The Lonely Wish, Part 3 of 3
This is the conclusion to The Lonely Wish, from my book, Go West or Go Weird. For earlier Parts, click on the links below:
The Lonely Wish (Conclusion)
One night it was closin’ time at the diner, when Penelope sat down by the counter beside me. She had been a faithful wife up until now, but this time she really seemed interested in me, like I’d caught her special attention. She studied my face for a few moments an’ was quiet an’ serious in her looks as she sat there. All solemn-like ‘n all. There was just she an’ me an’ some old guy hunched over a cup of coffee way down the way. A little cigarette smoke was rollin’ around in silver-blue river patterns up aroun’ the fluorescent lights.
The whole atmosphere gave me a lonely shake. Made me think of that-there famous painting of another diner. A haunting painting called “Nighthawks” by a feller named Hopper. An’ the empty barrels at the bottom of my soul were ready to pour out my lonely heart.
Suddenly, for the first time in my life, I told someone about my lucky star. Penelope listened with big, round wonderin’ eyes. I told her everythin’. I told her about the Yankee attack on my farm. The attempted suicide. The first time I saw the star. I told her about my wives, about the decades I’d lived in, and about my loneliness. I just broke down an’ told Penelope everythin’.
And then I popped the big one. I asked Penelope to be my wife. I told her it was possible with my lucky star. All she had to do was say yes, and I could make it so. I told her that I loved her, and that she could cure my loneliness. And in return I could make her young forever, and give her everythin’ she wanted. All she had to do was be my wife.
To please be my wife.
Penelope was an angel, she truly was. First, she said she loved her husband too much to leave him for anythin’. An’ she said she could not be unfaithful to her weddin’ vows.
Then she said that I had a problem. She said that she cared for me very much—as a friend—and she thought that I needed some professional help. She told me I should see a psychiatrist.
She urged me to please seek psychiatric help.
For a couple weeks after I did not see Penelope Frooze. Instead I spent my time wonderin’ how I could convince her I was authentic, and not some nut with mental health problems. And how I could convince her to accept my marriage proposal.
Then one day Penelope got a visit from the U.S. Army. It was very bad news. Her husband had been killed in action. She was now a widow.
And a free woman.
I waited about a week, until I thought she was over the worst of her grievin’. The funeral was past, an’ she had just returned to work. So I figured now would be an appropriate time to approach her.
It was evenin’ when I visited her at the diner. I waited around ’til closin’ time, then asked if she’d like to go out for a walk with me.
The sky was clear, and full of bright, twinklin’ stars that evenin’. We walked for a few minutes, and then I stopped and held her arm. I pointed to the east and said, “Penelope, do you see that big star that fills up almost the entire horizon?”
She says, “Is that the lucky star you think you see?”
“I know I see. Don’t you see it?”
“No.” she says. “Listen, I really do think you need some help. It can’t hurt to go and see one of those doctors. There’s nothin’ to be ashamed of. And they can help. They really can.”
“You can’t see it, Penelope, because it’s not your lucky star. It’s mine. But I bet I can help you see it. Just watch.
“Lucky star,” I said, “I wish she could see my lucky star, too.”
I looked over and saw Penelope’s eyes get wider and wider. Yes, now she was seeing it, too. Now she could believe me.
“I see something!” she says, “I really do see it! Oh, it’s beautiful!!”
“That’s my lucky star, Penelope. That’s what I’ve been tellin’ you about. Now do you believe me?”
She looked over at me with wonderment in her eyes. The same look I prob’ly had the first time I saw the star. “Yes,” she slowly says, “. . . yes, I guess I do believe you. I do believe you now.”
“Penelope, I’m tired of bein’ a lonely man. So I have to be honest with you if I expect to truly win your heart. Penelope, I have a confession to make. Whenever I wish upon that star my wish always comes true.
“After I proposed to you, you said you could never break your weddin’ vows. But weddin’ vows say, ‘until death do us part’. So last week, Penelope, I made a wish upon that star. I wished that your husband would be killed in the war. That’s how much I love you and want you. I wished your husband dead. I’m sorry, Penelope. Will you please forgive me?”
Penelope’s face just seemed to twist up like a wrung out washrag just then. She suddenly looked up into the sky and began to cry. “Please tell me you didn’t do this!” she said over and over to me.
I felt like I had to be honest. It was the only way I could end the loneliness that was torturing me so, and begin an authentic relationship with someone.
“I can’t Penelope, I did do it. I’m sorry.”
For a few more minutes she cried.
But then she suddenly looked back up into the sky, and I should have been warned by the fire in her eyes.
Slowly, and with trembling lips, she said, “I wish it was my lucky star, and not his.”
I quickly looked up, but only in time to see my star quickly shrink down to nothin’, just like the picture would shrink down to a little dot on the old TV sets, after you turned ‘em off. It vanished, and for the first time in over a hundred years I saw a night sky without my bright lucky star in it.
I grabbed Penelope and pleaded, “Please, please, bring it back!”
“No.” she said. She was like a rock.
“Please Penelope, please! I must have it back! I can’t live without it! Bring it back! Please! Wish it back for me Penelope.” I demanded! “Wish it back!”
She looked at me and said, “The only thing I should wish is that you were dead.”
“Oh no, no! Please don’t wish that!” I got down on my knees. I’d never felt so helpless and vulnerable before. “Please watch what you wish! Please be careful!”
I’m ashamed to say that I then began squealing in a high voice. “I’ll die if you wish that! Please don’t wish that! Please! Please!!”
She didn’t wish me dead. But I never saw her again, either. The next day I went to her house to beg for my star back. But she was gone. She’d moved out overnight.
I’ve been lookin’ for her ever since. From town to town, city to city I’ve traveled. Searchin’ the phone books for a Penelope Frooze. Prowlin’ around the advantaged homes of the upper-middle class for a glimpse of her.
I suspect she’s made herself somewhat rich with my lucky star. I suspect she’s also changed her identity several times. And I suspect I’ll never find her, in spite of how hard I search.
She’ll be forever young, forever kind of rich, and forever lucky, just the way I was.
I’m gettin’ kinda old now. In about ten years or so I’ll prob’ly die of old age, if it don’t get me sooner. Still, it’s not bad for a guy who was born in 1818, don’t you think?
I doubt if I’ll ever see Penelope Frooze again. But I’ll bet about now she’s startin’ to get a bit lonely herself. And maybe by now she’s lookin’ for someone she can trust. Someone she can share her true self with, just like I thought I could with her.
Perhaps you’ll meet her one day. And perhaps one evenin’ the two of you will go for a walk under some starry night sky.
If she should start talkin’ about some lucky star of hers, tell her you won’t believe it ’till you see it. And when she shows it to you, you know what to do next. Don’t be shy or hesitant, just do it. It’s yours for the takin’, jist like she took it from me.
And you’d be a fool to pass it up.
But if you do take it, I’d like to ask one thing of you. Some evenin’ while you’re lookin’ at your lucky star and makin’ a wish for somethin’ you’ve always wanted, I’d like you to think of me.
And then maybe if you would please, wish a little luck my way, too.