This is Part 2 of 3, of The Lonely Wish, from my book, Go West or Go Weird. Click here to read Part 1.
The Lonely Wish (Continued)
The next day I started to walk into town. I was no longer a crippled man, so now I figured I could look my fellow brethren straight in the eye and ask ’em to let me do an honest day’s work for an honest day’s wage. I felt like a respectable man. An upright respectable man, now that I was a whole man.
But before I got to town a temptin’ thought hit me. I thought, supposin’ I should stay out of town for jist one more night and see if that lucky star comes out again. Then I could wish for enough money so that I wouldn’t even have to work. I could go into town and be not only respectable, but also rich.
Shore enough, that night the lucky star did come out again, fillin’ up the eastern horizon with all its brilliant shinin’ colors.
“Lucky star,” I said, “I wish I could have a thousand dollars in gold, right here in my pocket.”
My pocket suddenly ripped, and the weight of a thousand dollars in gold fell down my pant leg and hit my foot.
So I wished that my foot would stop hurtin’, and it did. Amazingly, the pain just went away like blowin’ a candle out.
That night I also wished for a new suit and a fine horse. I got both, and rode into town the next day a rich and respectable man, who only two nights earlier had been standin’ on a bridge contemplatin’ suicide.
I turned the heads and eyes of a lots of folks, especially a lot of women-folks. But not too many of the younger, more attractive women were lookin’ at me, and I realized it was because of my age. I was 48 years old and had the kind of wrinkles an 80-year-old might have, due to all the misery I’d been through the past few years.
But I was a man with a lucky star, so that evenin’ I wished I could be twenty years old again.
The next day the young women were finally lookin’ at me, and I told ’em I was the rich son of that old galoot who’d come through the day before.
Soon I had it all. I had a pretty young wife, a mansion, fine horses, lots of money, and lots of respect from the townsfolk. I was a rich, respectable young man, far from that old white trash dirt farmer who’d been burned out way back in Georgia. I was a man who owned a lucky star. And all of my wishes were comin’ true.
But after awhile I learned not to wish for too much. I learned that havin’ too much money, too many possessions—too much of anythin’, in fact—was dangerous. It got people to talkin’. And talk about a wealthy man attracted thieves. Thieves have been known to kill for money, and I did not want to die for what I had wished for.
You see, my lucky star was no good to me by day. It was only good for me at night, when I could see it. And if it should happen to be a cloudy night, then it still worn’t no good for me. If I couldn’t see my lucky star, I could wish ’til my lips turned blue and it wouldn’t do me no danged good. I had to see it, to wish on it effectively.
So I learned to be careful about my wealth. I learned that by jist bein’ borderline rich I could feel safe enough from thieves, or from jealous poor people, or the like.
I learned to keep a low profile and not to make much of an impression on people. That kept the talk down, and helped me feel more comfortable with my wealth.
Somethin’ I refused to do was let myself age. I loved bein’ twenty years old. For one thing, it made thieves think twice about attackin’ me—young, strappin’ and healthy as I appeared. Also, I was afraid that by aging I would be more susceptible to ill health. I didn’t want to suddenly get sick and wind up dyin’ before I could get a chance to see my lucky star and wish myself back into good health. That was a great fear of mine.
But unfortunately I had to let my wife age. Wishin’ her to stay young would eventually lead to some questions bein’ asked, and then a lot of talk that could become harmful. Perhaps people would accuse her and me of bein’ in league with the devil or somethin’. I was afraid of that kind of talk, and what it could lead to.
But after about ten years, people did begin to talk. They talked about me, and why I wasn’t aging. They wondered aloud, and even joked half good-naturedly with me about it. The handwritin’ was on the wall, and I knew the time had come for me to leave. Leavin’ seemed to be my only option.
My wife was a nice enough person I guess, but the time had come. So one mornin’ she woke up and I wasn’t in bed next to her. I had moved on.
I wound up in another town a thousand miles away. I took on a new identity, with new looks, to keep from bein’ recognized by someone from my past who might come travelin’ through my present. I wished myself new wealth, and began courtin’ young women.
Soon I was all set up again, just like before. And for another ten years I was able to live the life of a comfortably rich, but quiet man, with a beautiful young wife. No one talked about me much or bothered me very often. In fact I think I was hardly ever even thought about.
And the cycle continued. Decade after decade I would pull up stakes and start a new life somewhere else. The years were like a gentle breeze on a summer day—they just seemed to slip by without me noticin’ anythin’ but a pleasant good time.
The years rolled on into the twentieth century. And on they went, through World War I, the Great Depression, the Second World War, and the Korean War. And on I went, with my lucky star as my guide.
But somethin’ was a’changin’ inside me. I guess I was goin’ through a kind of a personal crisis. I was feelin’ kind of hollow inside. More and more all the time. I would look back at all my wives and all my lives and ask myself if it had been worth it. I would ask myself if I was really happy. I would want to know what the meanin’ of life was. And I would want to know if I was fulfillin’ the meanin’ of life.
But when I boiled it all down, I decided I was just plain old lonely. Here I’d had so many wives and I had left them all, each time just when I was beginnin’ to know and appreciate them. And they had never gotten to know me. I had lied to each and ever one of ‘em about my past and the source of my wealth, because I didn’t want ‘em to know about my lucky star. I was afraid they wouldn’t believe me. Or that if they did believe me they would talk about it to others. Talk seemed to be the most dangerous enemy I had. And so to prevent talk about myself, I had to keep from talkin’ about myself. And that meant remainin’ lonely, even with my wives.
The Vietnam War busted loose on a lonely world for me. I had just left another wife, who was beginnin’ to wonder how I’d kept my young looks for so long. This time, I vowed, I would not get married again until I met a woman who I could trust. A woman who I could tell the truth to about myself, and who wouldn’t talk it around to others. A woman who I could get to know, and who could get to know me. A woman who I wouldn’t feel lonely with. This time I would wait until I met such a woman.
In 1969 I met Penelope Frooze. She was 25—a little older than what I was used to. But she was a darn purty woman. Beautiful both on the outside and on the in. She was someone I could talk to in confidence, and who I knew would keep the cats in the bag. She just had that special kind of personality that could make a believer out of anyone who came into contact with her. Includin’ myself. She was sympathetic, humorous, happy, gregarious, fun, and interestin’ to be with.
An’ I loved her.
She was a waitress at a diner. That’s where I met her. Her husband was over in ‘Nam, fightin’ commies. Well, that was his problem. I had me a lucky star and he didn’t.
And I was determined to make Penelope my wife.
But Penelope had to volunteer to be my wife. I wanted someone who I could trust and talk to, not someone I had to force and be afraid of.
End of Part 2. Come on back tomorrow, for Part 3, and the conclusion to this tale.
Categories: Series (Stories): Go West Or Go Weird