Richard Anthony Petracca
On a cool September day, I trudged through the sand along one of the most serene beaches that Long Island has to offer with my fishing pole in hand, tackle box on my back, and waders pulled up high. As the sea air ran across my face, I inhaled deeply to remind myself I was not at work sitting in my ambulance and waiting for the dispatcher to send me to hell or worse, Queens. The ocean air was always able to pull the tension and frustration from my head like a heavy duty wet/dry vac. Not the wimpy kind either, the kind that could suck up Delaware and still have room for half of Jersey.
I saw some gulls working what looked like a small school of fish; quickly, I dropped the tackle box. It opened as it fell, dumping almost 300 dollars worth of fishing gear in the sand. I looked at it sadly, but the fish were not going to hang around and wait for me to catch them. I freed the lure from the cork in the pole´s handle and walked out into the surf. As the waves crashed against me, the icy water stung my face. I cast my lure right into the heart of the birds that were diving into the water and flying off with their catch. I hoped I’d be as lucky. My hands went numb after the first six casts as ice water jumped over my waders and forced out an involuntary yelp, the kind of sound only a thirteen-year-old school girl could make. After an hour of freezing my hoo-haas off and losing two fifteen dollar lures, I made it back to shore empty handed.
I hadn’t even noticed that the line had cut deep into my flesh, but that was part of what I loved about fishing. As I wiped the blood from my numb fingers, I noticed a rock in the sand that didn’t look right. Picking up the rock, it felt warm in my hand and the colors swirled a beautiful purple, white, and silver pattern. It was about the size of a clam shell, with a divot in the center just large enough for a thumb. I dropped it in my pocket.
It really started to get cold and the birds moved off, so my day was done. I walked back along the beach. Just before I turned for the parking lot, I did as I always did and gave one more cast into the icy waters of the Atlantic as I thought, “Please, I wish just once I could pull in a fifty pound bass.” When the line went taut, I assumed I had snagged another rock. Then it pulled me off my feet, I almost lost the pole, my face hit the sand, and the fight was on. For almost an hour this fish fought. He pulled my line out, as I reeled relentlessly to stop my spool from emptying. Sweating, the salt in my eyes burned so much I could barely see this monster bass I dragged onto the beach. In my excitement, I threw this giant fish over my shoulder like it was a guppy. I skipped through the sand like I was seven, the school bell just dismissed us for the day, and it was Friday!
The next day I was cleaning out my gear and found the rock. I washed off the blood from the night before and gave it a good hard look. The color almost seemed to flow like little rivers. I drove to the only store I knew with stones like this one - the Wiccan shop in Port Jeff. I loved this shop with its beautiful artifacts. The girls there knew everything about stones. The traffic was a mess and I said aloud, “I wish these damn cars would just get out of my way!” At that moment every car in front of me pulled over to the side of the road. Okay, weird, I thought, and zipped right on into the village.
As I stepped into the cozy little store front of the Wiccan shop the smell of incense filled my nose. The walls were lined with books, statues of gods of old, and baskets of stones. Lil sat behind the counter reading. She looked up as I entered.
“Hey Rich, It’s been a long time.”
I smiled, “Lil, you’re good with stones and crystals, right?” I asked.
“Yeah, kind of, why?” she shrugged.
“Take a look at this for me.” I handed her the rock I found. Lil went right to work, flipping open books and shaking her head. Frantically she started grabbing more books, tearing through their pages. Suddenly she stopped her face was pale and beads of sweat formed on her brow.
I asked, “Are you okay?”
She just looked at me. “I know you will think I’m full of crap, but you found a real wishing stone. You haven’t made any wishes since you found it, right?” she asked.
“N … Yes, I wished for a fish.” I laughed.
“Did you catch a fish?” She looked at me from under her brow.
“Well, yes, a fifty pound striped bass.”
“Rich, from what I’ve read, there are only three wishes on this stone every one hundred years. Please! Please! Be careful with it.” She laid it down in my hand.
“Thank you, Lil… really?” I asked.
“Really.” She answered.
“Okay, so you know I’m not going to waste it, I will make the next wish in front of you.” I thought hard, “Money, no, girls… sorry, Lil, thinking out loud.” She laughed at me.
“Well… no, okay, okay! I got it!” Lil looked at me suspiciously.
I closed my eyes held the stone tight and with a big smile, “I wish… I wish for world peace!” Looking up, I expected to see Lil smiling at me, but she wasn’t there. I called, “Lil… Lil, come on. Where are you? You’re not funny,” I laughed, but no answer.
I searched the store, but no one was there. I walked outside, but the streets were empty with no one in sight. Must be a slow day in Port Jeff, I thought. I closed the shop door, walked to my car and drove home, but the roads were void. Then I noticed cars were all over the place. Some were on lawns, some had crashed into houses, but there was not a person to be found. I started getting nervous. Maybe the stone really did work. Did I wish everyone away when I wished for peace on earth? In a panic, I pulled it out of my pocket and dropped it to the floor of my car. I slammed on the brakes, found the stone, then closed my eyes. “Please! I wish I never made my last wish!” Looking up, my heart jumped into my throat. Still no one was there. I stopped, thought for a moment and screamed, “The traffic, I wished the damn traffic away!” I fell to my knees.