In the center of the garden is a fountain. It’s a low, shallow affair with a center column shaped into pretty sculptures of pudgy children – no doubt an imitation of older pretty sculptures of other pudgy children. But unlike the original, wherever it may be, this one made of highly engineered fibers. It is made intentionally old.
A little boy in knee-high trousers stands with his nose pressed to the rim. He has little concern for his Sunday best as he fishes out a penny from the basin. He throws it in, digs it out, throws it in. Cathy watched from her place by the door, wondering if he made the same wish every time. Given the heat of the day it was probably ice cream. Or a pony. Or one of the slick noisy trinkets advertised between cartoons. What is it that little boys wish for?
The slow parade of guests shuffled into the church. Cathy greeted them all in turn, though most were perfect strangers. All the while she watched the boy. He kept at his game, uninhibited, the edges of his rolled-up sleeves soaking through. Cathy tried to think if she had seen him with any guardian, but she couldn’t recall one. The boy had simply appeared in her line of view, devoid of any context. She shook hands with an elderly couple. Wasn’t the weather fine for the occasion? Couldn’t ask a better day to hold a wedding.
What would I wish for over and over again? Cathy shooed away a puff of bumblebee. The thought was like a riddle with a million good answers, but none of them right. In goes the penny, and out it comes. In and out, in and out. Guests ushered in, music drifts out. What is it I would wish for?
Money seemed beneath her. Happiness, too vague. World peace – but what does that mean? AC felt like wasting a wish. The boy was studious in his splashing, performing the serious task of his own making. Nothing else caught his attention. He caught the attention of nothing else. Cathy wondered if anyone else even noticed the boy. It was starting in five minutes, surely he should be collected and put into a seat.
I wish I would have said something – it struck her all at once. The truth of it was undeniable. Cathy hid her blush by pretending to adjust the itching fabric at her waist. It was useless, that kind of wish. Too much time and other talking, then too many miles and now this. This beautiful reminder by unsuspecting friends. Let’s be friends. Let’s always be friends. I wish I would have –
The boy was gone. The water in the fountain stood alone gurgling indifferently. Cathy looked around. Had he gone inside? I didn’t see him.
Cathy? someone called, we’re starting.
Cathy went inside and took her place among the party. I wish, I wish, I wish.
The image is from Wiki Commons. “Bunch of flowers with daffodils (Narcissus pseudonarcissus), France.” Public domain image.