Here is yet another flash fiction based on an instagram prompt (#writerstowriterschallenge). This time I had to include; a costume, a piece of candy, and a wish upon a star. Also, quick backstory. As a child, I and my siblings always said “I wish I may, I wish I might, on the first star I see tonight…” and then made our wish. My husband has now informed me that there is more to the rhyme!
This story is sad and talks about childhood cancer, so please be aware of that before reading. I had a hard time coming up with a Halloween-themed story, but this idea seemed to fit. I thought about writing a happy ending, and while there is still room for happiness in Ben’s future, the sad truth doesn’t change that sometimes cancer wins. I hope I do this story justice, especially with so few words.
“I wish I may, I wish I might…” I start the rhyme as a whisper, staring out of the window at the deepening sky.
Immediately, I’m back into character. Spinning on the spot I face Ben.
“When are you going to show me who’s under that mask?” Ben cuts straight to his favorite question.
“You know who is under the mask. It’s me, Peter Parker.”
Ben scoffs. “Man, I know you ain’t Peter Parker. I just pretend for the other kids.”
“Riiiight.” My smirk is apparent in my voice. “You believe in me, just admit it.”
“Yeah? Well, if you’re really Spider-Man, why are you here and not in New York?” Ben smirks right back.
“You know I love you too much not to come visit!”
Ben isn’t buying it. “Admit it, you get paid to come hang out with us.”
“I don’t.” It’s true. I’m 100% a volunteer.
Ben just rolls his eyes and comes closer. For a moment, we’re both silent. I’m about to ask him how his day is when he clears his throat.
“So, what’re you doing?”
I tell him the truth. “Wishing on a star.”
I expect him to give me crap about that, but instead he changes the subject to something we usually avoid. “They told me I don’t have much longer here.”
From his tone I know what he means. He’s already so much older than his eleven years.
He holds out a hand to me, offering me a candy bar. “The nurses gave me a whole bag but I can’t eat it all.”
I take the candy. “I’m sorry, bud.”
Ben shrugs, a show of bravery that kills part of my heart. “What am I gonna do about it?”
We’re both silent. Finally, I make a decision. Reaching up, I pull my mask off. Ben’s eyes widen for a split second.
“I can hardly eat candy with you if I’m masked.” I say casually. “I’m Mike, by the way.”
Ben grins and hands me more of his chocolatey loot. “So, what did you wish for?”
“For cancer to disappear.”
Ben leans on the arm of his wheelchair and stares out the window. “I like that wish.”
Since we’re on the third floor of the hospital, we have a good vantage of the night sky. I squat down next to him and point to the same star I saw earlier.
“Do you know the rhyme?” He shakes his head so I recite it. “I wish I may, I wish I might, on the first star I see tonight…”
Ben takes me by surprise then. Almost so quietly I don’t hear, he whispers, “Lord, please take care of my mama. Don’t let her be alone.”
I almost make a joke about how praying isn’t wishing, but even I know when to shut up.
Without looking at Ben, I whisper just as quietly. “She won’t be alone.”
He grabs my hand, and we both sit in silence, pretending not to cry.