“Are you even listening to me?”
Abby shouted the words, and they fell on Dave like a rain of arrows. As much as they pierced him, he refrained from telling her.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
“‘I’m sorry.’” She mocked him. “That’s all I ever hear, that you’re sorry. Well, guess what? Sorry isn’t going to cut it anymore. You spend more time with him than with me. What the hell’s going on? Are you trying to tell me you’re gay?”
Dave laughed the first time she’d brought it up. Under the fierceness of her assault, he still wanted to snicker.
“You need to decide now, Dave.” Abby put her hands on her hips. “Either stop seeing him or stop seeing me.”
The words were right there on his tongue, begging for release. He took in air to give them their freedom then simply swallowed and said nothing.
Abby huffed and spun around. At the front door of their house, she turned and looked into the living room. She growled with frustration then stormed out.
Dave heard the car start and speed out of the driveway.
Ian joined him in the hallway.
“Now?” he said.
“No,” said Dave. “Not yet.”
Section 14, three rows above the dugout, were expensive seats. On an ordinary day, they wouldn’t be, but for Game 7, they had cost Dave a double-handful of bills out of the chest.
The Cubs had been down by a run to begin the ninth inning. A seeing-eye single and a steal put the home team in scoring position. A bunt put him ninety feet away, but a shallow fly kept him there. Now, with two outs, the National League batting champion only had to make contact to tie the game and keep it alive.
Three balls, two strikes. He fouled one off. Everyone was on their feet.
“How about now?” Ian asked, and Dave considered it.
The pitcher leaned in for the sign then set.
“No,” Dave said.
Fastball, swing and a miss. The Red Sox stormed the mound and celebrated a World Series win while the Cubs’ losing streak continued.
The hospital room was a dark place and not just because so little light came in from the drawn curtains. Dave reached out and touched her hand. It was warm but lifeless.
“I’m ready,” he said.
Ian jumped off the couch and ran to the bed. He stood over Dave, vibrating with excitement.
“Really?” he said with the enthusiasm of a child on his birthday.
“Yes. I wish there was a cure for cancer.”
“Done!” Ian clapped his hands together and skipped in place, variously making woohoo and whee sounds.
Dave looked at his mother. Her face remained impassive, skin loosened on a withering frame.
“She’s not better,” said Dave.
“Of course, she isn’t,” said Ian. “It’s stage four lung cancer. Nothing’s going to help her.”
“I wished for a cure.”
“And there is one. Right now, Doctor Sylvie Bros of the de Duve Institute has successfully performed human trials that have cured late stage cancer of several varieties. Her team’s work will garner a Nobel as early as next year.”
“But my mother…”
“What did you expect, Dave?” Ian shouted the question. “For five years you’ve kept me trapped with you, hogging up your third wish.”
“I didn’t want to waste it.” Dave whispered the words.
“No one ever wastes the wishes. They only waste the results. You wished for money, you got it. You wished for love, you got that, too. Abby left because you’re too stupid to see I was in the way. If you told her about me you would have lost your last wish, but you would have kept her. And where’s all your money? Right here in the hospital coffers. If you invested it, you’d have plenty. You didn’t do any of that. All you did was make me miserable.”
“I thought you’d be happy out of your lamp.”
“The lamp is my home, moron. In there I have everything I want. Out here, in your world of hunger and pain, I have nothing. You’ve heard me say it a million times. Again, too stupid to listen.”
Tears filled Dave’s eyes.
“I don’t want her to die,” he said.
“Everybody dies,” Ian said without emotion. “Even us, though it takes longer. You should be happy your wish extended the lives of countless others, that it eased the suffering of so many. If you weren’t an idiot you might see that. Goodbye, Dave.”
Ian vanished, replaced by a soft pop and a puff of smoke that smelled of cinnamon.
Dave held his mother’s hand. It felt like a warm bag of sticks. With wet cheeks, he realized he was stupid, after all. He should have wished for more wishes.
Robert J. Santa has been writing speculative fiction for more than twenty-five years. He lives in Rhode Island, USA with his beautiful wife and two, equally beautiful daughters. When not writing, Robert is the editor-in-chief of Ricasso Press. Technically, he is also the editor-in-chief of Ricasso Press when he is writing.