It carries on the wind, breathes into an attentive ear, and echoes within the mind.
|I have always hated going into the basement. It was damp and musty, the groundwater of a hundred years seeping through the brick walls of the old foundation. I could smell the mold growing there, and I had already complained to old Mr. Dowd, but he's done nothing!. We have been renting the house for the past twelve years, and he has never lifted a finger for any real maintenance. Alice passed away a year ago, but nothing from Dowd, not a card or a phone call. Nothing. He had a yard service to mow the lawn in summer and plow the driveway in winter, but even that was shoddy and haphazard. He got what he paid for. Now here I am fumbling in the dark again. I had plugged in the space heater and the lights went out. Again. Dowd's going to hear from me in the morning.
I opened the basement door, and took a step down, shining the flashlight at the cardboard box of fuses on the shelf by the door. Only about half of the 24 fuses which had come in the box were still left. Dowd didn't kick in for those. No, if I wanted power, I had to pay for the fuses that his ancient wiring was consuming.
The storm was still howling outside. As I went down the stairs, I could feel the wind gusts buffeting the house. Then I heard a sound, a whisper. I stopped on the stairs a listened. It was a faint "whoosh", and I thought that there must be a crack in one of the window frames. Still, it sounded odd. It was faint, but as I listened, it seemed to change in pitch. It seemed to go from "whoosh" to "whish". Then it became a little quicker and was more like "wish". Then "wish...wish...wish...". I couldn't help but chuckle. "Right", I said, "I need to wish. I wish this place had decent wiring!"
The crack of the lightning bolt was so loud that it seemed as if the entire world had exploded. It was accompanied by a blinding flash of light. I grabbed the handrail so tightly that I was afraid it would snap. At the same instant, the lights came on. I stood there dazed. As my eyes took in the now visible basement, they stopped in amazement. There, on the wall at the bottom of the stairs was the old fuse box. Except that it wasn't. In its place was a new, grey steel box. The old one was black, dirty, and had a bent door which wouldn't close. I walked over and opened the door of this new shiny box. I couldn't believe it. Inside were rows of neat, modern circuit breakers. In this dirty, dank basement it looked as out of place as a radio antenna on a stagecoach.
That's when it dawned on me: Old Dowd had let one of his workers in to change the box without letting me know! It must have been last Wednesday, I had a doctor's appointment, and bought groceries while I was out. It was the only time I had been out long enough for this to have been done. Now, on top of everything, he's violated my privacy!
I was halfway back up the stairs when a thought flashed in my head. I could still hear the whisper, the "whoosh, whish, wish" sound. I had wished for good wiring. The lightning bolt. The power had come back. Was it possible? Of course not. But...what if? What if I had actually had a wish granted and I wasted it on Dowd's wiring? Maybe I should try again, just in case it's true. I'll just wish for a million bucks. No, wait. That could be dangerous. What if it was stolen? What if it was cash from a drug cartel? No, think a minute. Wait, what if I do get another wish, but it's the only one? If I could have just one more wish, what should I wish for?
Alice! What if Alice were still alive! No, she's been in a coffin under six feet of dirt for a year. Wishing her alive now would be terrible! Money? A new car? How could I explain that? Again, it could be stolen or have some other glitch. What about a cure for cancer? No, even if I had it, no one would believe it, let alone try it. World peace? No, what if that meant that China ruled the world? Or Iran? No, something simple. Maybe just wish that I was 20 again. No, if I were 20, then it would have to be 1970, and if it was 1970 I would be in Vietnam. No, anything with any ambiguity would be dangerous. Think!
"I just wish I knew what to do!" as I said the words, I felt my eyes widen, and I felt joy and terror flood through me, like a kid getting on his first roller coaster. Then I knew! I finally knew what to do!