wishing for it when the coin hits the water, it’s yours.”
“Listen, kid,” said a voice from behind, “There’s people waiting.”
Sam didn’t recognise the man who’d spoken. A newcomer he thought. There’d been a lot of them since the Reynolds’ boy had discovered the magic well at the bottom of Mrs O’Leary’s garden. He looked to the gnome for support, but the wizened custodian just spat on the floor.
Sam came to the lip of the well. He looked down. It was dark, no way of telling how deep it went. He reached into his pocket for the fifty pence piece and got ready to make his wish.
It was here where he encountered the problem; he had no idea what to wish for.
He supposed, really he should ask for something like world peace. But maybe somebody had already asked for that. Would the two wishes cancel each other out? And even if they didn’t, how much suffering would the outbreak of peace necessitate? There was no point being too extravagant. Then he remembered Sally’s mother. She had an appointment with a specialist at the hospital. He supposed he could ask that everything turn out okay. Sally would be happy with that, he thought. But wouldn’t that be interfering with fate? Could he risk offending the benevolent power which had gifted him this wish. Perhaps he should keep it simple, ask for a comfortable private income. And a castle, he decided; asking for too little would be as rude as demanding too much.
“How much longer you going to be?” Asked the man behind him. Sam turned. He was a tall man, a little past fifty with an expensive looking cashmere overcoat. Sam would have liked a coat like that, he thought, though he offered up a silent comment that he wasn’t actually wishing for it.
“I’ll be done soon,” Sam offered.
“I haven’t got all day,” muttered the man. Behind him, other voices echoed the same sentiment.
“Get a move on, lad,”
“Let someone else have a go,”
“You don’t want it, I’ll take your turn.”
Sam turned back to the well, took out his coin and let it fall. As it made its interminable descent, he thought of all the things he’d like to have: happiness, an end to hunger, a better future. He screwed up his eyes and balled his fists. This was his chance to put everything right. The coin landed and Sam turned. Behind him, a queue of people led out of the village, impatiently waiting their turn at the well. Sam was disappointed, though not particularly surprised, to see that each of them had the head of a donkey.