Wishing on a star can take you very far.
If Wishes Were Fishes
Robby Blake was ten years old. He did not understand why his mom and dad had to move from Connecticut to Nebraska the week before his tenth birthday. Dad told him that he had a contract for those wind turbines that could not be put off one more day. They had to leave Friday. He would miss sharing his birthday with his friends. He would miss their presents and good times at his party.
He shuffled along, walking slowly kicking at rocks. He wished he had not been taken so far away, wished he had been able to talk his parents out of the move, wished his friends could have come along, wishes, wishes, wishes and none of them ever came true.
The bus dropped him off in front of his house, but he walked along the road toward a copse of trees that he visited. A little spring ran there and Robby liked to take off his sneakers and socks and stand in the cool water. The school year was nearing an end and the water would feel especially good today because the sun beamed hot.
Robby ducked beneath a low hanging branch and settled his book bag on a flat rock which jutted out near the water's edge. He removed his shoes and socks, rolled his jeans up to just below his knee and waded in. The water felt wonderful and Robby wiggled his toes watching as tadpoles hurried out of his way.
He walked a little downstream, the slippery stones in the river bed making him take his time.
"I wish I were a fish," he said aloud. "I'd swim away from Nebraska, all the way back to Connecticut . . ."
"That's a mighty long way to swim, young fella."
Robby stopped. He looked up to see a man sitting on the bank of the spring. He was older than old, Robby decided, and he looked at the man's gnarled hands which held a crooked stick. The man wore a white shirt and khaki pants, the trouser legs rolled up to just below the knee the same as Robby's were.
Robby didn't speak. He stood looking at the old man, uncertain of who he was and if he should say anything at all. The man smiled and looked away from Robby to the small trickle of the stream.
"Besides," he said, "you'd make a pretty big fish; too big for this little stream."
He looked at Robby and a twinkle in his eye eased the boy. He smiled at the ten year old and asked, "you make a lot of wishes?"
"I guess," Robbie answered and looked down at his toes through the water.
"You know," the old man said, shifting his weight as he spoke, "the best made wishes are made on a star. You ever try it?"
"No. That's for babies."
The old man chuckled. "Well, I don't know, I use it all the time. Works for me."
Robbie looked at the old man for a minute or two, then saying he had to get home, he turned to head back upstream. He turned about for one last look at this stranger and the man was gone. The boy came onto the bank, walked up into the woods, called out, but there was no answer and no sign of the man.
Shaking his head, he went back to the rock, gathered his things and headed home.
The Nebraska night was dark. The lights of a thousand stars did not shed enough brightness and moon had not yet risen. Looking up at the stars, Robby thought about the old guy at the stream. He closed his eyes after choosing a star and wished, "Star light, star bright, I wish with all my heart I was back in Connecticut!"
Robby rose from the porch, went inside to tell his parents good night and went upstairs. He put on his pajamas and got into bed, falling asleep almost instantly.
He woke because the smell of garbage was so strong it almost made him ill. He sat up to see that he was no longer in his bed. He stood, his bare feet feeling cool pavement; his hands grabbing onto a city dumpster.
"How did I get here?" He began to whimper something was terribly wrong.
Robby walked to the end of the alley and stood wide eyed, looking at Main Street, East Hampton, Connecticut. He stood with his mouth opened, staring into the dark night, alone, and very cold.
He knew this street, the road lead to Lake Potocopaug where he and Dad went fishing.
He began to walk down Main Street, looking at the windows in stores, it was late, the places all locked up for the night. He wanted to find a policeman, but no one was on the streets. He was terribly frightened. He heard footsteps behind him, following, keeping closely behind. Robby slowed, they stopped.
Someone grabbed him from behind. They held him. Robby yelled and kicked, but the grip was tight. His heart thumped and he wished that he never made that wish to return to Connecticut.
The person who held him looked into Robby's face. It was the old man from the stream, his eyes twinkling at Robby.
"You gotta be careful what you want for when you wish."
Robby woke the next morning, leaping from his bed. He noticed his feet were filthy and the hems of his pajama pants were dirty and damp. He hurriedly dressed, stuffing the pj's deep into his laundry hamper. Had he dreamed it? How had his pajamas and feet gotten so dirty?
Robby ran down the stairs to find his parents at the breakfast table.
Relieved, he kissed his mom and said, "Mom, Dad, did I ever tell you how much I loved Nebraska?"
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