Another segment from my upcoming collection of short stories A Treasure Greater and Other Short Stories. This short story is entitled For One Day.
For One Day
Jonathan Scott Griffin
The smell of sour pickles, stale cotton candy, and hot dogs sizzling over the grills freely intermingle under the rainbow of neon lights. I should find this all enchanting. Instead I find it’s giving me a headache. It’s also too loud. The sounds of the carnival games, in which balls slam against glass, and of crying children is giving me a migraine.
It all feels hopeless. None of the joy can pass through the thick wall of depression that has been gradually built around me by the hands of society. Sure. Blame me if you must. It’s what everyone does. Never mind that I blame myself for my business failures, or that I blame myself for the recent divorce of my wife. And even though I’m in debt for my bad decisions, does it mean that I should have to face life alone? My family and my friends have abandoned me. Oh sure, they say that they’re there for me, but that’s nothing more than a feel-good lie. None are able to take me in after I fall. And willing to help pay my debt? Not a chance!
Do I sound spoiled? I’m entitled to be. I’ve always been there in a jiffy for my friends and family, loaning them money when they were short. I stayed at the hospital, through all hours of the night, with one friend after she was in a car accident. I let another crash at my house when he was having marital problems; heck maybe this helped cause my own marital problems! I have taken so much time for them, because I was under the false impression that they would do the same for me. But life isn’t fair. Maybe this is why my business and my marriage suffered. I didn’t take enough time for myself. But thinking so is only a cheap cop out. It’s more than just not just giving myself enough me time. I just wasn’t a good businessman to begin with. Yes, I can program like no other, being able to do everything from design my own websites, to programming code, and programming my own games, and to being a top notch hacker – not that I hacked, at least not very often – but when it came to business sense I was inept. I have always been a notoriously poor salesman. It was stupid to think that I could run the business without hiring a consultant.
Trying to not give myself any more of a pity-party, I try to get lost in my surroundings. But I kick myself in the butt for even thinking that wasting a little bit of my money on this sideshow of cheap stuffed animals, expensive garbage food, and expensively low quality rides was a good idea. Everyone here is a walking reminder, molded from my memory into physical form that people care about themselves first. Each of these people carry their own cross, drinking the dregs from their own bitter cups. Some are just better at hiding it than others. The only people who seem truly at ease are the children. Well there are children throwing tantrums, but least they are still being honest that not all is well.
I pass by game stalls. Throw the rings on the bottle, or shoot however many figurines and win a cheap prize. No. I take it back. The cheap figurines and the bottles are probably worth more than the cheap prize. It would be less expensive to buy one of those stuffed animals from a store than blow all my money on tickets here. I almost break down, knowing that my ex-wife loved stuffed animals. I would good naturedly tease her about it, telling her that she was too old for them. Now I would gladly pay in blood to give her as many of them as she wanted.
No use beating myself up. Society is already making me pay for my mistakes, and they won’t be satisfied until I’m finished paying out the nose.
I think of riding the ferris wheel. It looks like a large, golden circle lighting up the night sky. But what’s the point? I certainly won’t enjoy the view of flashy lights. Who knows, I might even throw myself off when I’m right at the top in order to forget my problems. The ferris wheel is a sick reminder that life takes us up, only to take us down again, and then up, and then down, and then up, and then when the ride is over we are down again instead of up. Death is a downer. So scratch that. In fact, none of the rides look interesting. This only reiterates that coming here was a waste of time and money.
Then my eyes fall onto something. It’s a tent glowing a pale green, and there is a sign on it which reads Madame Antoaneta: Wish Granter.
Should I step in? Why not! It’s not like I have anything else going on.
The same shade of pale green is inside the tent as outside. There are strings of lanterns hanging down with what looks like a green fire burning within; a nice special effect! Woven tapestries of stars, the moon, and of the sun are hung around the walls of the tent, and below my feet is a rug with the designs of leafy trees on it. A table is in the center, and behind it sits an old looking Romanian woman, minus the hairy warts that you so often get in stereotypes. She is wearing the traditional garb, though, a bandana around the head, golden circlets around her arms, a sari-like skirt with a piece of bright yellow fabric tied around it at the waist, and a white blouse.
“I have been expecting you,” she says.
“So, are you going to grant me my wish,” I phrase it more in a sarcastic manner than I do a question.
“If you wish me to do so, Robert Donavan.”
“What did you say?” I can’t believe she knows my name.
“Robert Donavan, age forty-three,” she speaks as if she were casually talking about the weather. “Your software business is failing, and will like your marriage.”
“Get out of town,” I nearly choke. “There’s no way you could know all that.”
“There is,” she insists. “Your energy is written like a book, and those who train themselves can learn how to read it.”
This is unbelievable. If you had of asked me years ago – heck what am I saying – if you had of asked me just this afternoon, I would have said that fortune tellers were frauds. Then again, as far as I know she could still be a fraud. There’s always such a thing as a lucky guess. Still, I play along. The woman’s relentless. To prove her point that she’s the real deal, she tells me the exact date of when I started my company, and the name of it. I tell myself that she could have easily looked at my website online. This makes perfect sense. I have my picture on my software website, as well as the date I started my company, and of course my name is on there as the founder. As for trouble with my marriage, that’s just a lucky guess on her part. I mean, what entrepreneur or dreamer doesn’t have problems in their relationships? The list of divorces among the brilliant are endless.
“I know you’ve had financially difficulties,” she continues, and I wish that she’d shut up. “However, I can grant you one wish. Any wish you like.”
What the heck! Why not? It’s not like anything’s going to happen. “Sure,” I say, trying not to sound condescending.
“Are you sure?” Madame Ant- whatever hear name is – is looking at me intently.
“Why wouldn’t I be? Is there some sort of voodoo curse attached?”
“I’m not a practitioner of the dark arts,” the gypsy flares at me.
“Right, right, right!” I try to calm her down. Some people have no sense of humor. “Anyway, what is this string attached?”
“Your wish will only last for one day,” the gypsy holds up a finger to drive the point across, as though I’m deaf.
“Fine,” I say to her. “I wish for a pepperoni” –
I’m surprised when I feel her hand slap me hard against my face. Boy! She hits hard for an old lady. I rub my face, knowing full well it won’t make the sting go away.
“Don’t mock,” she says. “I know the troubles you face, but mocking will not ease the pain. Nor can you hide from your pain. You must face it. But before doing so, I’m giving you the opportunity to have one day of happiness. But don’t treat this lightly. Think about it, and then make a decision.”
Taking my hand in hers, she closes my hand around something that feels wooden and polished. I open my hand to find some sort of pendent carved like a box. There are strange symbols, of some sort of language, inked on all sides of it.
“When you are serious, then make your wish!” Her voice isn’t mellow, and she’s aggressively poking me in the chest. “Remember, your wish can only last for one day! So make that one day special!”
“Should I wish for money?” I ask.
“Do you find that wise?”
“How should I know?” I almost shout.
She’s looking at me sadly, and I hate it. I’m not asking for her pity. I try to give her a look back, indicating to her that I’m in no more mood for these shenanigans, but she doesn’t get the picture.
“What good would money do?” she asks. “You would only have that money for one day, and anything you do with that money on the one day you have it will all vanish by the next day.”
“Then what’s the point?” By now I’m exasperated. This is worse than only the three wishes rule.
She’s undeterred by my anger. “The point is to make that wish count. To make you appreciate that one day for a lifetime. Can you really appreciate being really rich for one day?”
“Maybe if that one day is spent getting drunk off fine wine, or spending it with blond bombshells, then yeah.”
“Those are superficial reasons,” she says. “Can you not think of anything more pure, more rewarding?”
“I have no idea,” I shrug.
“Exactly,” she agrees, “but after you give it much thought, you’ll know what you need.”
“You don’t know what I need!” I shout.
If I think I can bring her to my level, I’m sadly made to look like a fool. She remains calm as she tells me, “You’re right, I don’t. But if you look in your heart, even if you have to do some deep searching, you will find what you’re looking for.” She sighs. “Now please, go think it over.”
And just like that I can’t get a word in edgewise, as this old gypsy, – the crone is stronger than she looks – is pushing me out of her tent, while trying to act polite about it.
The rest of this short story can be read at https://www.booksie.com/475129-for-one-day
(C) Jonathan Scott Griffin