If she had known there were only three wishes, she would have chosen differently. Obviously. But there had been no instructions, no bullet points. It was another example of the inefficiency of the system. Some opined that the system had grown too big for its own britches, that the safety measure and stop gaps had gotten out of hand. Cynics said the lawyers were behind the crack down. Others insisted the problem was created from a complete lack of imagination. Governor Moonbeam was retiring after eight decades of public service. Some said he would be missed. He told his successor, young Kennedy, “don’t screw it up.” She presumed he meant the ten wishes stockpile of surplus gold. But there were no guarantees, if the three wish rule was enforced. So far, everyone operated on the honor system. She was down to one wish. The books said choose happiness. The ads said choose gluttony. She was pretty sure there was some middle ground. One wish. Puppy breath. Snow. Public nudity. Art. Music. Zero gravity. Invisibility. Hemingway in his Spanish Civil War days. Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen. The Columbia Gorge at sunrise in her living room every morning. Polar bears. Bumble bees. Tree toads. Wild salmon. Stories, stories, stories.
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He said I love you by calling her back from her circle, by competing with her banjo, by holding her hostage to starving ghosts. He said I love you one hundred and ten percent and therefore you owe me something in return. You owe me I love you back one hundred and eleven percent. Can you dig it? She laughed, then sobered. Oh, you’re serious then, she said. Those words cut. Those words did not say I love you one hundred and twelve percent. Okay then, she said. I will shave back my performances by ten percent, cross my heart and hope to die. What else, he averred, there must be more. Well, she replied, I will cut back visits with my sisters by twenty-five percent. All together, that’s thirty-five percent more for you. That’s pretty good, hey? I can say I love you thirty-five percent more than before. Harumph! He tooted. I still love you more. Is that the best you can do? I’ve given you one hundred and thirteen percent of my heart and I still don’t feel your love. What about my children, she asked. I’ve given them back to their father for you. I walked them back to their paternal home. When do I get credit for that? Children belong to their father, he said. A woman belongs to her lover. She practiced saying I love you, I love you, I love you, in the mirror. Finally, she thought: the truth.