I watched him.
For years, I watched him.
Wandering into the forest, the boy with rags. Holes in his soles. He’d wander in, following the old rocks. Leap the fallen logs. Meander through the fallen leaves until, at last, he’d find it.
And, that poor boy—do you know what he’d do?
Toss a copper.
Make a wish.
Throw offerings into the well.
Hope that his prayers said before the stones were heard. That his wish would rise off the water, echo into the heavens.
Tossing his living into the well.
As I said: years went by.
I watched as he tossed in copper after copper. Made trek after trek. Silently said wish after wish. And, I began to wonder:
What did he do to earn those coppers? How long did he beg? What was sacrificed to make that wish? For his prayers to be echoed through the drop in the well?
I wondered, and still, I said nothing.
I said nothing.
He’s older now. The boy with rags. Who throws coppers. Who begs in front of everyone but, most of all, the wishing well.
I wonder what he wishes for.
He jerks, surprised. Startled. A little terrified.
“A forest spirit,” I provide easily, wanting to move on from his shock so I can know. “I’ve seen you toss the coppers. You are quite vigilant. Every week—sometimes two, three times a week—I see you toss your coins. Tell me: what do you wish for?”
He blinks, taking my words in. Slowly, as if it were a strong drink. One of his first.
“I… I can’t tell you.”
I laugh, grinning at him as the sound dies out.
“Well, that’s rather rude. I ought to keep my knowledge to myself then. But… I suppose I won’t. I’ll tell you anyway boy: your wish won’t come true.”
He does a double-take. Blinking harshly at me.
I chuckle again. Giddy.
This was not a trick that I played. No, not me. Not by any means. Only:
One that the world played.
One that the world does play.
Grinning, I tell the boy. Give the truth to him gleefully. Merrily. Delivering the cutting news with swift delight.
“There’s tons of copper down there, boy, but there’s nothing to hold it. Haven’t you noticed? There’s no water in the wishing well.”
The boy drops his jaw. Picks it up.
A wish can only be made in the waters of a well. Why—a wishing well is useless without water.
I grin at him as he gawks. Stutters.
I nod at him. “It’s true. I am a faerie, I cannot lie.”
I nod again, more insistent now.
“There’s never been any water in the wishing well.”
He peeks over the side, mortified. Horrified. And finds that everything I’ve said is true.
There are coppers.
But all without water.
There are no wishes being heard in this well.
After that day, I figured I’d never see him again. That the boy and his coppers would be gone.
It wasn’t so.
The very next day, he came back. Determined. Renewed. Not with coppers or coins.
But with a bucket.
Full of water.
Make your wish boy.
Make your wish.
If the heavens don’t hear, I certainly will.
Make your wish boy, toss as many coppers as you want. I will hear you.
Bring me your water.