Tomas’s ghost waited at Cathy Tea’s door. If things worked out the way he hoped, he’d walk out this door on two solid legs on the solid ground, rather than glide through air, and when he got back home, he’d wrap his wife in his arms and feel her warmth on his skin. To breathe again! Could it happen?
That morning, onezero told Tomas about Cathy’s wishing well.
“They say you can wish for anything!” she said. “Of course, wishes are limited, and they don’t always come true the way we might envision, but there is power in that well that can make the most incredible things manifest!”
Tomas felt grateful that he could be with his wife in spirit–he was able to watch her daily and to see that she still felt joy and that she was well.
Some days, they were able to talk together. She still loved sharing with him her ideas for novels or specific composition challenges she was working on in her paintings.
But he missed so much. He missed the quiet daily rhythms of living beside her, most of all: sharing a bed; finding, as they slept, that their breath had fallen into the same rhythm; the moments when her arm might brush against his; feeling her warmth.
So when onezero told him about Cathy’s wishing well, he felt a rush of hope.
“What about life?” he asked. “Do its powers extend to life?”
onezero told him about Brennan Stuckey, Cathy’s Wishing Well Man and the father of her twins.
“But you have to be careful how the wish manifests,” she said. “Sure, Cathy now has two twins, but they came at a price! Their father isn’t the most considerate or reliable man. But there’s life, sure! So, there’s that.”
Tomas was willing to give it a try.
“I don’t have that much to lose, right?”
onezero paused. There is always so much to lose! Every choice, every action incurs loss of some sort.
“Loss isn’t anything to worry over,” she said at last. “It’s like breathing: inhale and exhale. What will you gain? That’s the question.”
So Tomas ventured to Cathy’s home at the end of the road on the hillside.
When she didn’t answer the door, he glided out back, where he found her working on a canvas.
He hadn’t counted on how beautiful it was here. He’d grown accustomed to the stark russet landscape of the desert. The soft greens and muted blues, the flowers at every turn, the sweet moist air that tickled as it blew through him–it truly was stepping into a new world.
“I’ve heard about your well,” he said. “Can anyone use it? Can I?”
“Sure!” she said. “It’s not mine. It just happens to be here. It’s a little bit greedy. It likes donations. It’s kind of fickle, too. I’ve got mixed feelings about it, actually, Tomas. I mean, there are so many ways to make wishes come true! I’m starting to like it when I can use my own rune to bring them about.”
“I’m not sure I can do what I want on my own,” Tomas said.
“Well, it’s around back,” she said. “Have at it!”
Tomas had brought a purse of money with him. He paused a moment. What would help wishes come true? Gratitude, surely!
He felt thankful: for his life, for his children Cypress and J. P., for his wife Redbud, for this wishing well.
He tossed the purse into the well.
Bright light flew out of it, shining from the eyes and mouth of the well’s face.
This was auspicious!
He tossed in the coin quickly with his wish: Life! Give me back life!
A crack of granite shot from the well’s depths, and as the echoes faded, gold light seeped up through the gap.
Tomas felt heat rise with the light.
White light encircled him, and the energy lifted him. He felt sensations! Tingling! As if he had nerve endings that could tingle!
Then the light faded. He was set back upon the ground. He was not solid.
He had felt life flow through him, and it had left.
In that moment, when he’d felt life blow through him, he had experienced such joy. All his hopes rose and gathered into possibility.
And now, they left. Every single hope.
He had died. Nothing could undo that.
He hadn’t realized how much he had wanted to hold his wife in arms that could feel. How much he’d wanted to hear his granddaughter’s laughter. How he’d wanted to feel his two feet on solid ground.
Cathy sat with him in the garden.
“I hadn’t realized how much I’d wanted it,” Tomas said.
“Yeah,” replied Cathy. “The well is like that. If anything, it helps us see what we want and what we don’t, sometimes too late.”
“onezero said there’s always something to lose,” Tomas replied. “I guess I’ve lost my peaceful acceptance of being dead.”
“That’s heavy,” said Cathy. “But what did you gain? Every loss brings a gain.”
Tomas tried to lighten the mood. “You can still see through me?”
“Yeah,” Cathy joked back. “You wear the colors of your feelings!”
“I got to spend a morning here in your garden,” Tomas said. “That’s something.”
“I guess, really, though, I got a clearer understanding of what I want. I know I can just accept this state I’m in, but it’s not what I want. And knowing that, well, that gives me something to work towards, right? I’m not ready to give up.”
Sparkroot came home from school as they were finishing their conversation.
“Are you a real ghost?” Sparkroot asked Tomas.
“I am at that, for now.”
“Cool!” said Sparkroot. “I’ve always wanted to meet a ghost!”