WISHING WELL • by Stef Hall

“Wishing Well — please throw in a coin and make your wish!” the sign proclaimed.

It certainly looked like an official wishing well, with a tiny peaked roof over it and a crank-handle to lower and raise the ropes that presumably held a bucket somewhere in the depths below. Laura leaned over the edge and peered down into the darkness; she could just about make out the shape of the bucket below, the glint of coins in the bottom of the mossy wooden receptacle catching the sun., She wondered if anyone ever winched the bucket up and stole the money. It would be pretty mean to steal people’s wishes, but she didn’t think that would deter some people.

Shrugging she stepped back and rooted in her jeans pocket for a coin. She had only a twenty-pence piece and a shiny new penny. The penny seemed more lucky somehow, so she put the twenty back, closed her eyes, thought about big piles of cash, and flicked the penny into the well.

She imagined it, flashing as it tumbled over and over, disappearing down the long well-shaft. From somewhere deep below there was a hollow splash as it hit the water. She smiled, amused with herself for succumbing to such an old wives’ tale, and turned to go.

She had only taken two steps when she heard a metallic clink behind her. She turned back.

There, a foot away from the well, her shiny penny lay on the pavement in a slowly-spreading patch of damp. Laura frowned and bent to pick it up. She turned it over in her hand, but it was just an ordinary penny. She narrowed her eyes and flicked it back into the well.

The splash came, then ten seconds later the penny came flying back up the well, ricocheted off the underside of the peaked roof and landed between her feet. Laura picked it up and went back to peer down the well again.

“Hello?” she said, feeling rather silly. “Is anyone down there?”

“Yes,” came the reply. “And we don’t want your bloody penny.”

Laura was so surprised she almost tumbled into the well. “Um… I’m sorry… is there something wrong with it?” she asked, unable to believe she was talking to someone down a well.

“Not with the penny itself, with you!” came the voice.

“I beg your pardon?” Laura said.

“You’re a bloody cheapskate, wanting a big wish like that for a penny! You bloody humans are all the same, you all want something for nothing. Well, the world doesn’t work like that, princess, so take your penny and bugger off!”

“Fine,” Laura said, pushing the penny back into her pocket. “You’re an extremely rude… whatever it is you are!” And she stomped off.

When she was gone, an imp clambered over the edge of the well and slumped on the pavement, rubbing the big lump on its head where her penny had hit it twice.

“Bloody humans,” it muttered. “They need to invent a bloody wishing well that takes tenners.”

Making a rude gesture at Laura’s retreating back, he jumped back onto the edge of the well and slid down the ropes into the depths once more.

Stef Hall is a 30-something country girl living in the big city with her musician partner Paul and their bonkers cats. Stef writes short stories, some of which have been published, and novels, all of which have not. Yet. Although she says she does not write poetry, occasionally she does, and even more occasionally she does it well.

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