New World Symphony: Three Wishes for Tomas, pt. 3

The wishing well heard the thrush welcome dawn with a bright song. Over the bay, clouds settled, spreading sweet whispers of mist into the meadows. Some mornings were made for benevolence.

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Tomas had wanted to surprise Redbud with his return to life. He harbored a wish to come home solid and real and embrace her in warm arms. But Cathy’s message from onezero’s thousand mothers about the power of two caused him to rethink this. Some wishes need to be shared.

So that morning, Tomas told Redbud what he hoped to accomplish through the wishing well.

“Let’s do it,” Redbud said. “Do you think it will work? I think it will! And we’ll just keep trying until it does.”

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So, early in the morning, Tomas and Redbud came to Cathy Tea’s. onezero came along. “She is my best friend, after all,” onezero said.

While Redbud and onezero sat inside with their cups of coffee, Tomas walked out to the wishing well. One look at the benevolent half-smile on the wishing well’s face, and he kept his bag of coins. Instead, he pulled out a single coin, bright with hope, and tossed it into the well.

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The light shot up white and bright.

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Rays of light arced to Tomas, lifting him and shooting through his translucent form. His fingers tingled first.

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And then a jolt shot through where his spine would be, if he had a spine.

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The pain was intense as nerve-endings formed and energy consolidated.

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But it was the type of pain that Tomas wanted to moves towards, not away from, for he knew that as he moved through that pain, he would come out the other side in his old, familiar form.

His first breath brought joy. The air was so moist–he could taste the sea! Oh, his back ached, and his pulse beat so hard his chest felt about to burst, but he was solid.

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When he held Redbud, he could feel her heart beat, he could feel her breath on his shoulder, he could feel her warmth.

“You’re so warm,” Redbud said. “I’ve missed this,” she whispered.

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Cathy busied herself in the kitchen, and onezero was upstairs at the chess board, but Florinda was fascinated by this reunion of the man who used to be a ghost with the woman who was his wife. These were Sempervirens’ grandparents, after all!

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Soon, the atmosphere became too mushy for a kid, and Florinda joined Cathy outside for a snack, leaving Tomas and Redbud alone to rediscover how they made each other feel.

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And then it was time to include the others in the celebration.

“He did it, onezero!” Redbud told her aunt.

“I knew he would,” onezero said. “Wishes are just a matter of time!”

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Cathy had baked fresh bagels and lemon bars. While Tomas carried his snack out to patio, he thought about what this new extension of life would bring. He realized that it wasn’t so much a matter of doing things as being with others.

He wanted to be with Redbud, with his grown children, with his grandchild, with old friends and new.

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“Does it feel very much different?” Redbud asked.

“Oh, yeah,” said Tomas. “I’d forgotten all of this! Hunger. That stiff crook in my neck. How hard it is to chew a bagel with these old molars!”

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“Oh, I forgot about your stiff neck,” Redbud said.

“I love it!” Tomas said. “Every single ache and pain, what my granddad used to call ‘the usual aches and pains,’ I love every one. If it means I get to feel breath in my lungs again, and to feel your warm skin, I’ll take these aches and pains!”

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“You look handsome,” Redbud said. “I mean. Wow.”

“I’m not some old bag of wrinkles?” asked Tomas.

“Oh, you’ve got wrinkles! But remember. I was there for every one. All those years I remember when I look at your face.”

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All those years! It had been a lifetime. It was easy to forget sometimes, looking at Redbud and onezero, who had chosen to remain young, that together they had lived a whole lifetime and more! That was a lot to be thankful for.

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Sparkroot joined them.

“How come you’re not a ghost anymore?” he asked Tomas.

“I wanted to breathe again,” Tomas said. “And to crunch on your mom’s bagels with these old clickers.”

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As evening fell, Tomas found himself in conversation with Florinda.

“I’m glad that Little Green gets a real grandpa,” she said. “Did you know that Sparky and I don’t have a grandpa? Or a grandma, either.”

“Well, we’re practically family, aren’t we?” Tomas said. “Why, you just live up the hill from my little grandchild. And I’ve always wanted to have a whole pack of kids to think of as grandkids. You can all me Poppa, if you want, little Flor.”

“And will you play games and tell stories?” Florinda asked.

“Of course!” said Tomas. “That’s what Poppas do!”

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Soon, it was time to head home. Redbud sought out Cathy before she, onez, and Tomas left for Cradle Rock.

“Thank you,” she said.

“I’m so happy!” said Cathy.

“Me, too,” said Redbud.

“Me, too!” said Sparkroot.

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For Cathy, at that moment, the old wishing well seemed to have brought everything good! She forgot about her confused feelings for Brennan, the man she loved who could bring such pain, along with such joy, and she remembered only her love for Brennan, the joy their two kids brought into this wide world, and now, this gift for Redbud and Tomas and all who loved them.

That wishing well–it brought life, and with it, the complex brew of feeling and emotion that living brings.

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New World Symphony: Three Wishes for Tomas, pt. 2

Tomas stood at the last grave in the long row of tombstones that lined Cradle Rock: his grave. He was the last to die here, so close to making it to the new era when time would shift. He regretted nothing: not one aspect of his long life with Redbud. But he mourned the loss of that long life.

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He spent the day wandering Cradle Rock, visiting all his favorite spots, watching Redbud as she went about her day, and then, as night fell, he returned to Cathy Tea’s.

Sparkroot greeted him.

“Where’s your mom, little bud?” Tomas asked.

“Not sure, exactly,” Sparkroot said.

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“We were playing outside after dinner, and we heard this weird whirring sound,” Sparkroot said. “You ever see one of those big lit-up frisbees in the sky? It was one of those!”

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“Ah, I see!” said Tomas. “I don’t suppose your mom headed over to check out the lights.”

“Yeah,” said Sparkroot. “That’s just what she did. She told me to go inside and wait for her, and she went out front to take a look, and then the whir noise got louder, and then by the time the noise was gone, I couldn’t find Ama! You think she’s OK?”

“Yes, I do,” said Tomas. “Not to worry. It’s happened to a lot of us. She’ll be back safe and sound and all the wiser. Where’s your sister?”

“She’s at Little Green’s home in the big meadow.”

Tomas smiled to think of his granddaughter Sempervirens playing with Cathy Tea’s child. Thinking of Little Green made him want to return to life all the more! How incredible it would be to be an actual part, not just a spiritual part, of his granddaughter’s life.

“Think I can use your Wishing Well again?” Tomas asked Sparkroot.

“Sure thing,” said Sparkroot. “Just be careful what you wish for. That’s what Ama always tells us.”

Tomas had a good feeling about his wish this time. He felt so much more sure.

He tossed in the bag of coin for his donation, and as the white light of gratitude shone up, he felt confident. His intentions were set: they were right.

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He knew this wish was for the best. Let it happen!

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Green light shone out: green, the color of life, living, and growing things. His hope grew.

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He felt the white helix surround him. The tingling was less extensive than before.

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And then it faded. No change? After all of that? After the pure setting of intention and the clarity of thought and wishing? And, nothing?

There was something. He felt a round bump in his pocket, like a pebble. When he took it out, he saw a seed in the shape of a skull. It looked like something he’d seen in an old illustrated book: the seed of the death flower.

It wasn’t what he’d wished for, but at least his wish left him something in his pocket.

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He didn’t want to leave the the children while their mother was still gone, so he found a book inside and settled down to wait.

Late at night, Florinda straggled in.

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“You’re home, I see!” he said. “And how was Little Green? How is my granddaughter?”

“You’re Little Green’s arsa’thair?” asked Florinda. “She’s my really good friend!”

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Tomas heard all about the mischief and games that Florinda and Sempervirens got into that day. While Tomas was tucking in Florinda for the night, he heard the whirring sound.

The saucer circled, then hovered over the house, sending down its beam of light.

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And Cathy Tea slid down the beam, landing without even a wobble, as if she’d done this a thousand times before.

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“How was it?” Tomas asked. “Safe trip?”

“Yeah,” she replied. “It was fine. I was just catching up with onezero’s thousand. They left a message for me. In fact… oh, forgive me. My mind’s a little groggy. All that travel. I haven’t caught up with myself yet. Let’s see. They said… Oh! They had a message for you!”

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“For me?” Tomas asked.

“Yes! For you! They said, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, don’t at first give up!’ And then they said something about the power of two and all of that. It’s a little beyond me at the moment, but there you have it!”

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New World Symphony: Three Wishes for Tomas

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?

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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!”

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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“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!”

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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.

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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.

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Tomas felt heat rise with the light.

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White light encircled him, and the energy lifted him. He felt sensations! Tingling! As if he had nerve endings that could tingle!

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Then the light faded. He was set back upon the ground. He was not solid.

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He had felt life flow through him, and it had left.

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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.

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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.

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Cathy sat with him in the garden.

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“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!”

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“I got to spend a morning here in your garden,” Tomas said. “That’s something.”

“True.”

“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.”

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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!”

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New World Symphony: Three Wishes

Jaclyn felt happy when she passed Sharon Pope greeting Sempervirens early one find Wednesday afternoon. She knew the little girl should still be at school, but Jaclyn was glad that her parents allowed their daughter to run free now and again.

“What is school, after all?” Jaclyn had said to them. “Nomdish training! That’s all! So much better to let the little ones discover all the rune of this green world!”

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While Sharon herself, with eyes always spying the happy magic in every day, tended towards rune, she was still living in the nomdish world with her husband Paolo Rocca on a street where magic was seldom seen by nomdish eyes. It’s the little ones, Jaclyn trusted, who keep that spark of rune alive in the grown ones when all the world conspires to squelch it.

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“And what brings you out here on this beautiful afternoon?” Sharon asked Sempervirens.

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“I’m heading to the creek to see if the frog eggs have hatched! I want to count the pollywog tails!”

“Oh, I loved pollywogs when I was a little girl,” said Sharon. “I still love them! Tell them all ‘Happy Spring’ from me, will you, Vi?”

As Sharon continued her trek up the road to Cathy Tea’s house, she remembered those long ago early spring days when she, too, crouched on a rock at the edge of a pond not much larger than a puddle and watched as the translucent eggs wriggled and melted and out swam a pollywog, wagging its little black tail.

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“Happy spring!” said Cathy Tea when Sharon arrived. “It’s still cold, but I can feel spring in my bones!”

“Me, too!” giggled Sharon.

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The two caught up on town news. Sharon, through Eugi, the father of her twin daughters, and through her husband Paolo was related to dozens of people, for Eugi had a wife and children by two other women, besides, and Paolo had four other lovers with children by all of them.

“We take kinship to a new level,” Sharon joked. “Seriously! My twins are half-siblings or step-siblings with at least half of the kids in their class! Not only that, but little Sam Cortez is both their cousin and their step-brother! Figure that one out!”

Cathy laughed. “I guess it’s like with the old tribes, huh?”

“Somewhat,” Sharon giggled. “It does feel a little like a ‘takes-a-village’ kind of thing.”

“I think it’s great that you and Paolo are raising his and Jade’s son,” Cathy said.

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“Well, Jade was glad to have Caiden live with us. Our house is set up for children and babies. I like Jade–she’s not like Siobhan, wanting to keep me out of Paolo’s kids’ lives. And, of course Jade can spend as much time with Caiden as she wants. Maybe when he’s not a baby, he’ll want to live with her. Paolo and I both want him to choose, as long we can still see him and he’ll be well cared for. But that’s down the road a bit!”

After school, Sharon’s twin daughters arrived.

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“Thank you for letting us come over,” said Isabella.

“Hi, Miss Cathy!” said Reyna.

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They chatted about school. Isabella said that their brother Mario Behr was grossing out all the girls–except her–by talking about war movies that showed actual people’s heads being blowed off! She didn’t mind because she’d read a book about special effects.

“See, they take these things made out of clay–like casts, but not the kind for broken arms–and they fill them with katsup and then when they blow them up, kablooie! But it’s not real blood. It only looks like it.”

“I still think it’s gross,” said Reyna, “because of the ideas it puts in you.”

After tea and cookies, Reyna asked if she could play in the garden. She spied an old well towards the back of the patio.

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“I bet I can make a wish!” she said.

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She closed her eyes and wished so hard. At that moment, there was really one thing she wanted: to have gotten the spelling test 100% right! The students who completed that test perfectly would represent their class in the Spelling Bee, and more than anything, Reyna wanted to be a Spelling Bee champion. She and Paolo had practiced so hard for the test! He even had her spell some of the words backwards, though how that helped, exactly, she couldn’t figure out. Unless maybe she was standing on her head or writing in a mirror, why would she ever need to know how to spell backwards? But it was fun, nonetheless.

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The well flashed with light as she dropped her penny into it, and before the light faded, her cellphone rang.

“Dr. Poppers?” she said, when she recognized her teacher’s voice. “You mean I got it right? All of it? And I get to be in the Spelling Bee? Oh, thank you, Dr. Poppers!”

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Isabella wandered out to join her.

“I get to be in the Spelling Bee,” Reyna said. “Our teacher just called. I wished for it, and it happened.”

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“Can I wish?” asked Isabella.

“Sure, why not?” replied Reyna.

Isabella didn’t have to think twice. She felt excited as golden light flowed up the moment her coin hit the water at the bottom of the well.

“It’s going to come true!” she said.

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Dr. Poppers called.

“Just making my end of the day reports, Miss Isabella,” he said, “and I’m happy to report that you’ve had a very successful day at school today. Provided you do your homework, I’ve got a very good feeling that when you come home from school tomorrow your grade will be higher than what it is today!”

“That’s fantastic!” she said.

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“My teacher said my grades are going up!” Isabella told her sister. “I guess wishes really do come true.”

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“I knew it,” Reyna said. “You worked so hard! And remember how you knew all the answers in maths today?”

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The sun set. The crescent moon rose. Sabreene dropped by, and the three women brought their cookies outside, while the girls ran in to play with the piano.

“Do you ever wish on the wishing well?” Sharon asked Cathy .

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“I’ve used it a few times! I wished for skills, and after I felt like I was learning really fast,” Cathy said.

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“That’s amazing,” said Sabreene. “It really worked!”

“Well, sort of,” Cathy continued. “One time, after I wished for skills, I felt sort of groggy and could only sit around for a while. So it was more like bizarro wishing!”

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“And I’ve used it to wish for happiness,” Cathy said. “I felt a little happier after–sort of like positive thinking. Grit-your-teeth-and-be-happy. But when that faded, I was a little sad for a while. I’m thinking that mostly the well works as a way of helping us focus our intentions.”

“It could be that you have to wish for something you don’t have,” Sharon said.

“I think she’s right!” said Sabreene.”You have skills. You are always happy! So how can wishing increase what you already have? I’m not sure that magic works that way.”

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“What’s something you don’t have in your life?” Sharon asked.

Cathy thought for a while.

“Well,” she said at last, “I don’t have a romance in my life at present.”

“Then wish for that!” Sharon said.

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The next morning, Cathy thought it might be an interesting experiment. After all, what could go wrong? If she got a bizarro wish, then she just wouldn’t have a romance, which was the same as things were now. It seemed that there was only something to gain–and at any rate, she’d learn something along the way!

She approached the well with an open heart–for romance! She wished.

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The smoke that billowed up from the depths of the well smelled mildly nauseating–like sulfur mixed with rose water.

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But when the aroma of rose-water overcame the sulfur, the sweetness was intoxicating.

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Inside the plumes of smoke it was impossible to see–and even impossible to think– everything was swirling like the mixture of heaven and hell. Is this what being in love feels like?

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