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A Wish Fulfilled

The second before the SUV tore through the bumper of my Subaru Outback, I thought about the wish I had made on my eighteenth birthday over ten years ago. That second stretched out for an eternity, from my birth far beyond my death, stretching and distorting my life like Silly Putty, but it stopped and slowed on that day I made that wish, my memory presenting me with a series of moving pictures without sound—like watching an eight millimeter home movie.

The sun dangled just above the horizon that day, splashing Susie Slater’s backyard with dashes of orange and pink. I was thinner then but more muscular; I had more hair and owned a much cooler car than my adult self—a Mitsubishi Eclipse GT.

God I loved that car, but sport cars aren’t ideal for car seats.

A feeling of providence coursed through me as the anonymous red cups overflowed and the smell of freshly lit joints filled Susie’s backyard. My birthday just happened to land on the day after graduation, and I felt like those two days in June had specifically been designed for me. Those two days were the apex of my existence, like the universe and Fate had schemed together to ensure everything important in my life occurred in that 48 hour window.

As the sun set not only on that day but on our high school careers, our shadows danced and laughed in and around Susie’s in-ground heated swimming pool. We all secretly hated Susie with her annoying high-pitched voice and crooked teeth, but her father was loaded and owned one of the nicest houses out in the country so we loved her; we hated and loved everybody back in high school. We ran around the pool, whacking each other with the pool noodles and kicking a beach ball from one side to the other until Chuck Pfeiffer stepped on it on the midnight blue pebble tek walkway—of course, this was before I knew anything about pool landscaping except that it was how my father made a living.

My best friend, Paul Longfellow (we all affectionately called him GBM which stood for Gingerbread Man on account of his flaming red hair), was the first one to remove his swimming trunks. The sun had set, and, illuminated by the poolside tiki torches, he threw back his head, unleashed a guttural howl, and shimmied out of his trunks. He kicked them into the pool before jackknifing on top of them.

We were all a little drunk and a little high so we all did the same. We knew no shame that night. We were all eighteen and seventeen and we were perfect; even Susie who was a little overweight looked exquisite outside the confines of her one-piece bathing suit, her rolls of skin settling perfectly into place the way God intended.

My girlfriend at the time, Jenna Von Eric, and I were the last ones to toss our suits onto the grass. I did so without hesitation because I knew no one would be looking at me. Jenna was a star on the school track team and had runner’s legs that put those of most runway models to shame and her entire body looked like she had been chiseled by Michelangelo. Everyone, even the girls, wanted to see her naked, to bask in the radiance of her perfection, and when they viewed the perfect curves carved into the figure of a young, eighteen-year-old girl they knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that she was too good for me—and I knew it, too. But that’s what was great about being young: nothing was impossible. I had Jenna because I had done the one thing no other guy at McKinley High had had the guts to do: I had asked.

With everyone’s eyes glued to Jenna’s body, she placed the soft palm of her hand in mine and we raced toward the pool and leapt in together, the water welcoming our naked bodies with the cool embrace of early summer. The pool quickly transformed into a bubbling mass of naked flesh and muted laughter and inflatable pool toys. Paul stood on the diving board performing naked calisthenics (my two year old, Owen, does the same thing) while Jenna swam around me like a beautiful mermaid, her bare flesh brushing against mine again and again and again until I couldn’t stand it any longer.

We scrambled out of the pool and stumbled into the tent we had sent up in Susie’s yard. I laid Jenna down, still soaking wet, on the Ninja Turtles blanket I had brought from home and climbed on top. We knew the others were just outside the tent listening, but she didn’t even attempt to muffle the sounds that escaped her lips. Even at the time I knew my relationship with Jenna was only temporary. I assumed there would be plenty of other beautiful girls spread out naked beneath me in the future, but the truth was that there weren’t—not until my wife who could rob me of breath just by whispering in my ear.

The next morning I woke with the dawn. The rising sun was the only one that wished me happy birthday that morning; everyone else was passed out. I wandered the backyard, bathed in the glow of a new day, like an astronaut exploring the surface of an alien planet. Evidence of the party was everywhere—scattered red cups, torn noodles, and a large burn mark in the lawn where someone had started a makeshift bonfire—but there was no one around to confirm the tale. I stumbled onto the back porch and there, sitting on the glass patio table was an erotic cake shaped like a pair of giant breasts. The icing on the breasts read “18—they don’t get much bigger than this!!!” My friends obviously planned on surprising me with the cake, but my early rise made certain it would be me who surprised them.

I removed the clear plastic covering and stuck two candles right on the nipples of the cake. My head jerked up toward the driveway, and I remember it was then that I heard a car pull into the driveway and an engine die. I turned and peered through the glass patio door just in time to watch Susie’s father, Mr. Slater, stomp into the house. He wore a grey suit and a tie hung loosely around his neck like a noose. The guy worked in the city as some sort of investment broker—I guess I didn’t really understand his job then and I certainly don’t now. I just remember the look on his face as he threw himself down on the sofa, a look of utter exhaustion and absolute disgust—disgust with his job, disgust with himself, and disgust with his life. Watching him through the patio door was like watching my own personalized reality show. The blinds were drawn so he could have easily spotted me had he just turned his glance, but I was invisible to him. The glazed over look in his eyes played nothing but reruns of his life and he despised each and every single second of it.

And as I watched him slowly sink deep down within himself, I thought to myself, that look in his eyes, that’s adulthood. That noose-like tie and that wrinkled suit, those were adulthood, too. Out here in the backyard was the paradise of youth: a land of pool parties and tents full of flawless naked girls and cakes shaped like breasts. The difference could not have been clearer.

And that’s when I made my wish.

My lighter flicked to life and lit the two candles and my head and my heart made a wish that day.

A sound like two pieces of sheet metal scraping against one another invaded my memories—it had no place there in Susie’s backyard. It took me a small piece of eternity to realize it was the SUV’s bumper slicing into mine.

And in what was left of that second—that eternity—I didn’t think about Susie’s backyard anymore or the rest of my brief relationship with Jenna Von Erich or anything else from high school—

I thought about learning to install pools with my father—

I thought about meeting Olivia, my wife, on a job landscaping the pool at her parents’ house and how I knew right away that she was for me—

I thought about the wedding and how she cried so much during the ceremony the minister started to get annoyed—

I thought about moving into our first home and how painful and rewarding it felt to write that first mortgage check—

I thought about the birth of my son, Owen, and the announcement he’d have a sister in a few months.

My life had more to do with wrinkled suits and loose neckties these days, but I wouldn’t have traded it for all the erotic cakes in the world.

Who knew that the Fates had decided that 28 was old?

As the SUV’s lights disappeared and its tires reared up onto the hood of my car, I realized that my wish had been granted after all.

And there in the slideshow of my memory, the candles blew out.


Douglas James Troxell is an English instructor at Lehigh Career and Technical Institute in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania. He once rolled his Dodge Omni into a tree, landing upside down, but luckily he was wearing his seatbelt and walked away unharmed. His fiction has appeared previously in Fiction365, Mobius: The Journal for Social Change, Word Fountain, The Fringe Magazine, and The WilkesUniversity Review.


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