This story was originally posted on October 26, 2016. I think every parent is just trying to figure things out as they go along. A scary outbreak of tripping wouldn’t make things any easier.
“I can be anything I want to be, right?” Alex asked one night at dinner.
“Of course you can,” Dad said. He paused. “But you probably shouldn’t choose to be a veterinarian. Or a doctor. That might not go well.”
Alex frowned. He clutched his fork a little too tight. It broke in half and the metal pieces landed on his plate and cracked it. Alex burst into tears.
“It’s all right, honey,” Mom said. “There are still lots of things you can do.”
“Like what?” Alex asked. He sniffled and blew his nose on his thick canvas napkin. It tore down the center.
Mom handed him a new fork. “Well, um, you could be a newscaster,” she said. “Or a writer.”
“That’s right,” Dad said. “They have those programs now where you can dictate everything and you don’t have to type or hold a pencil.”
Alex frowned. “I just want to be like all the normal kids. You know, do the craft projects for the holidays. Play sports after school. Write down my own answers on assignments.”
Dad sighed. “Life isn’t fair sometimes, huh?”
Alex nodded. “Yeah.”
“You’re not the only kid at school who can’t do all the normal things though, right?” Mom asked.
“One kid has to keep his eyes closed all the time, because he has laser eyes. And this one girl can’t talk at all because her voice shatters glass,” Alex said.
Mom smoothed Alex’s hair. “You see? It’s not just you.”
“It’s still not fair.” Alex picked up his new fork and speared some lettuce. The tines curled under.
“Maybe you can find a way to use your talents to help other people,” Dad said.
“Like what?” Alex asked. He ate the lettuce and bent the fork’s tines back into place.
“Well, you could read to that boy with the laser eyes,” Dad said.
Alex frowned. “But I’m not supposed to touch the books. The pages keep ripping when I turn them.” He speared another bite of lettuce and the tines curled under again.
“But he can pick up the books, right?” Mom asked.
Alex nodded. “There’s nothing wrong with his hands.”
“Then maybe you can help each other,” Mom said. “I’ll bet there are a lot of stories you both want to hear.”
“You’ll find more work-arounds for your problems if you can work with other people,” Dad said.
“It would be nice to help people,” Alex said. “Do you really think I can?” He straightened the fork’s tines again.
“You’re the strongest person I know,” Dad said. “I’ll bet there are lots of ways you can help people. All you need to do is look around and notice.”
“But what if I see a problem, and I can’t help?” Alex asked.
“Then you could try to find someone who can help,” Dad said.
“Okay,” Alex said.
“So, what do you want to be when you grow up?” Mom asked.
“A space pirate,” Alex said. “Do you think I can?”
“Maybe,” Dad said. “If you find the right crew.”
“You might need to invent a good spaceship first,” Mom said.
“I could do that,” Alex said. “At least I think I can.”
“Well, then you know where to start,” Dad said. “Now who’s ready for lasagna?”
“Me!” Alex said. “Can I help?”
“Sure,” Dad said. “You can help me check to make sure it’s done. What do you think? Does it look good?”
“I think it looks great,” Alex said.
“Then it’s ready. Thanks for your help,” Dad said. Alex grinned.
“I did it!” Missy clutched the leaf in her raised fist. “I caught a leaf while it was falling!”
Ben shrugged. “So?”
“So I get a wish.” Missy held her hand in front of her face and opened her fist. The leaf uncurled in slow motion. “Cousin Sara said so.”
“Really?” Ben looked around. He dove for a nearby leaf. It fell inches from his fingertips. He darted after another, and then another. Each time, he just missed the falling leaf.
“It’s harder than you think” Missy said. “You’ll see. It took me days to catch one. It’s worth it though. Now I can have a wish.” Missy closed her hand around her leaf and smiled a smug sort of smile.
Ben stopped chasing falling leaves and instead turned to look at Missy. “What are you going to wish for, then?”
“Why? What would you wish for?”
“I don’t know.” Ben reached for another leaf and missed again. “I guess I’d be a pirate. I’d like to find buried treasure.”
“That’s not what pirates do, really.” Missy looked up from examining her leaf. “Pirates hide treasure that they stole from people. Then they dig it up again when they think the police aren’t chasing them anymore. They’re just robbers who ride around in boats instead of cars.”
Ben folded his arms across his chest with a scowl. “Then who just hunts for treasures? Only pirates do.”
“Archaeologists.” Missy looked back down at her leaf. She poked at it with her finger. “I wonder how to make the wishing work. Cousin Sara didn’t say. Does it happen if you wish while you catch it? Or do you have to do something else?”
“So, what are you wishing for?”
Missy frowned. “If I tell you, maybe it won’t come true.”
Ben looked around. “How will you know when it happens?”
Missy sighed and put the leaf in her pocket. She held up both hands at arms length, palms out facing Ben. Ben vanished.
A chilly wind blew down the sidewalk, chasing a few more leaves. Missy reached out a hand, fingers separate, and raked at the breeze trying to catch the leaves as they blew past. She didn’t catch any of them.
“Ah well. It was worth a try.” Missy adjusted the straps on her backpack and skipped home.
“Welcome home,” her mom called from the kitchen. “Do you have any homework?”
“Nope.” Missy dropped her backpack in front of the closet and took her shoes off. She made a face when she saw her older brother’s shoes already by the door. It wasn’t fair that he always got home first.
She walked into the kitchen. Her brother, Martin, was reaching for the last cookie. Missy raised her hands, palms out, facing Martin. Martin vanished.
Her mom looked up from her mixing bowl. “Oh good, Martin left you a cookie. He was just in here a moment ago. I hope he went to do his homework.” She tasted the batter. “Needs salt. Where did I put that teaspoon?”
Missy took the last cookie and bit into it. It was oatmeal raisin. Her favorite. She smiled, and a cool breeze blew through the open window. The curtains fluttered in the breeze like ghosts.
Missy left the kitchen, and felt in her pocket for the leaf. When she took it out, she was disappointed to see that it was ripped in a few places. Perhaps her pocket wasn’t the best place for it.
Just then, her fluffy gray cat, Fishface, batted at her ankles, and Missy dropped the leaf. The cat pounced on it. “Fishface, no!” Missy yelled. She reached down to pick up her cat, palms down, facing Fishface. The cat vanished.
A breeze blew through the window behind her, swirling away the remains of her magic leaf. Missy looked down at her hands. How had this happened? It must be a terrible mistake.
The phone rang. Martin thundered down the stairs to answer it. He held the phone out to Missy. “It’s for you. What? Why are you looking at me weird?” Missy took the phone, glaring at her brother as he pushed past her on his way into the kitchen.
“Hello?” she said.
“Hello,” Ben’s voice answered. “Missy, how did you send me home? Was it your wish? What a waste. You should have wished for laser beam eyes or to fly or for super strength…”
Ben continued listing super powers. Missy looked around the living room. Fishface peeked around the couch. Missy pinned the phone to her ear with her shoulder and held out her hands, palms out facing the cat. Nothing happened.
Ben was still listing super powers. “…and healing. That’s not so bad. But flying’s better. Invisibility is good…”
“It doesn’t work any more anyway,” Missy interrupted. “I don’t know if it only works three times or if it’s because the leaf broke, but it stopped working. I can’t send anyone anywhere anymore.”
“Oh.” Ben didn’t say anything for a moment. “That’s still cool, though. We should catch more leaves and experiment. What kinds of super powers does an archaeologist have?”
“Archaeologists don’t need super powers,” Missy said.
“It couldn’t hurt,” Ben said. “X-ray vision could help with treasure hunting. But flying would be better. When I catch a leaf tomorrow, you’ll see. I’m the best wisher ever.”
“It’s harder than you think,” Missy said. “You’ll see.” A cool breeze blew through the room once more.