Every Wish in the World
Albino Hernández Pentón (Kala Azar)
Original: Todos los deseos del mundo, published in Velero25
© Kala Azar; Feb. 16, 2005
(Translation: Daniel W. Koon)

        “Mommy, Daddy, look, look...”
        The boy raised his little hand toward the starry sky.
        “Close your eyes. Quick, make a wish,” Mommy said.
        The little boy closed his eyes tightly and he kept them that way, his eyelids pressed shut, his lips puckered with focused anticipation.
        “Did you make a wish?” his mother asked.
        The boy nodded.
        “Now you can open them.”
        Daddy was sitting with his laptop, his legs crossed like a man the child has seen in a picture book, only without the colored handkerchief on his head (‘turban’, his Mommy had told him it was called) and without the enormous serpent rising up in front of him with a wide neck and a look that made him want to scream in fear.
        “And is it true?”
        “Is what true?” Mommy asked.
        “The wish. Will it come true?”
        “If you’ve asked for it with all your heart, yes,” Mommy said, “Shooting stars...”
        “That was not a shooting star,” Daddy interrupted.
        “There goes Mr. Know-it-all, sticking his nose...”
        Daddy looked at Mommy. The child did not like that look. It reminded him of the serpent. A little, not a lot.
        “Did you see its trajectory? Meteorites don’t follow that kind of path when they fall.”
        “Then what was it, a ship full of extraterrestrials?”
        The child still did not understand a lot of the things that the adults talked about, but he could distinguish inflections and tones of voice, and this question was not like: Would you like your dinner, darling? Apparently the wish thing was not working out very well. Nor the part about wishing for it with all your heart.
        Daddy shrugged his shoulders, adjusted his glasses again and turned his attention to the shiny laptop screen.
        “Daddy, what is a ship full of... extratebestrials?”
        “Extraterrestrials, son. Ex-tra-ter-res-tri-als.”
        “Ex...trate...destrials,” he said laughing.
        “Okay, it’s a kind of transport, like a plane in which people from other planets travel...”
        “Alberto!... Watch what you’re putting into that child’s head. It’s bad enough having one in the house.”
        “There’s an extrategrestrial living in the house, Mommy?”
        Daddy and Mommy exchanged a look and then suddenly began to laugh.
        “Did I say something funny?”
        Neither of them answered.
        For a moment he stood in silence, puzzled. But the laughter of his parents was infectious and so at first timidly, and then more openly, he joined the chorus of laughter. It had been a long time since Mommy and Daddy had laughed like this, happily, together.
        They stayed just like that, the three of them. A magical moment.
        After a while Mommy got up.
        “I’m going to fix you something to eat,” she said.
        “Come over here. I want to show you something,” Daddy said once Mommy had disappeared in the shadows, behind the house.
        The boy sat down next to his father, expectation growing inside him.
        “This has got to stay between us,” Daddy said.
        “A secret?”
        “Yes. Deal?”
        How many magical things Daddy showed him on the computer screen. Planets of every color: one red like a ball of fire, another blue like the sea. But the one he liked best was one that most looked like the Earth and which Daddy said was named for the goddess of beauty. Even the one that was surrounded by rings had seemed pretty, although not as much as the other one. And... so many moons, and he had thought that the only moon was that pale ball with the sad face that hung from the sky over their house. The champion of the satellites was Io (he couldn’t forget that name: it was if it were calling to him: Yo!). There was another one named Puck that stuck in his memory but to him it looked like it might roll rather clumsily, rather than slide, across the ice. And ships looking like enormous plates big enough to hold a full year’s worth of cafeteria lunches. But what impressed him most were the extraterrestrials. Some were little green men; others had faces filled with eyes. Some were as thin as fishing poles; others were as fat as his friend Fernandito. Some had only one eye and no ears and others had spider legs and horns on their heads. So many...
        “Daddy... these extraterrestrials,” he said, thinking very carefully about the word in order not to mess it up, “are they Good or Bad?”
        Daddy scratched his head before answering.
        “I guess they’re like us,” he said. “Some good and some bad.”
        The boy remembered the twins. They were always making fun of him. Calling him chicken or four-eyes, and they were always giving him noogies and tripping him up whenever they passed him.
        “It would be nice if they were all good. Right?”
        “It would be,” Daddy said, getting up, “I’m going to see what your mother is up to.” He looked at his watch. “At this rate we won’t be eating before midnight.”
        “Can I stay out here a little while to look at the stars?”
        Daddy looked toward the house and then turned his head toward the boy.
        “Okay, but once your mother calls, you come running. Oh, and don’t climb that mango bush. Remember what happened last time,” he said to him, pointing his finger at him as if it were the barrel of a revolver.
        The boy drew his legs together and pressed them tightly in a hug. He began to feel cold.
        Maybe my wish will come true, he thought. Mommy and Daddy are probably in the kitchen and there’s no noise. Good. Because when they fight you can hear the screams for miles around. It was so scary. He could not bear it even with his Discman on. He could hear their voices inside his head saying ugly things -- “toads and snakes”, as his grandmother would say -- and sometimes it was enough to make him hold all his pee inside, because he didn’t want to have to visit the bathroom and have to listen to those horrible beasts below him. Grandmother said that the people who love each other the most are the ones that argue the most and, if that was the case, then Mommy and Daddy must be the world champions of loving each other. He believed that Grandma was wrong about this one thing, but she knew a lot of things and that’s why she had so many wrinkles and her hairs were as white as snow and her eyes were so blue, and after all, she said that the Devil knew more from being old than from being the Devil.
        Yes, it had to work. He had wanted to ask for so many things. That grandmother would get tired of living in heaven and come back to live with them, that the twins would stop bothering him, that little Maria would take his arm like she took Francisco’s and would look into his eyes and smile at him with all those little perfect white teeth of hers, that the dog from the house out front would be quiet and not bark like a wild beast every time someone passed out front... all his wishes would not fit on that large plate that the extraterrestrials used to travel from one place to another, and yet...
        Something that caught the corner of his eye broke his chain of thought.
        He lifted his head and his eyes lit up from what he saw up above in the sky. His first impulse was to run toward the house, but he quickly remembered what Mommy had said and he closed his eyes tightly. Surely Daddy and Mommy were discussing whether all these lights in the sky were shooting stars or extraterrestrial ships, but it didn’t matter because now he could ask for every wish that he had in his head.
        Every wish in the world!
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