My wife and I were lying in our backyard, staring at the sky. It was ten or ten-thirty, and we were halfway through our second pack of cigarettes. It was a clear night, but the smoke from our cigarettes seemed, somehow, to dirty up the sky.
I’d just taken a new one from the pack and I was searching around for the lighter when I heard my wife gasp.
“Quick,” she said, “make a wish.”
“A falling star,” she said. “You didn’t see it?”
“No, I didn’t. Have you seen the lighter?”
“You should make a wish,” my wife said. “And I’ll make one, too.”
I sat up and began pressing the ground around us, as though searching for a pulse.
“I didn’t see the star,” I said. “I don’t think I get a wish.”
“Sure you do,” said my wife. “You get a wish because I saw it and you’re with me.”
“I don’t think that’s the way it works.”
“Well, make a wish, anyway.”
“OK,” I said. “I wish I could find the damned lighter.”
I heard my wife sigh and turn away from me. I sat forward and hugged my knees. I brought the unlit cigarette to my lips, held it there a few seconds, then pulled it away and pointed it at my wife.
“Didn’t you have it last?”
“Have what?” she asked. She was still facing away from me.
“The lighter,” I said. “I think you were the last one to use it.”
“Oh, Christ. Look, I don’t know where the lighter is. Forget the lighter. We’ve had too many cigarettes tonight, anyway.”
The air was beginning to cool. A breeze blew in from somewhere, brisk and sudden, and I thought I saw my wife shiver just slightly, almost imperceptibly. I reached my hand out and touched her shoulder. She shivered again. I drew my hand back.
“Are you getting cold?” I asked her. She didn’t respond. “Hey, are you cold? Do you want to head inside?”
“Would it have killed you,” she said, “to at least humor me?”
“I mean, I know it’s dumb,” she said, “but it’s not like it’s a life or death thing, you know? I was just trying to make conversation, is all. But you couldn’t even do that, could you?”
“Wait, hold on,” I said. “This is about the wish thing? The falling star thing? Jesus. I didn’t realize it was that important to you.”
“It isn’t important, ok? It’s not important. Forget it.”
“No, no, this is serious. This is serious business. Here, let me think of a good wish.”
I closed my eyes. I closed them tightly, as tightly as I could, as though I were trying to make the world disappear, or trying to make myself disappear from the world.
I counted to five and opened my eyes. My wife had rolled over and was now propped up on one elbow and looking at me. I lay back down in the grass and felt something hard underneath my back. I reached around and picked it up. It was the lighter. I sat up again and placed the cigarette between my lips. I tried to get the lighter going, but it wouldn’t start. I shook it a few times and tried again, but it still wouldn’t catch. I shook it again and again.
Notes from Guest Reader Steve Weddle
What draws you into this story is the simple scene and the developing conflict. The language is straightforward and works in contrast to the growing complexity of the relationship. The building of the story, the movement towards the resolution has an honesty, an earnestness that is irresistible.