Scooping pennies off wet concrete is the way I keep myself fed. The local fountain sees its share of wishmakers every so often – particularly on holidays, where little girls wish for unicorns and little boys wish for one, too (silently, so their parents won’t judge them).
I guess it’s the majesty of the fountain’s sculpture that draws them in. Her name is Selene, the Greek Goddess of the moon. Her face is soft, supple. The shape of a crescent moon rests upon her curled hair. She stands contrapposto, her right arm extending forwards delicately, calling to viewers. A dove perches upon her upturned fingers, drawing the wishmakers in with a certain promise that all will be okay.
I learned to stop making wishes a long time ago. They never come true, I discovered. Coincidences, my father would tell me, if one did manifest. If you want something, you’ll do the hard work required to make it happen. So I dig my fingernails between the concrete slabs and copper coins, counting change.
My worn beanie slouches over my tired eyes as I stretch for a particularly difficult-to-reach coin. It lies beneath the dove’s body, in the palm of Selene. Only reason I know it’s there is because I saw a girl, one much too old to believe in wishes, toss it earlier today. It was a quarter – 25 cents! How wasteful.
I brace my boots against the dry part of the concrete – where the wishmakers sit. The gap between Selene and I is wide – so I stretch my arm as far as possible. My boot slides up, but I catch myself against Selene’s stony upper arm. My fingers, pruned from digging in the water, scrape against the concrete.
Pulling myself back up, I feel strangers passing by. To them, I’m just a homeless bum, doing weird things to the statue. I find my balance and try again. This time, I’ve got it. I reach one finger beneath the dove, into her palm, sliding it around until I feel it – a small, circular disc with a grooved rim. I slide it out of her palm and into mine.
My foot loses its grip entirely. I plummet face first. My nose cracks against the statue, then I slip into the water. Blood mixes with water. The scratches across my face burn. I am submerged, only my legs out of the water.
Coin in my hand, I close my eyes. Exhaustion catches up with me. Water swishes into my eardrums. Delirium sets in. For the briefest of moments, I am transported to another realm – one of wishes come true. In this world, distant parents connect fingertips and a ravishingly pink unicorn carries a giggling girl and her boisterous brother across a frozen lake.
A tight fist grips me by the tatters of my overcoat, tossing me against the pavement. For a moment, I see my father. Then his visage fades and I see a young man, one I imagine would mock me in the daylight. He takes my coat off, then his, and places it over my shoulders.
“Let’s get you inside, how does that sound?”
I nod weakly, quarter gripped in my palm. Water spurts out my mouth. I look up to Selene, whisper a tired thank you.
“What’s that?” The young man asks me.
“Thank you,” I repeat, this time louder, with a bit more conviction, a bit more hope.
Kaleb Tutt is a writer from South Louisiana. He has a poem about lonely stars in MoonchildMag and a piece of flash about lucid dreaming in WhoWritesShortShorts. Find him on Twitter @KalebT96. He has a website, too – spillingsomeink.wordpress.com.
Image: Matt Jones