The Wish Thief

Contributor: Candy Caradoc

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The wishing well was situated, oddly, on the terrace outside the Café Voile. A shiny, gold and ivory, opulent-bordering-on-flashy attraction currently glittering in the moonlight. Also visible from the outside: crystal-clear windows (more glass than brick was that wall, and therefore impractical and wrong, as far as he was concerned), white tables with fancy chairs made of swirly-patterned metal, and the large, cursive lettering of the name above the main door. It’s all a rich-cunt’s fantasyland, he thought, what do they need a wishing well for, anyway?

He had stolen things in the past. Only minor things and only when he was in need. Apart from those incidents of mindless shoplifting in his school years, but which everyone grows out of and hardly count, he supposed. The issue was, he now believed, who you stole from.
So when he’d received an unexpected medical bill, overdue rent notice and extortionary car mechanic’s invoice all in the space of a week, he’d had a good hard think about where he could take some money without too much risk or too much damage to his conscience. And he had thought of the ridiculous wishing well outside that poncy café.

He’d only ever seen it from a distance. He couldn’t think what it could possibly have been if not a wishing well. And yes, sure enough, the cylindrical brickwork was half-filled with water and there were gold and silver coins, dully catching the light, at the bottom.

He had decided from the first that the easiest way to go about it would be to climb in, as long as it wasn’t too deep (it wasn’t) and he was prepared: he climbed in with his waterproof draw-string bag and, water level comfortably below the tops of his galoshes, got to work.

The idea popped into his head that some would accuse him of stealing other people’s hopes and dreams. His thoughts immediately addressed that issue, as though challenged (he had nothing better to occupy his mind, anyway). Firstly, he thought, these people are living every dream I ever dared to have, and then some. Secondly, who can really sum up their life’s aspirations in the flip of a coin? And, further to that, people rarely know what will actually make them happy. And finally, no one who spends about ten bucks on a slice of cake should be allowed to purchase their heart’s desire for a lousy fucking coin. Mere shrapnel cluttering up their designer purses. Dead weight next to their cheque books.

What about the innocent kiddies – is that what they would ask? Rich kids have it all and don’t even know what to do with it yet. Their problem, if anything, is having too much. Not to mention the irresponsibility of teaching susceptible minds to rely on fantasy. Bad enough that rich kids have the idea that they can sponge off their parents. Now they can sponge off the powers of a magical water-holder, too?

He was taking these coins, but he was giving something back: giving everyone a wakeup call. You want a castle? Get building. Want to be famous? Get your ass to an audition, and, preferably, hire an agent. And for God’s sake get some talent. And if you want to donate to the needy then by all means toss your coins away in some ridiculous, childish ritual meant to stuff further riches into your already glutted lives.

He’d finished – bag was damn heavy, too. These people liked a wish.

He climbed out and moved away from the empty well – a wishing well with no wishes to fulfil. He suddenly had the comical thought that a wishing well with no wishes on its “to-do” list may be so desperate for a purpose that it could actually grant a wish if someone would just give it a go – that even a supernatural fancy could get one thing right.

He stopped, reached into his pocket and fished around amongst the screwed up paper and cigarette stubs and rubber bands and gum till he found the small coin. Then he meditated for a moment before tossing the coin into the well.

He snorted sardonically at his own ridiculousness and walked away.

Well, fuck it, he thought. We all have a job to do, don’t we?

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Candy Caradoc lives in Melbourne, Australia. Last year she completed a thesis on uncanny representations of the effects of narcissistic parenting in Hoffmann’s The Sandman and Aronofsky’s film Black Swan. One of her stories, about a woman in love with a straw man, appears in Dog Horn Publishing’s Women Writing the Weird.
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