art by Stephen James Kiniry
If Wishes Were Fishes
by Amanda M. Hayes
A penny plunked into the fountain outside the Chinese restaurant, and one of the resident goldfish swam up to investigate. He tasted metal in the water. He took the penny in his mouth--he was large, as goldfish went--and tasted something else beneath the tang of countless human hands: the coin carried a woman's wish for a new job. He couldn't discern details without swallowing it, so he did, and began to digest.
By evening a bright, shining, almost golden penny lay where he had been, until the owner's son scooped the fountain clean of wishes, and threw them in the register with the change.
No one behind the restaurant counter could hire the woman, certainly not to work in an accounting firm as she dreamed. The fish-turned-wish wriggled to the top of the penny pile. He soon passed into the hand and pocket of an elderly man.
The old man lost him in a gutter. A tiny boy found him there and used him to help pay for ice cream. The driver of the ice cream truck put him in the give-a-penny cup of a thrift store, where he sat only a minute before the next customer in line picked him up. He swam through humanity with unerring instinct.
At last, he came into the possession of a young, wistful clerk with numbers on his soul, spilled coffee on his hands, money he was willing to spend, and a dream of his own. The clerk wanted a decent house--wanted it so badly the fish almost forgot the wish locked in his copper seeming. He flung himself off the edge of the man's desk as soon as there was no one to see, rolled across marble and carpet and linoleum, into an elevator and the side of a polished black shoe.
The head of the firm looked down and spotted him, gleaming as brightly as ever.
Here. The goldfish forced himself to stay still between the man's fingers. Here was an opportunity to match the desire he carried. A second wish to fulfill.
Though he seldom did his own hiring, the head of the firm scanned posted resumes through lunch, one hand closed around the penny in his pocket. His palm and fingers seemed to tingle as he clicked on one particular name. He studied the woman's resume closely. He let go of the coin; he needed both hands to type the email offering her an interview, and the goldfish fell to the bottom of the pocket, tired, content.
But only for a moment. The fish nudged the satin lining, somewhat worn as it was, and made a hole just large enough to lose a penny through.
He fetched up beside the young clerk's chair. The clerk picked him up, and had a sudden craving to eat Chinese that night.