Tuesday 14 February 2023

Wishes - Short Story - by E.P. Lande




Short Story

by E.P. Lande


I woke up this morning wishing I were dead. It was -16 F outside and I had to clean the chicken coop, —so, empathize.

While cleaning the coops, I wished my hens would lay more eggs. Had they become lazy, or was it something I wasn’t doing, like giving them a supplement that would encourage them to lay? The other day, when I was picking up a bag of layer crumble pellets at Guy’s, the lady next to me at the cash told me that she gives her birds oatmeal.

“Do you cook it?” I asked, thinking that dry oatmeal was not something I would ever wish for, especially for myself.

“You don’t have to,” she said. “Pour a little warm water in it and feed it to them with their crumbles.” I wasn’t sure I could manage that as I put their crumbles in a feeder, and if I added a mash of oatmeal to it, the whole thing would become a soggy mess.

“I also sprinkle cinnamon over it,” she added, “as cinnamon is excellent for their throats”

I knew that chickens often get sore throats, similar to humans, but cinnamon? No doctor has ever prescribed cinnamon when I’ve complained of a sore throat, so I googled feed chickens cinnamon, and guess what? The lady was right. Adding cinnamon to chicken feed helps treat their nasal congestion, coughing, and infections. I purchased a shaker of cinnamon as soon as I left Guy’s, as I had decided to follow the lady’s advice, but I’ll mix it in with the crumbles that I pour into their feeder, not sprinkle it on the moistened oatmeal and crumbles mash. I wonder how long it’ll be before my hens lay more eggs?

After the coops, I decided to shovel the paths from my back door to my front door, from my front door, to my bird feeder, from my bird feeder to the back of my stables where I dump sacs of cat litter, from my front door to my stable, and from my front door to the road. A lot of shovelling, I thought. I wished my stable help would work a bit faster mucking the horse stalls, and ask me if they could shovel my paths. They tell me it takes them so much time just mucking the stalls that they have no time for anything else, yet when I muck the stalls, it seems to take a whole lot less time. They tell me it’s because I want to get it done as fast as possible, while they’re paid by the hour. I wish I were paid by the hour; maybe then I’d understand what they mean. In the meantime, I wish they would hurry up and help me shovel the paths.

It took me longer than usual to shovel all the paths, and while I was at it, I wished I had purchased the walk-behind snow blower I’d seen on sale at Tractor Supply last fall. Hank, my neighbour down the road, has one, and he tells me he can plough all his paths lickity-split. I wish Hank would keep his remarks to himself in the future.

When I finally finished shovelling the paths, it was time for lunch. I wished somebody had been in my kitchen while I was shovelling, preparing a nice warm meal for me, but my boyfriend works at the local machine shop in town and expects me to have a nice warm meal for him to eat when he comes home after his 8-hour shift. I wish he’d go on unemployment and collect his pay from the government in the mail. That way he’d be home all day and could cook me a nice hot meal for lunch. But then, I’d have to wish he’d learn how to cook, wouldn’t I?

After opening a can of peas and heating them up, and toasting a piece of all-grain bread that I dipped in olive oil and ate both, drowning them down with a cup of hot water I’d put in the microwave for two minutes, I put on my coat and wished I didn’t have to go to the grocery store. Getting in my truck and turning on the ignition, I wished I had remembered to fill up the gas tank, because it registered close to empty.

I made it to a gas station before my gas ran out and remembered that we needed gas for the tractor. I wished I’d put its gas container in the back of the truck, but I wasn’t about to drive back home. Tomorrow, I decided.

At the supermarket, I took out my list that I always update before leaving the house so I don’t forget anything. Passing the fresh fruit and vegetable section, I wished they catered large watermelons during the winter, as my chickens and ducks gobble up watermelon when I give it to them during the summer. Looking at the vegetable display, I wished I could find fresh corn cobs, as my guinea fowl adore to peck at cobs, but there weren’t any. Over in the pastry area I passed by the home-baked goods, and wished I wasn’t on a diet so I could eat one of their fresh croissants—right there. But I had to think of my figure and visualized what a croissant filled with strawberry jam would look like around my middle, so I quickly pushed my cart as far away from the home-made pastries as possible, remembering what I had been taught in Sunday school—lead me not into temptation.

At the cash-out, there were copies of People Magazine with a photograph of Anne Hathaway on the cover. I picked it up, and looking through it while waiting in line to pay, I wished I looked like Anne Hathaway, —then it was my turn.

On the drive home, I wished I was on a beach somewhere, maybe Miami, sunning myself, with all those handsome, well-endowed guys in bikinis staring at me, instead of being stuck, 24-hours every day, in sub-zero temperatures, when suddenly the blaring horn of an oncoming 16-wheeler brought me out of my reverie and back to northern Vermont with thoughts of making dinner.

I reached my house, and put the groceries away, wishing my boyfriend would come home with a dozen long-stemmed roses—instead of his usual frowning face and a pile of dirty laundry for me to wash and shirts to iron. As I was preparing our dinner, the phone rang. My former mother-in-law. I wished she’d drop dead, but I answered the call.

“Yes, Sheila, what is it this time?” I said, annoyed because she always calls when I wish someone—anyone—would be on the other end of the line.

“Have you heard from Danny?” she asked. Danny is my ex-. I dumped him when I found out he was fucking my best friend, Mary. I say fucking, because he was sleeping with me.

“No, I haven’t. I tell you every time you call the reason I threw your son out. I don’t understand why you’d think I might have heard from him.” I waited, tapping my foot, wishing she’d get the hint and hang up.

“I just thought, you know, that he might have called you, after all….”

“After all the whoring around he’s done, you think he should be calling me? What do you think I am? another one of his whores?” and I hung up on her. I was getting a migraine, and I wished I had one of those pills the doctor gave me, but I used up the last one when my sister called to tell me to drop dead. That was last week.

As it was going on 4:30 and my boyfriend would be getting home in 30 minutes or so, I decided to turn on the news, wishing there was a good comedy to watch to make me laugh and cry, preferably at the same time. But the channel was showing re-runs of some old clips I wished I’d never watched the first-time round, so I switched off the TV and lay down wishing my migraine would just convert into a plain old headache for which I could pop a couple of Tylenols.

As I was dozing off, the phone rang. Sheila, again.

“What d’you want, Sheila?” I didn’t disguise my irritation, and I wished she’d noticed.

“How do you feel, honey?” she asked, sweetly, as if I hadn’t, moments ago, told her to drop dead.

“Lousy,” I said. “I have a migraine.”

“How nice,” she said. “Enjoy your evening,” and she hung up. I popped two more Tylenols. My doctor told me that I could take up to four plus the equivalent amount of Ibuprofen at the same time, and it wouldn’t kill me. The way I felt at that moment, I didn’t care if the pills killed me or not. Actually, I wished they would kill me; I’d be less miserable than I was then feeling.

My boyfriend came home as I was showering, and, without asking, undressed and joined me in the shower. As my shower is one of those triangular plastic jobs, there isn’t much room—even for one person. I wished he hadn’t because I had soap in my hair and soapy water was running down my forehead and about to reach my eyes. Having sex in the shower with soapy water about to blind you is not the sexiest, and I wished he would lift me up and carry me to the bed and do it there. But then I’d have to wish for a lover rather than a filthy, greasy mechanist who thinks he’s cool by not showering before placing his rock-hard hairy body on top of—and into— mine.

Sex over, I suggested we put on dressing gowns and have dinner. The conversation during dinner was a monologue of his telling me what a fantastic orgasm he’d had, while I wished he’d metamorph into Brad Pitt, and I was beginning to lose my appetite.

After dinner and I had washed the dishes, I joined him on the couch while he watched the end of some football game and I wished I were somewhere—anywhere—other than sitting on my couch watching a bunch of guys bashing heads while my so-called boyfriend drools. I try to interest him in a fantasy I was wishing, about a youngish couple making love to one another on some island in the South Pacific with parrots yacking above their heads, but all he wanted was for me to shut up so he could continue to watch the game and hear the commentary.

Before the end of the game, he’d fallen asleep, with his mouth open uttering noises I’d last heard from male mynah birds at the zoo. I dragged him to bed and got into bed myself, and snuggled up to him, but he just moved farther away from me.

I wish he was more affectionate and say all the things lovers say in the movies. Instead, he tells me I’m getting fat and doesn’t like the smell of the perfume I wear.

Every time I wish, especially for something I’m not allowed or shouldn’t have—like another scoop of vanilla ice cream—the memory of our old Scottish housekeeper comes rushing in to flood my wishing by her repeating a 17th century Scottish proverb. “Lassie,” she would say, taking my tiny hands in her big, red pudgy ones, “every time I  ‘ished for something my mother didn’t ‘ave t’ giv’ me, she ‘ould always tell me, Maggie, she’d say, if ‘ishes ‘ere ‘orses, beggars ‘ould ride.”

E.P, Lande was born in Montreal, but has lived most of his life in the south of France and in Vermont, where he now lives with his partner on a 500-acre farm. Previously, he taught at l’Université d’Ottawa where he served as Vice-Dean of his faculty, and has owned and managed country inns and free-standing restaurants. His stories have recently appeared in Bewildering Stories, Literally Stories, StoryHouse, The Pine Cove Review, and in 10 by 10.


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