Make a Wish
July 26, 2019
This prompt was a birthday theme. A cake, candles, a wish, and consequences. Good or bad. I was a little late, being in Toronto, and was a little over the limit of 1000 words, at 1020.
Make a Wish
They’d given Stanley a month to live, but he would have preferred a year. Not for himself, as at 80 he figured he’d had a full enough life. A healthy life, yet here he was, with a cancer in his gut the doctors had hoped to only slow with drugs. Maybe it was time to give in to death’s demands.
But he’d miss his son. They’d been estranged for years but now Daniel was trying to reconnect. It was working, but they just needed a few more months.
"I need more time," he said.
"Don’t we all."
He opened his eyes. "What did you say?" One of the hospital’s cleaners was mopping by the door. Not from the regular crew of short, quick Filipino women. She was tall, slim, with dark hair, beautiful green eyes, and a long straight nose. With a certain agelessness about her.
She smiled. "Time with your son, right? I know, I see things."
"Do you see me lasting a year?" he said. "He’ll be here tomorrow, for my birthday. I’m sure it will be my last."
"Will you have a cake, with candles?"
He chuckled. "Not 80 of them I hope, I’ll never blow them out in one try."
"My people believe the candles are lit to honour our goddess of the moon, Artemis. And when you blow them out, the smoke carries your wishes up to the heavens. Try wishing for more time with your son. You were a strong man, maybe you just need a bit of extra help."
She lifted her mop. "But I must go. More work awaits me" Before he could even ask her name, she’d disappeared into the hallway.
Daniel did bring a cake, with eight candles on it, one for each decade.
"Happy Birthday Dad, and hopes for more of them. You can fight this you know. They say attitude really matters."
His son might be right. Stanley wasn’t particularly religious, but it couldn’t hurt to be positive, even if it was a little unrealistic. Maybe he could beat the odds. He made his wish, blew, and watched as eight tiny wisps of smoke rose to the ceiling.
"To another year," he said.
Two weeks later, his doctor dropped by with a sheaf of papers and a concerned look.
"Doctor, what’s the bad news?"
"None, Stanley. Your latest results show a big improvement. The drugs were sort of working, but this is unexpected. Fingers crossed."
Stanley continued to improve over the next weeks and months. He could feel the wish, and his son’s company, buoying him up. He became an outpatient and moved back home, where his son visited him daily. They started taking little day trips, and discovered a common interest in art, and an appreciation for fine wine. He tried to explain his theory of his new health to his son, without success.
"A mystery woman, with some sort of prophecy? Dad, I think you were just hallucinating. Be practical, this is just solid medicine".
But his cancer was gone.
For 11 months.
Once again, his doctor looked concerned. "I’m sorry Stanley. It’s back, even more so. I’m admitting you this afternoon."
Two weeks later he was moved to the cancer ward ICU, hooked up to a suite of machines and tubes. His son was a frequent visitor, but seemed to be ready for the end.
"I made it to another birthday, son. But we deserve, more. In two days I’ll do the cake thing again and make another wish. I need to get recharged."
Daniel shook his head. "Dad, that’s just a superstition. Birthday wishes are fine for kids, but now we need to trust in medicine. At least the doctors can ease your final few days."
He did have a cake, with no candles, but was too nauseous to have more than a single bite. His son had started sleeping near his bed in the ICU. Stanley could feel the inevitable end fast approaching, but still hoped for a miracle.
He lay awake one night, as he often did, listening to the beeps and clicks of his machine, and his son’s snoring. He sensed another presence in the room.
"Hello? Is anyone there?"
A tall figure stepped into the moonlight.
"Oh, it’s you. Where’s your mop?"
"I’m off today," she said. "You don’t look so good, my friend."
"I don’t feel so good," he said. "The last year was a gift—thank you. But I wish I had more. I tried to do the candle thing, but my son wouldn’t go along."
"A gift? No, I’m just a cleaning lady. You know, you’re a good man Stanley. So is Daniel." She paused. "Why don’t you stick around for another decade? Your son is a practical man, and trusts in medicine, but maybe he needs a nudge. I’ll see what I can do. Kali tychi my friend."
This time she just stepped back into the shadows.
The next morning, Stanley awoke to find his son standing next to him, holding a small bag.
"Dad, I decided you deserved one last try. So, tada!"
He pulled a cupcake out of the bag, with a candle in the middle.
"The nurses will kill us if we’re caught, but do you think you can manage one candle for your wish?"
Stanley smiled. "Bring it on."
A gentle puff from his tired body, and the whisp of smoke rose to the ceiling. Right into the smoke detector.
Within minutes security had bundled his son out the door. They checked Stanley and his machines over, then left, with his request to please bring him some Jello. Lime, preferably.
Daniel was back the next day, under the watchful eye of a nurse. He grinned at his dad. "Wow, were they ever pissed."
"Yes, but they still managed to find me some Jello. I haven’t used my morphine boost yet this morning, and I even nibbled on a piece of toast. Dry though, no jam. But I have a feeling I’ll be ready for some real food soon. Even if it is hospital food."
What a wonderful story. It gave me chills. It was touching and dignified, and never crossed the line into slushy. I can't help but wish that every year on his birthday, Stanley blows out another candle and gets another ten. He deserves every extra minute he gets.
Posted by: Joyce Juzwik | July 27, 2019 at 10:33 AM