Monday, April 25, 2016

Old Man and a Wishing Well, Fred W. Feldman

The Wishing Well
by Frederick W Feldman


Gerard, the old man, was visiting the gardens. He was alone, but that was not because he had no friends. He did have friends, but they were not with him today.
In the gardens were many trees and plants. The gardens were established as the pet arboretum of a wealthy family. The venture had been a hobby but fell into disrepair after several generations until it was eventually purchased by a philanthropist who decided to open it to the public and create revenue by charging admission and then to redirect that revenue into upkeep and expansion.
Now many people walked the trails and admired the feats of landscaping and the natural beauty resplendent in all the grounds. The convex bulbs of sunglasses floated past Gerard and rolled around in orbital motions at the many sights. They wore yoga pants and cargo shorts. They wore floppy hats and slapbacks. Much athletic wear, and gallons of sunscreen.
How many gallons of sunscreen did it take to protect the county from becoming sunburnt? How many had still been lost?
Gerard liked the greenhouse very much, but he had already been there many times and had enjoyed the rare varieties of flora. It was a good day. Simple pleasures are tenuous. An excuse to move his legs was a boon.
Part of the philanthropist’s enterprise was the building of structures made of stone and marble that existed organically within the gardens. These were no small structures, either. A bell tower rose from the top of a hill that he had scaled last time, but he did not feel spry enough to take the stone path today.
There were other displays that he was pleased to visit today. He passed the families gawking at the topiary – which he found dull and grotesquely carnivalesque positioned as it was in the midst of masterful art and gaean grandeur  - and ventured to a sunny spot where he liked to stay a while.
The Outdoor Arcade was a great pleasure to him and there he tarried.


In an out-of-the-way corner of the gardens Gerard found himself in the domain of the wishing well. The wishing well was of stone, of stones, of stacks of stones piled atop each other. There was no bucket to lower into the well, because this well was only for wishes and not for drawing water.
Gerard hiked up his trouser legs and set himself down upon a large rock adjoining the path. This was a nice area, and the air was cool and moist with leaves. The trees were tightly packed around the little seclusion and covered most of it in shadow, and Gerard felt as if he was alone and unseen by any of the other visitors.
Gerard checked his pocket for a penny. It was a wishing well, after all, and it wouldn’t be sporting if he intruded upon its space without playing along. He unearthed a well-worn cent and stood in thoughtful appraisal of the wishing well.
He fiddled with the penny as he tried to think of a suitable wish, which he was now realizing to be quite a challenge. He wasn’t hungry, so he couldn’t wish for a corn dog. He thought about wishing for a snowcone but just in time he found that he really did not feel like having the disappointment, however slight and irrational, of wishing for something and not having it delivered to him.
Gerard lifted his head and saw the swirling blue day above him, filled with an accumulation of clouds, and he felt a twinge of giddiness and smiled.
He turned back to the wishing well and felt confident that he had a wish that could come true.
“I wish…for a good day today,” he said, softly, and tossed his penny into the well.
The bronze coin spun in an acrobatic little twirl and fell into the well. Then the well spit it back out, because it only accepted quarters.
The old man snorted, and again fished in his pocket until he found a quarter and tossed it into the wishing well.
This time the wishing well was satisfied, and a handful of brightly colored candies spilled out from between the stones.
Gerard stooped down, narrowly avoiding a back cramp in the course of the motion, and gathered up the candies into the palm of his hand.
They were small, and they were a mixture of bright blue and yellow and pink and mint pastel colors, and seeing them was a pleasing sight that was only enhanced by the dark shaded outdoors.
He tried one and it was yummy; not too sweet and without the bitter artificial taste that ruins most candy. These candies, indeed, tasted pure and delicious – they tasted the way that candy should taste.
Gerard, the old man, munched on them as he walked through the rest of the gardens and it was a very good day.


Later that week, Gerard returned with his very dear friend. The friend, whose name was Kip, had been Gerard’s pal for decades, ever since they met at university one or two lifetimes ago.
The two old men travelled the gardens, interrupting themselves to make the odd comment on their surroundings. They enjoyed each other’s company immensely, and were happiest when reminiscing and re-spinning their shared mythology that spanned a tapestry of adventures and curious characters and anecdotes they still found funny.
As they strolled, the favorite topics that day were their time in the debate club during school and the time, seven years later, that they had formed a band and toured around dive bars for three weeks until their drummer had gotten a night shift and they chose to euthanize the band’s moniker and return to their respective routines.
All their narratives were interspersed generously with salty quips and impressions. Often they would pretend to be old, since they technically were.
When Gerard recognized the path leading to the secluded spot he had found the other day, he waved his friend over and decided to show him the wishing well.
The air was again cool and moist, and the foliage again made the area feel secluded. Kip voiced his approval of the milieu and of the stone well presiding over it. Gerard told him to hold his applause until he showed him something else.
“It’s a wishing well,” he said. “But watch…”
He pulled out a quarter from his pocket and tossed it into the well.
It made a plink in the water and floated gently down. Kip and Gerard waited in silent expectancy.
Nothing happened. Gerard kicked the stony side of the well, hoping to encourage it into working again. Still nothing happened. He muttered his dissatisfaction under his breath and huffily shoved his hands in his pockets.
“Dang thing ate my quarter,” he said.


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