By Emily Clemente
So then I threw in a penny, and you threw in a penny, and then Sammy threw in two nickels, and you added three quarters, and we kept tossing and hurtling until our arms felt all sore, the same way they used to ache with excitement when we thought we could help her play house, even though we knew we could never do it good enough. We couldn’t scrub the counters pretty enough, we couldn’t make the shortbread buttery enough, we couldn’t hear her cackle loud enough, and now that she was gone, we couldn’t get our wishes out fast enough.
The water gurgled and spat digestive noises at us. It must have been too much, too many wishes. We were selfish asking for so much, just like she’d always told us, but today we didn’t care. She’d left all three of us for good with a scribbled note on the screened-in porch and her hope chest with all the coins still inside, the ones she’d had long before me or you or Sammy, and now they were all ours.
“Can I toss the chest?” you asked, your pointed eyes aimed at the two of us, and Sammy and I looked at each other and shrugged. Why not, we figured. That belonged to us too. Just like she’d given you her laugh, and Sammy her curls, and me the mole on the right side of my cheek, it was a part of us now, she couldn’t take it back.
You stood there for a moment, hesitant. I knew you had a lot of questions. You wanted to know what color the well was underneath everything, how many coins were in there, how many of them were ours and how many of them were the dreams of someone else. Maybe I could have helped you find the answers, but I think most of all, you wanted to know if any of those wishes would ever come true, and it was a question so big, so empty like Mom and the wishing well itself, that all I could tell you to do was to go ahead and toss it. And you did.
“Look,” Sammy said. Our reflections were lined up in the water like three little silhouettes as we stared down into the murky fountain. Mom’s chest was gone, nothing left but a tiny ripple in the bottom of the well.
Emily Clemente is a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She looks forward to completing a Senior Honors Thesis in Fiction during the 2021-2022 academic year, and her work has been featured in Every Day Fiction literary magazine.
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