A cold rain fell from dark, overhanging clouds, accompanied by a frigid wind that raced through the streets. This did little, however, to stop the children as they burst from their homes. Joyful laughter and shrieks of happiness filled the normally quiet streets. For most of the children, this was the first time they’d ever seen the rain. Even the older children and young adults, who had seen the rain fall more than once, were ecstatic to feel the blissfully cold water on their arms and necks. It didn’t rain often. Only once, maybe twice, in the span of a few years. Each downpour was cause for celebration.
With the young children leading the way, the crowded streets gathered near the center of town. That was where the magic happened. The young children watched in amazement as drop by drop, the normally dull, grey fountain began to spring to life. The two large lions that stood in the center of the fountain were covered in splashes of gold and bronze, a mixture of colors so foreign that the children stared in wonder. The fountain began dripping in bright blues and deep purples, vibrant pinks and lush yellows. Enthusiastic cries left the children as they raced forward to explore the normally lifeless fountain. They traced their fingers over the rich greens and vivid reds, eyes widening in amazement when their fingers came back completely clean of any color.
As the concrete basin filled with water, bright colors began to flow about, coloring the waters a mixture of reds, golds, blues, and purples. A low groan resounded as one of the lions in the center of the fountain slowly began moving. Its front paws lifted off the ground one back leg sliding back to hold the weight of the statue. Its concrete jaws opened wide in a soundless roar as the second lion rose up in a similar fashion. They faced each other; paws touching as if they were striking each other. The children stared in awe and wonder, paying absolutely no mind to the frigid rain pelting them. They were too awestruck by the display before them to pay any attention to such trivial matters as the rain.
It was then one of the adults, the Mayor, who stepped forward. Carrying a bag of coins, he went around to each child and gave them a coin. They were simple quarters. The children stared at them in confusion, waiting for something else spectacular to happen.
“Children, it is time you learned why we always kept this fountain here, even though there is never any water in it,” The old man chuckled as he watched the faces of the children morph from confusion to curiosity. “A long time ago, the founders of our wonderful town made a deal with a young Jinniyah, a genie of sorts. A witch had placed a curse upon our town, condemning us to an eternal drought. The Jinniyah, seeing our suffering, decided to help. The Jinniyah would bring rain to our town in exchange for coins every day while the rain lasted. Furthermore, she decided to grant each child a wish when they gave her a coin. Adults, however, do not get any wishes.”
A loud clap of thunder resounded with the Mayor’s words, nearly covering up the sound of a small, musical laugh that erupted from the fountain. Perched on the juncture where the lions’ paws met was a young woman. Hair like the night sky cascaded over her petite shoulders and down to her waist. Ocean eyes shined with mirth as she observed the awestruck children.
“Come on, now. Don’t be shy. I promise, I can grant your wishes, little ones,” She cooed softly, her startling white teeth shining as she smiled at the children.
Nobody moved for a long while. Many were scared and a few were still frozen in amazement. Then, a young girl stepped forward. Brunette pigtails bounced against the tops of her shoulders as she reached over the rim of the fountain and, with shaking hands, dropped the silver quarter in the woman’s small hand.
“I-I wish for a puppy, with floppy ears and white fur.” The little girl stepped away from the fountain as she made her wish, hands clasped together behind her back nervously.
With a small smile, the woman dropped the coin into the mouth of one of the lions. Drawing her hands together, she rubbed her palms against one another for a moment before cupping them. Taking a deep breath, she blew into her hands. White dust flew from her palms, drifting to the ground before the little girl. Once the pile was large enough, the woman snapped her fingers together and the pile exploded into a white cloud. As the smoke cleared, a small, white dog with floppy ears bounded towards the little girl. Letting out a happy squeal, the little girl scooped up the wriggling puppy and raced off down the street.
The crowd of children stood still for a moment, watching as the little girl raced off. Only once she was out of sight did the crowd of children react. Bolting towards the fountain, the children waved their coins at the woman, shouting out their wishes as they did so. Throwing her head back in a happy laugh, she began granting wishes one by one, until only a small girl and a small boy remained.
The little girl stepped forward cautiously, bleach blonde braid swinging wildly as she sidestepped two little boys that darted past with large bags of candy in their hands. Holding out her coin, she patiently waited as the woman gently took the coin and set it with the others.
“And what can I do for you, sweetheart?” The woman leaned forward as she spoke, a bright smile on her face as she waited for the little girl to speak.
“I wish Mommy would get better. She’s very sick. Daddy won’t let us see her very much anymore. He says we could get sick, too,” The little girl spoke in a soft, almost timid voice. The woman gave a small, sad smile before going to work.
Rubbing her palms together, the woman closed her eyes and pressed her rosy lips to her closed hands. Leaning back, she opened her eyes and cupped her hands. Settled in her palms was a small, brown bag.
“Give your mother one of these each morning for the next week and she will be healthier than she has ever been before.” Stretching her hand out, she dropped the bag into the little girl’s hands. Murmuring a quiet ‘thank you,’ the little girl stepped off to the side.
The other child approached then, brushing his dirty blonde hair from his face as he did so. Only a year or two older than the girl, it was clear by their soft features that the two were siblings.
“I wish we had enough so that Daddy could be home more. We don’t see him much anymore. He’s rarely home, and when he is, he’s always taking care of Mommy.” Reaching over the rim of the fountain, the little boy dropped his quarter in the woman’s hand.
Closing her eyes, the woman muttered a string of incoherent words and sounds. With a snap of her fingers, she opened her eyes and gave the small boy a smile.
“Go home. Both of you. Give your Mommy the medicine and spend some time with your Daddy. You will have enough not to worry. You’ll have enough time to spend with your family, enough money so your father doesn’t have to work so much, enough food so you won’t go to bed hungry anymore and enough shelter so you won’t have to sleep in the cold and the dirt ever again,” She promised, ushering the two of them away. She smiled as she watched them head off down the empty street. In all the time she’d been doing this, it was wishes like those that made her day to grant.
“I know you’ve been asked this many times before, but remind me why you don’t grant wishes for any adults?” The gruff sound of the Mayor’s voice startled the woman. Swinging her gaze towards him, she sighed and shook her head.
“Because children think differently than adults. Take those two for example. Many adults in that situation would wish to be rich or to never get sick again. While it would solve many of their problems, it probably wouldn’t bring as much happiness as those two will receive,” She surmised in a soft, almost sorrowful voice. “Adults can be very greedy, and so can children. However, children don’t exactly think the same as adults do.”
“Not all adults are as bad as you make them out to be,” The Mayor huffed indignantly as he crossed his arms over his broad chest.
“No, they are not. That is true. But, children wish for candy, not kingdoms.”
Fiction piece by Maygan Stogsdill