Special Story: The Wish
I was walking by the park when I found a small garden filled with gnomes. I looked at it for some time when an old man came up behind me and said "You can just look, you know. You have to offer 'em something." He stashed a penny in my hand and bid me to make a wish. I said, "Where should I throw it?". He said, "Wherever gets you the wish."
Life is full of magical moments like this. And so, to honour the old man, a story:
Her fists unclenched, and she gave a deep exhalation as all her unquietness began to subside. The salted butter caramel in her hand would be her cure, but as she began to open it, the sight of a small garden beside the road captured her interest. It was a varied plantation, retired and quiet, well-groomed and hedged with a short wooden fence, with an old house behind and a small pond beside. Delicate flowers with their various hues garlanded the landscape, but the abundance of saplings- oak and ash, birch and beech, elm and elder, cedar and cypress, alder and willow, holly and hazel, spruce and sycamore, rowan and redwood, hickory and hornbeam, hackberry and hawthorn, maple and mulberry, locust and scholar, walnut and apple, poplar and peach, cherry and lilac, yew and lantana- garnishing the landscape were the articles most concerning. She had still more wonder to feel when she descried small effigies of the Gods strewn about the foxtails and fescues, each God sitting at the base of their representative trees and carved in their distinctive forms from the stones associated with their qualities. Here was a stunning prospect, one to engage her mind and enliven her spirits. She approached the low wooden fence and remarked the garden for some time. It was small, to be sure, and yet there was a splendor to it, a sanctity and a stateliness that must be acknowledged, the copious saplings dampening any sound and screening the sun’s rays, leaving only a slender shaft of light to penetrate the overlapping boughs and illuminate the pond’s surface. Pollen drifted indolently across the weeping branches and mingled with the beresined pines; sporing fronds unfurled and kissed the low hanging drupes; the lichens reached out and vines coiled around rigid trunks: equanimity and ethereal silence surmounted, giving way to a stillness that bore a heavy semblance of consecration. Compelled and beguiled by such a scene, she exhaled, her breath oppressed and her sensibility overpowered.
It was not uncommon for Frewyns to keep family shrines honouring the Gods whose blessings they wished to cultivate or whose attributes they wished to laud, but to see them assembled within so meticulous a setting begged for her curiosity. Such a contrivance must garner all the Gods’ favour or persuade them to visit, as they often had done in the old fables. They must be desirous of honouring so lovely a display and praising the gardener with their presence. The more she inspected the carefully tended plot, the closer to it she ebbed, and at last, she was so beleaguered and overwhelmed by all the grandeur that such an arrangement could supply, she thought she might make a small offering. She sustain only a tolerable belief in the Gods, but she would honour the principles they represented where she could. She riffled through her pockets in quest of a coin or two when a voice from behind suddenly said, “You can’t just look at it, you know.”
She gave a small start and turned to find an old man standing behind her, looking at his outstretched palm laden with various coins, his aspect intent, and his wrinkled mouth frowning in determination.
“I should say not,” she simpered, recovering her countenance. “They might be affronted by my staring and offering no tribute in return.”
The man appeared not to hear; he was turning the coins in his hand about with a bent forefinger and trying to decipher their denomination by stamp rather than by colour. “Better give ‘em somethin’ or mallacht befall you,” he said, his eyes narrowing as he lifted a silver from his hand.
She continued rummaging through her pockets for a copper of her own to give when the old man suddenly lurched forward and gripped her wrist.
“Make a wish,” he demanded, thrusting the copper into her hand.
Bemused by the abrupt and generous action, she looked about the garden as though not knowing what to do. “Where should I throw it?”
He shrugged. “Wherever gets you the wish, girl,” and without another word, he was gone, shuffling up the steps leading to the small house, and closing the door without a backward glance.
She spent some minutes rapt in astonished exultation; the alacrity and charitableness of the old man had besieged and amazed her. A moment’s misgiving told her that he had not been there: it was a trick of her imagination, conjured from a mind ill at ease only a instant before his appearance, but the silver in her hand, burnished and shining under the power of the sun’s brilliance, recommended the man’s existence. He had been there, he had spoken to her and placed the coin into her hand, and yet there had been a strangeness to his coming and going in so abrupt a style and with so decided a manner as to make her wonder whether the Gods had not sent him as an agent of their machination. All the fables and tales of the Gods assuming Frewyn forms and making secretive visitations assailed her. Could it be possible? Who was she to warrant a visitation but a farmer’s daughter? Many an inebriated man in Tyfferim claimed to see the image of Chune wandering about the fields in winter, radiating her benedictions for the coming spring crop, and though she had always assisted her father in the fields, certainly this was hardly reason enough to have the Gods visit. She shook her head and sighed at her own misconstruction: he was only an old man, wishing to grant a passing kindness in thanks for her appreciation of his garden.
She raised her hand, with the silver tucked between her fingers, and wished that there were many such old men in the world: those resigned sense to fantastic superstition, who gave without thought of return, whose playfulness of spirit in old age never failed, and whose openhanded nature, good character, and amiable person forever reigned.