Short Stories

The Magic Wand


Ten seconds before sunrise, the sky glistened with golden sparkles, birds fetched breakfast for their offspring, the darkness-hunters returned to their hideouts, and the last breath of night-breeze mingled with the leaves of the trees before retiring till dusk. The backyard was peaceful, as was I, standing on our balcony with a mug of hot coffee; I enjoyed the aloneness, a feeling I’d just learned to appreciate since life offered it to me so seldom.
Recharged by the wonders of daybreak, I stepped back into my bedroom, ready to check my emails. I moved like a ghost so the kids would remain undisturbed in their sleep.
While waiting for the computer page to load, I rested my face into my elbow-supported palm and bored my eyes into the pile of clothes I wore to last night’s party.
A dark-oak-colored stick reposed on my red blouse, forgotten. Narrowing my eyes, I tried to recall details of my night out. Though I’d only had two King’s Tonics at the opening ceremony for the new TV show, ever since giving birth to my first child seven years ago, two drinks were all I needed to set my head spinning
I chuckled softly from the thought and then started chewing on my fingernails, agitated. No extraordinary reflection lingered in my mind, yet a feeling made me uneasy.
I remembered that I tasted roast pork, played medieval-inspired games, chatted with strangers, and stayed in line. …Yes that’s it. An image jolted through my mind, and the face of the fortuneteller became crystal clear in my head.
She was a peculiar-looking woman, grizzled, yet not older than forty. I envisioned her long fingers ending with black nails, a vast number of golden rings with gems of every color of the rainbow, and jingling bracelets as she handed me the wand. The magic wand and the spell…
I hurriedly pushed the chair back to get up and retrieve the wand. The legs got stuck in the carpet and the chair dropped back with a muffled thud. I pricked my ears, holding my breath. The house remained silent.
With the wand in my hand, I leaned against my computer desk. It was almost weightless and crooked. It looked more like an ordinary twig than a magical item.
I stopped believing in fairy tales ages ago; still I was staring at the dull latte wall, smiling and ready to give it a try.
“Paint the walls a new, trendy color,” I commanded, slowly circling the wand as I saw it done in movies.
Without transition, a darker shade of turquoise dominated the room. My legs trembled and I fell onto the desk, spilling coffee over the computer’s keyboard.
“Clean up the coffee,” I ordered, and the brown liquid was back in my mug.
Frightened, I slumped onto the floor, my legs tangled, fingers still wrapped around the wand. I was holding it firmly. Without thinking, I cast the stick across the room. It bounced against the wall before landing on the carpet. My heart was pounding against my ribs so powerfully it felt like it was about to rip my chest open. I pulled my knees into a protective pose, and panted heavily.
“I can’t believe this,” I whispered to myself. “It’s working. It’s actually working,” I rejoiced in a repressed voice.
Minutes later, my heartbeat stabilized along with my breathing.
As I stared at the motionless wand, millions of ideas flashed in front of my eyes. There was so much I could wish for.
I leaped to my feet and grasped the wand.
“Turn the master bedroom into my dream bedroom,” I said, with closed eyes while spinning around with my arm extended heavenward.
I opened my eyelids with a gasp.
There was a fireplace, embers tenderly cracking, between the bedroom and the bathroom. White carpets were spread over a walnut-colored hardwood floor. A crystal chandelier spilled light beams across the room and purple orchids on the top of the espresso-colored dressers cast interesting shadows upon the turquoise wall. Above the dark-leather frame of our new king-size bed were brushed silver picture frames with black and white photos of my family.
Scanning my surroundings with a gaping mouth, I forgot to inhale and once again found myself short of breath.
It’s difficult to find the words to describe my sensations. I wanted to scream and jump up and down and wake the kids to show them everything, but having only a bite of the magic, I was not fully prepared to share it. I needed to create a bigger surprise.
At the top of the stairs I gazed at the lackluster hall down below; I was ready to cast a new spell.
“Transform the whole house into a designer’s showcase home!”
I galloped down the stairs, like a love-struck teen girl. I was in awe from the changes. The entire place was in harmony with the bedroom, fancy, organized, and heartwarming.
Overwhelming emotions boosted the pressure on my lungs and I needed some fresh air, desperately.
I ripped the terrace door open and stormed out into the yard. Benny, our rescued, mixed-breed dog, scratched his long nails into my thigh, jumping up on me with joy. I squatted next to him but immediately wished I hadn’t. The view of the half-baked lawn and old, cracked concrete patio, paint-chipped play set, and the drooping plants made me realize that my work wasn’t nearly done yet.
“I want a garden like the guy from Yard Crashers would design,” I said, and moments later our outdoor area was perfected with an eye-blinding green lawn, water fountain, BBQ area, gazebo, and a sparkling blue pool with a waterfall.
The time had come to tell my kids and call my husband, I thought, and headed back inside the house. I only advanced as far as the hall where our new mirror – that should belong in a King’s palace – showed a devastating reflection of me. My dried-up, wheat-colored hair – which hadn’t seen a beauty salon in months – was pulled back into a ponytail. The two black circles under my eyes conveyed the impression that I hadn’t slept for a year. The tank top and the pink PJ pants looked acceptable on me, but I yanked them both off.
Wearing only panties, I examined my body. Eighteen months of pregnancy, two C-sections, two years of breastfeeding, and lack of exercise left me saggy and soft. I wasn’t always this neglected. I used to run everyday and do aerobics to 1990’s VHS tapes, following the steps of a curly, black haired man wearing tight elastic pants and a muscle shirt. But that was in high school, I grunted to myself, in disbelief. These last years have served me shamefully.
With a one-handed move and a short wish, my figure was back into its golden age. I spun around in front of the mirror, pinching my stone-hard body. I couldn’t wash the smile off my face, not that I wanted to. I flexed my abs and my biceps, satisfied.
Fully dressed, I brushed my fingers through my new, thick, golden ringlets as I rummaged in my bag for my cell.
“Hey, honey.” David answered his phone after the second ring.
“I have something to tell you, which will blow your mind,” I blurted out, holding my screams back.
“What is it?”
“I can’t tell you on the phone; you must come home immediately.”
“You know I can’t leave like that. Is there an emergency?” his voice sounded more bored than hyper.
“No, no. But it’s very important.”
“Even if I wanted to go, the chief wouldn’t let me go because we are short on guys today.”
“Don’t worry about it then.” With the magical wand, I didn’t need him to call other firefighters to trade time.
Cutting his words off, I hung the phone up and asked that today would be my husband’s day off.
Nothing seemed to happen. Weird. Could I have run out of wishes?
Recalling a piece of paper the fortuneteller had given me, I rushed upstairs to search for it in my pocket.
“Honey, come back to bed.” David’s voice came from the bed, startling me.
“Good heavens! You scared me.”
“What’s going on here? Where are we?” he wondered, looking as though he’d seen a dead man walking.
“I know, it’s insane,” I whispered as I sprang onto the bed and sat on his legs. “It might be too much to comprehend at first, but you must listen to me very carefully. Remember I went to the movie studio last night with Melinda?”
David nodded, still looking pale and strangely marveling at me.
“My new body caught your eye, right?” I giggled, interrupting my explanation.
David didn’t respond, only widened his eyes.
“The whole set was built like a medieval town,” I continued. “Around eleven, I struggled to keep my eyes open, but I let Melinda talk me into standing in line in front of a hut where a strange lady was telling people their future. I didn’t take it seriously, but it seemed to mean a lot to her, so I agreed.
“I let Melinda have the first turn, and when it was my time to go, the lady grasped my hand, and murmured to me that I was her one-hundredth customer of the day. She said she would honor me with a gift greater than just telling me my future. She handed me a wood stick, and called it a magic wand. You see?” I showed the wand to David and he suspiciously took it from my hand.
“Careful, it’s very powerful,” I warned him, and I felt a pitch in my stomach from letting it out of my control.
“She told me this short rhyme, something like ‘Make a wish and don’t be scared, Finalize it with a sprinkle of spell’ and then she handed me this torn-out notebook page with…oh no.” I rushed back to last night’s pile of clothes and pulled the pants out to search the pockets for the note with the two words.
David still hadn’t recovered from the shock; he continued to sit up in bed, examining the wand.
“Now I remember. I only have one permanent wish. As soon as I say the spell, everything else will disappear,” I said, somewhat upset.
“Wait a minute,” David stopped me, holding his temple. “So you’re saying that whatever we wish for, this wand makes it come true?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying. I know it seems unreal, but I can assure you it’s very much real.   Just look around if you don’t believe me.”
“You wished all this?” David asked, now standing on the carpet in front of me.
I nodded.
“This is the most powerful thing on earth! Can you imagine the possibilities?” He looked at me, eyes smoldering, and I wasn’t sure what to make of it.
“I know! We could wish to be the richest people on the planet, or to live in Malibu, or never be sick, anything we want,” I raved.
David backed up a step, looking lost in his thoughts.
“That would be extremely selfish. We must think of something bigger, something universal.”
He was always the strong foundation of our marriage, the responsible one. I guess his response didn’t even faze me.
“How about this: let’s wish that nobody would be sick anymore, or die?” I suggested.
“That desire could have devastating results. Try to imagine that babies are still being born, but nobody dies. In a hundred years there would be humans on every square inch of the planet.” He brushed away my first unselfish suggestion.
“Then let’s make everybody filthy rich!”
“And who would work then?”
“True,” I agreed, frustrated.
I started to pace up and down the room, peeking at my watch. It was almost 7 a.m., and we only had minutes before the kids would invade our sanctuary. I felt the pressure to come up with something worthy.
David, unlike me, was rooted to one spot, still wondering about the harmless-looking stick.
Then it struck me. “Religion! We should wish that everybody believe in God and obey his rules. Faith would bring the best out of people and make them humble.” I was clapping my hands with glee.
“Sounds like a good one. But…,” this small word erased my happy face, “if people worship God blindly, then there will always be a man who will use their faith for control.”
At this point I felt like an idiot. Maybe I shouldn’t have brought my husband home. I could have wished for a giant bank account in the Cayman Islands and say I won the lottery. But, on the other hand, he was my better half, the man who brought the best out of me.
“Maybe you should come up with something, then,” I offered, smiling.
“I think wishing that man wouldn’t be able to commit a violent act upon a fellow human, or to any living thing on Earth,” David said, calmly and deliberately.
“This is a magnificent idea! I’m so proud of you,” I said, tears gathering in my eyes. I wreathed my arms around him, burying my face into his athletic body.
He salted my hair on the top of my head with his kisses and after long minutes of silence, he gently parted us.
“Are you sure that everything else will turn back to its original state when you say the spell?”
I shrugged with an uncertain face.
“You’ll be okay to wish for mankind and not for us?”
I looked down at my perfect breasts, and my tightened muscles, sobbing.
“I am,” I stated, and to show how serious I was, I took the wand from his hand, walked to the balcony and made the final wish, pointing to the sky.
Reading the note, I yelled the spell into the air, “desiderio ultima!”
When I faced our bedroom again, the same old boring room stared back at me. David was gone – probably back at the fire station – and my extra weight was hanging on me.
I dropped to my bed, exhausted, and closed my eyes.
The blazing sun beat upon me in the morning. A stinky diaper in the face and my children’s giggling aroused me.
Magical memories hovered in my mind, and I reached for the wand. I wished, but nothing happened. Was it only a dream, I wondered? I shrugged and put my running shoes on. I don’t need a special wand to change my life. All I need is a strong will, I told myself.
I was still sweating on the treadmill when David got home. His jaw dropped from seeing me upbeat and working out.
“Oh, you haven’t seen anything yet,” I chuckled, pointing to the design magazines spread out on the table. “Buckle your seatbelt because we’re traveling into a new era.”

Dragonfly 

Cocooned in the corner of my delicate-fawn-colored seat, I wished for a groundbreaking storm, a tornado, anything that would divert us from our path. But it was early July in California, and no more than a light summer shower was expected. My hopes soon vanished when the rising sun peeked over the horizon, dragging nothing else but the plain, sparkling blue sky with it. It was the dawn of another scorching day.
Only a moment ago a fresh breeze caressed my skin and the dewdrops glistened on the side of the road, but it was getting hot quickly. The sun rose in a hurry and brightness surrounded us as golden light beams escaped the orange orbit.
My dad, who until now was sitting in silence next to me, took a deep breath and said, “Honey, can you smell that? Embrace the beauty all around us that only early risers have the privilege to enjoy. “
“Wet grass and manure,” I said, grimacing. “I feel touched that you shared this experience with me.”
His eyes frowned at me, while he was still smiling. “It’s not your fault that you can’t see nature the way I do. I should have been the one to teach you about real values.” He paused, as if a vision possessed his mind.
Recovering from his moment of muse, he turned his eyes to me and tapped my thigh. “It’s never too late to try to make up lost time, right?”
I shrugged, and sank deeper into my seat.
My dad was away on business most of my life and now he wants to be my father? I’ll be an adult in a few months; I’ve already learned everything from books and friends, there is nothing new he can show me, I fumed to myself, thinking of my soft bed at home, where I would rather be, instead of driving with my dad in his car, locked up together for the longest time that I’ve ever spent with him. Also, the fact, that I haven’t had the foggiest idea of where we were heading. I was agitated.
The road was long and boring. Lulled by the soothing sound of the engine and by the sight of the trees flying past, my eyelids became heavy.
Seven o’clock had only just struck when the sudden termination of motion aroused me. Parked on a dirt road, an immense, weedy meadow surrounded us. The vegetation that survived the summer drought now lay on the cracked, haggard ground, drooping, where sweltering flocks of grasshoppers browsed. Only a few birch trees rose high into the air, laying stretched out shadows over the parked cars. In the far distance stood a slate-metal building, and judging by the commuter airplanes in front of it, I assumed it was a hangar.
Screams of laughter broke my stare, which came from a dozen men, standing in the protective cover of a tree, beers in hands.
“What are we doing here?” I asked my dad, puzzled.
“One of my friends owns a one-engine glider and he’s going to take you for a ride this morning,” he responded with such calmness, like there wasn’t a hint of doubt in my approval.
“Hell, no!” I protested vehemently, and grasped my seatbelt to demonstrate that I had no intention of leaving the sanctuary of the vehicle.
“I appreciate your interest in reading and movies, your conscientious attitude in taking care of your dog, but you need to experience something exciting, to open up your mind to a new kind of joy, broaden your perspective.”
“I’m not doing it, Dad,” I opposed, my voice trembling from the thought that he wouldn’t let me pass on this one easily. “You don’t even know me or what I like or not. And this flying is definitely not something I’m interested in trying.”
“Honey, I know you more than you think. I’m well aware that my persistent absence left deep scars in you, but I had no choice. I had to provide for the family. Now, I don’t expect you to understand, nor do I want to preach about parenting. I brought you here, because I love you more than anything, and I can’t stand your beautiful face turning so pale and lifeless. I wish to look upon the rose-lipped, sun-kissed little girl, who used to sit on my lap and tell me stories about her unforgettable days in the garden.”
“I’m not a little girl anymore, Dad.”
“That’s true. You’re a grown-up. So act like one then. Otherwise I’ll think you’re afraid,” he teased.
His accusation of implying I was a coward perturbed me enough to jump out of the car and stalk off toward the group of men.
“You think I’m scared? Watch me,” I said with confidence, disguising the tremors in my stomach.
A foolish-looking man, in his late forties, with messy hair and a big swollen nose stepped forward and introduced himself as Roy, my dad’s friend.
I glanced at the can of beer in his hand and he took note of it. He examined his drink for a moment, then placed it on the top of the white post that held together the wood fence lining the parking lot.
“I only had a sip, don’t worry,” he assured me, smiling halfheartedly. “I don’t fly drunk.”
I nodded unenthusiastically.
His breath was sour, so I stepped back, letting my dad join the conversation. My legs started to tremble from the thought of touching that man, but mostly from the thought of having him as my pilot.
During the next half hour, we talked about safety, the thrill of flying, and the ecstasy of freedom it brought. Mr. Roy shot a few jokes only a middle-aged man could appreciate, and then I followed him to his dragonfly, as he called his plane.
The passenger cab was open and that recognition released a loud exhale from me. I was glad not to smell beer coming from his stomach during the flight.
The arrangement of the glider’s cabin required me to be the first to get into the aircraft, legs wide-open, and knees spread apart.
Mr. Roy, amid groans, plumped into the seat between my legs, and molded his body into mine. I was thoroughly repulsed from the touch of his sweaty and mushy upper body.
He leaned back, turning his face to the side and screamed as the engine roared to life, “I guarantee, this will be a ride to remember. Safe too! No need to worry.” Mr. Roy winked at me, and patted my thigh. A bitter taste developed in my throat from the small vomit I quickly swallowed back.
My dad was standing like a giant god next to us, arms folded at his chest, face worried. His enormous forehead was even squarer with his dark hair swiped to the side. His thick brows were narrowed, his straight-lined lips tight, painting his face with a displeased expression.
Good, I thought, I hope something will happen to me, so he can regret this stupid adventure for the rest of his life.
I was about to unleash a few unladylike words that were on the tip of my tongue, but I couldn’t spit them out because we darted forward.
The sky above was out of my sight from the giant red wings that shielded my view. I nervously grasped the metal bars at my side, palms sweating. My helmet was quivering on my head, and even the well cushioned inside couldn’t isolate the deafening, boisterous sound of the engine.
Roy towered in front of me, leaving me only the two sides to scan. The tires, which were the size of a child’s bicycle tire, bounced on the dirt road, along with my pulse. The end of the runway that initially looked eternally long was now dangerously close, and I tightened my grip as all my muscles flexed in my body.
Then we were lifted into the air by the hot summer wind, over the entrance of the dark forest, and over the flight path of the hovering birds. My toes tingled from the view below, where the landscape dwarfed into well-designed squares and rectangles in the color of dried up wheat. A lush green belt along the creek, which admirably lay on Mother Earth like a giant serpent, mesmerized me.
As we ventured higher, the cars on the road became matchboxes and people shrunk to the size of ants. The air was fresh with a scent I could not quite recognize and whooshed between Roy and me, wildly ruffling locks of my hair over my shoulders. My chest tensed from the overwhelming emotions that whirled in me, while my heart thudded against my ribs so hard I thought they would break. My mouth popped open unwillingly, and I was gulping air. The spellbinding view was almost suffocating me, yet I had never felt happier in my life. I hated to admit it, but I felt like a million dollars and the luckiest girl on earth.
Lowering our altitude, we turned right and left. Gliding over villages and lakes, I looked down at farmers driving their tractors through fields; peeked into the secret life of lovers, as they stole their first kiss, and watched the housewives feeding the livestock or beating the carpet on the fence.
There was the time when I spent the summer with relatives and was part of the provincial life, but it had been years since I even gave a thought of how early their vigorous social life starts bustling here. The image of merry days at Aunt Elizabeth’s flashed in my mind, leaving me with feelings of excitement and curiosity.
I had spent the past few years in stillness and monotony, which served me well until now. As the greatest fool, who purposely excluded herself from every adventure she was offered, I made myself a promise. I would not sit at home waiting for a prince to gallop into my life on a white horse and take me away; I’d be the one to seek all the wonder that life has to offer.
Determined by my decision, I grew calmer and let my mind go blank and absorb the magical world around me.
All too soon, Roy navigated the nose of the glider toward the airport and I realized that we only had a few more moments in the air. My newly surfaced restlessness combined with the terror of the swaying microfiber glider had my heart in my throat again. I was breathing heavily when the crowns of the trees swept the tires of our plane, and I heard the faint waft of wind roaming among its branches. Imagining the result of a sudden impact, I buried my face into Roy’s soft back; he didn’t even stir.
I wished but feared the landing, even though I had no reason to doubt Roy’s capability to bring us to safety; he maintained absolute control over the glider ever since he turned the key to start the engine.
Only a short time had elapsed, while I kept my head bowed, before I remembered my newfound pledge to experience life. I forced my eyes to pop open, but it was too late. The tires hit the ground. It wasn’t a smooth landing. I bounced in my hard plastic seat like a ping-pong ball, bruising my tailbone and smashing my legs into Mr. Roy’s repeatedly.
At last we came to halt, and Mr. Roy awarded me with a charming smile, exposing his irregular teeth. Surprising even myself, I smiled back, warmly and appreciatively.
My dad rushed toward us, carrying the same concerned expression on his face.
After a few attempts to get out, Roy accepted my dad’s helping hand and then Dad hauled me out as well. I thought of a way to stay calm and behave as a grown-up, but I was too excited to stay still. I jumped onto my dad’s neck, and thanked him for the unforgettable experience. He wrapped his arms around me, satisfied. Just as I realized how exposed my emotions were, I blushed from my actions and withdrew from our hug.  
On an average summer morning at this hour of the day I used to roll over to enjoy more sleep, but this day I was ready for brunch. Hungry like a wolf and anxiously awaiting the opportunity to tell my dad about the flight, I expressed my gratitude to Roy and bid him farewell.
After a long and undisturbed flood of my joy, my dad pulled over to a roadside diner. He scrutinized me with his eyes, radiating warmth, but not talking. I returned his gaze, while my brain was busy processing old images of the younger version of my father, carrying me on his shoulders. At that moment, I knew I loved him and that he loved me back. From this realization, I was suffused with blissfulness, a feeling, which had evaded my heart for years.
“Do you think Aunt Elizabeth would welcome me in her house for a visit?” I broke the silence first.
“I’m sure she would be fond of the idea.”
“Maybe Emily needs a friend too. You know, someone who would go to the orchard to steal apples with her, like we used to when we were kids.” I pondered out loud.
“I think you’re right. You shouldn’t let that lovely Emily be alone all summer.” Dad paused for a moment, and then he embraced me.
“Dad, people are watching,” I whined and he abruptly let me go.
“Sorry,” he chuckled and retreated. “Sometimes I forget that you are almost an adult.”
“Thank you, Dad.” The words slipped from my tongue.
He winked at me and said, “I’m starving. Let’s get something to eat.”
The smell of hay mixing with bacon lingered in the air with the sun fiercely shining, while I was daydreaming about the summer vacation I’d soon share with Emily at Aunt Elizabeth’s house.

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