A bloated, pale orange moon bent the horizon like an overweight tightrope walker. Carl stared at it and willed it to topple over and flatten him with its cheddary weight. The moon radiated only tidal indifference. Carl slowly chewed an Oreo from the package he had brought outside.
It was November of his thirteenth year, and something was happening to Carl.
Carl often wished for the impossible, and despite all reason and expectation, his wishes occasionally came true. They weren’t wishes for important things, like world peace or winning the lottery or even being assigned to sit next to the candy-scented Jessica M. in Art Class. The wishes that came true were always the stupid ones:
1. Carl wished that a small, brown anole that he found on his window sill one morning would be his pet. The lizard followed him around the house for three days, and sat on the arm of the sofa with him when he watched Nick-at-Night. (After going missing for forty-eight hours, Carl found him on Day Five on the patio, dried to a thin, anole-infused snack chip.)
2. He found a nickel on the sidewalk one morning and picked it up. It felt warm in his hand and he wished to keep that feeling for the rest of the day. He found twenty more warm ground-nickels that day.
3. Remy Fagan, who rode Carl’s school bus every morning and was a year ahead of Carl, always threw pencils, small erasers and wads of paper at him. Carl wished that he would stop. The next day, Remy had a pediatric stroke and lost the use of his right arm.
Carl reviewed his wish history carefully and tried to compose some formula to predict which wishes might come true. Generally, he found that the least important of them had the best chances. Carl made a chart showing the relationship between the types of wishes and their perceived odds of coming true:
Like a balloon slipping a child’s greasy grasp, the moon had detached from the horizon and left a tangerine tinge in its wake. Carl watched it float. He wished for it to come back closer, to return to him, but the moon didn’t listen. The wish went unfulfilled.
Carl didn’t believe that he had any special powers. It didn’t feel like he was creating these realities; rather, the wishes seemed to come true as if someone was messing with him. For a while he toyed with the idea that the government was running a psychological experiment on him, but categorized that theory as unlikely because: who in their right mind—even a government tool—would care what happened to a junior high student?
He briefly considered that he was under the spell of a coven of witches, or magic vampires, or some other Twilight-type creatures, but since he didn’t believe in those things and hadn’t seen the movies, that explanation didn’t feel right either.
Carl’s opinion was: If he had a fairy godmother, she was an idiot.
Finally, Carl gave up trying to solve the equation and decided, as would any thirteen-year-old, to see how far he could push it. He began wishing for the most ridiculous things he could imagine. He wished that the butter dish would grow legs and leap off of the kitchen table. He wished the school clock would run backwards for the entire day, instead of just for that one-minute jump before each hour. He wished the gnarled apple tree in his back yard would bear kittens.
When none of these wishes came true, Carl created a new chart:
There was clearly some middle zone, some undiscovered area of creamy filling between the opposing cookies of wish extremes, where wishes came true. That wish zone, however, seemed unknowable, and darker than his chocolate-filled molars. It was vexing. While all of these charts might earn him a good grade in math, Carl realized he was not learning anything. He might live a thousand years and never understand why the wishes came true.
A cool wind picked up and slipped under his collar. Carl smelled rain, although not a cloud was in sight. The moon was smaller but brighter, as if all of its light had been compressed and focused, like a pasty, celestial diamond.
Carl dropped the empty cookie sleeve and watched the breeze roll it toward the house. He pictured the myriad potential wishes before him as grapes on a golden vine: an “A” on the history quiz, pizza for lunch, an invitation to Sarah’s party.
Carl sighed as he wished for a fresh package of cream-filled chocolate cookies.