“I have you now,” shouted Bradley, darting about in the family room. Sniffing the pancakes, but unaware of what was happening in the kitchen, Bradley added, “Hey, they smell good. Save some for me!”
Alyssa remained frozen, propped up against the counter for support. She raised her trembling hands to her mouth. “What did you do?” Alyssa whispered. “How did you make that happen?”
“I don’t know,” said Sean, beaming. “I just made them. I want a bicycle, too.”
With a wave of the wand, the air seemed to twist. Where there was nothing, Sean’s requested bicycle now stood, brand-new, bright red, with a white stripe wrapped around the metal frame, and balanced on the Dempseys’ beige, ceramic kitchen floor with its stainless-steel kickstand extended.
“Yay,” sang Sean. “I want a bell.”
Alyssa’s eyes detected the same momentary twist and suddenly there was a silver bell attached to the right handle bar. As with the bicycle, the bell did not appear slowly. It was as if it had always been there, and was simply overlooked. Alyssa thought to scream, but that was one thought of thousands racing through her mind, including stopping Sean as he waved the glass wand again.
The bell began ringing, its tiny white, plastic handle repeatedly snapped forward by some invisible thumb insistent on filling the kitchen with a jingling clamor. Bradley raced in from the family room. Alyssa moved her hands from her mouth and placed them protectively on her ears.
“Stop it, Sean,” cried Alyssa over the racket. “Stop it!”
“Stop,” yelled Sean, silencing the bell. Alyssa pounced. She rushed Sean and snatched the wand from his hand.
“Hey,” he complained. “That’s mine.”
“What’s with the pancakes? What’s with the bike? What’s with the bell?” demanded Bradley.
Alyssa ignored him and studied the slippery, glass wand. She lifted it towards the kitchen’s sunlit bay window, and the wand refracted the light as it had earlier that morning when she glimpsed it in Sean’s hand. Rolling it between her fingers, the wand felt uneven. Along its length there were long, thin facets which intersected at odd angles, as if the glass was carelessly carved.
“What is it?” asked Bradley.
“It’s a magic wand,” replied Sean. “And it’s mine. Not yours. Mine.”
“A magic wand?” Bradley said with disbelief. “I don’t think so.”
“Well, think so,” exclaimed Alyssa. “He just made all of this out of thin air! The pancakes, the bike and the bell!”
Trying to make sense of the situation, Bradley looked around at Sean’s creations while Alyssa raised the wand to her eyes. Inside was a dark, red liquid. Maybe it’s red mercury, she thought. She slowly turned it in her hand, moving the liquid back and forth. The fluid did not slide in a line, but expanded and contracted throughout the wand. Is it breathing, wondered Alyssa. Is it alive?
“Sean,” Alyssa said sternly, her voice quivering a bit. “Where did you get this?”
“I told you,” replied Sean. “The Buddies gave it to me.”
Bradley Dempsey, his brain dancing with a wealth of possibilities, did not care about the origin of the wand. “It doesn’t matter!” he shouted. “We can wish for whatever we want!”
Alyssa’s mouth dropped open. “Are you crazy?”
“I want Hero Warrior 2. Wish for Hero Warrior 2! Please Alyssa, wish for it,” begged Bradley.
She turned to Sean. Half of a blueberry pancake hung from his mouth. Alyssa waited for Sean to finish and swallow, while Bradley dropped to his knees continuing to plead his case.
“How did you wish for all of this?” she asked Sean.
He rolled his eyes. “I told you that, too. I just made them.”
“I know,” Alyssa said slowly. “But what did you do to make them?”
Sean’s small, pink tongue licked a spot of blueberry juice from his top lip while he considered the question. How did I make them?
Sean studied the pancakes. One of the blueberries looked like an insect with a big, black head. Yesterday, he saw a black and red stink bug crawling on their driveway. Sean considered stepping on it, but squished stink bugs smelled bad. Maybe he would go outside after breakfast to look for it. I can wish for the bug, Sean thought with a smile.
“What?” he asked.
“Sean,” Alyssa said patiently. “What did you do to make the pancakes and the bicycle?”
“Who cares?” repeated Bradley, driving his face between Alyssa and Sean. “Just make a wish!”
“Shut up!” screamed Alyssa. Bradley backed away, mumbling to himself in anger. Alyssa composed herself and took a breath. “Sean?”
Her little brother lifted his shoulders while he played with his curly hair. “I don’t know. I said I wanted them. Can I ride my bike now?”
“Not yet.” Alyssa paced around the kitchen. I should call Mom and Dad, she thought. She felt overwhelmed and part of her wanted to run back upstairs, get under the covers and convince herself that this was a dream.
Bradley pulled out a kitchen chair and plopped down with a thump. He picked up a chocolate chip pancake and shoved the whole thing in his mouth.
“Eww,” remarked Sean.
“You know what I’d do,” said Bradley, his stuffed mouth muffling his voice. “Not that anyone listens to me around here. I’d test it out.”
“Test it out?” asked Alyssa. “How?”
“Don’t go overboard like pancake, bicycle boy. You should wish for . . . hmmm. Wish for an apple.”
Alyssa squeezed the wand. An apple? That’s a good test. But then she thought about a car. She desperately wanted her own car.
What if I wished for a Volkswagen Beetle? Bright yellow with a cut sunflower in the dash, and Will next to me. We could go to the beach whenever we want.
“What are you doing?” asked Bradley, watching his sister think. “It’s only an apple.”
“An apple?” Alyssa repeated, emerging from her fantasy.
Her brothers both nodded. Alyssa raised the wand and pointed it towards the kitchen counter. Narrowing her eyes, she flicked her wrist and said “I want an apple.”
Nothing. All three Dempseys looked around, floor to ceiling. Pancakes. Bicycle with a bell. But no apple.
Bradley got up and approached Alyssa, his hand held open. “Let me try.”
Any moment spent trusting Bradley was a moment his sister regretted. Just the same, Alyssa handed him the glass wand to see what would happen.
Spinning in a circle, Bradley leapt and cried, “Alacron, alacron, biscuit-boy. I want an apple!” Gravity returned him with a thud to the ceramic tiled floor. Nothing.
Alyssa pursed her lips and crossed her arms. “Alacron, alacron, biscuit-boy?” She snatched the wand from Bradley’s hand.
“Me, me, me,” said Sean, raising his arm. “My turn.” Alyssa and Bradley eyed each other. Bradley nodded vigorously.
“Hero Warrior 2,” he whispered out of the side of his mouth to his little brother.
“Wish for an apple Sean,” warned Alyssa. “Not anything else. Understood?”
“Yes,” said Sean.
Alyssa handed the wand back to him and held her breath. “I want a . . . purple apple,” announced Sean. Once again, the light seemed to bend. As if conjured by the Wicked Witch for Snow White, there on the kitchen table, balanced upon the cooling pancakes, was a shiny, purple apple.
“I made it,” said Sean, rejoicing.
Bradley began a celebratory dance. “This is going to be the best weekend ever! We can have anything we want. Ice cream. As much ice cream as we want. And a million dollars. And a new HDTV with 3-D,” he said pointing to the family room. “And Hero Warrior 2!”
“Cut it out,” barked Alyssa, seizing the wand. “We are not making any more wishes.” Alyssa spoke to Bradley while pointing at Sean. “What if you annoy him and he wishes you were dead? So much for the best weekend ever.”
Bradley eyed his brother. Sean flashed a rather devilish grin.
“Sean,” said Alyssa in a patient tone. “Tell us about the Buddies giving you the wand. Tell us as much as you remember.”
“They came to my room last night and gave me the wand.” Alyssa and Bradley waited for more. Sean stared back. “That’s it.”
Alyssa shook her head. This is like talking to Will, she thought. No matter what age, boys did not understand the concept of details. “What did they look like?”
Sean prepared to respond when an idea struck him. While Alyssa and Bradley watched silently, Sean took a clear drinking glass from the drying rack. Standing on the green, plastic footstool his mom placed by the sink, he filled the glass with water and put it back on the kitchen counter.
“What are you doing?” asked Bradley. Sean ignored his brother. Instead, he opened the refrigerator and took out a half-full quart of milk. Returning to the countertop, he carefully poured a little of the milk into the water.
“They looked like that,” said Sean.
Staring into the glass, Alyssa and Bradley watched the milk drift through the water, forming a shape that turned their skin cold.
It was a ghost.