Saturday 03 Dec 2016

Wishing Machine
AJ Robinson

Making wishes is probably as old as humanity itself. We wish on falling stars. We make a wish before blowing out the candles on our birthday cakes. I even remember an old rhyme about wishing on the first star you saw each night.

Of course, there’s the ultimate in wish granting: the good old "Wishing Machine." A machine to grant wishes is the logical next step. It also happens to be the name of a movie.

I saw “The Wishing Machine” a long time ago and really enjoyed it. It told the story of two boys who go on all kinds of incredible adventures, and one involved a wishing machine. They were at some sort of World’s Fair-type place, and they wished for a trip to the moon. Well, before you could say, “The Eagle has landed,” they were strapped into a rocket, and the wishing machine was counting down to lift off. That’s when they discover a little “fly in the ointment,” so to speak.

They were not coming back!

Yeah, seems they neglected to wish for a round-trip. They beg the wishing machine to change their wish, but she, it has a woman’s voice, tells them changes are not allowed, without a price being paid. She says they must bring her something, something beautiful, more beautiful than anything you can imagine. If they can do that within three days, they get a round-trip; I don’t recall why there was a time limit. Off they go.

Now, here’s where the story takes a detour into the truly bizarre. At the time, I didn’t understand, being only about eight, but large portions of the movie are merely stories the boys tell. The thing is, there’s no clear delineation between what’s real and what’s fantasy. Arrested and imprisoned, the boys then escape by helping a guard with his homework. They then fly off in a helicopter. I wasn’t sure which parts were real; okay, I’m almost sure they invented the helicopter part.

The thing is, these adventures cut into their search time and thus they never come up with an answer for the wishing machine. In the end, they race to the launch pad, but miss the rocket; it takes off without them. Of course, given that they did NOT have an answer, I had to wonder: What was their rush? So, they head back to town, happy to have had so many great adventures – even if it didn’t include going to the moon.

Yet, I still wondered about the wishing machine’s riddle. What was the answer? Well, just the other day, on a trip to New Orleans, it came to me. My wife, my brothers and their wives as well as my mother sat around a table enjoying dinner. The place was very picturesque, the food excellent, the wine tasty and the company enjoyable. There was the answer before me and I chided myself for not seeing it sooner.

It was obvious.

There is only one thing in the world that any astronaut returning from space would find most beautiful. Brave warriors, people who have fought in countless battles, when they finally come face to face with death itself, will cry out this word. An athlete, having just scored a goal or a touchdown will look into a television camera, wave, and call out to this person.

I know there will come a day when I too will long for a wishing machine. It won’t matter if the price to use it is my immortal soul, or even that the time it grants me is but an instant. As long as it is enough time for me to say three little words to her, it will be enough.

If you’ll excuse me now, I have a phone call to make, while they’re still time. You can never say those words enough!

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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