Deep in the wishing well at the edge of Paddy O’Toole’s land, a greedy little man held dozens of people’s dreams hostage. Collecting them with the five- and ten-cent pieces that were dropped from above, plopping into the pool of shallow water at the bottom of the well. Paddy’s family hadn’t been able to collect water from the thing in over fifty years, which is why they let their neighbors and friends wander through the field and cast their hopes and dreams into the dark, hollowed stone structure, built in 1602.
Little Tommy Kent wished for a year’s supply of lollies to stash under his bed, away from his mother’s eagle eyes, which forbid him any sweets at all. Millie Wayward had wished for a prettier nose. Mrs. Kinsey wished for her dear, crippled John to walk normal on straight, healthy legs. Mary Brennan wished for twenty thousand pounds to feed her children and buy them a proper bed. Perhaps they could have had those things if her husband didn’t spend their Dole at the corner pub, but ah, that is another story for a different time.
None of the well-wishers were aware of the midget camped in the well’s base, hoarding their coins in a wooden box by his pillow and blanket. Crouching in the dark shadows, listening to these pathetic people cast wishes into a hole, he’d smirk and rub his palms together as he waited for the clinking sound of coins to fall.
“Stupid people,” he’d mutter under his breath. “Thinking they’ll find their dreams in the bottom of this here well. If they’re going to waste valuable money on this sort of thing, I’m going to make use of these coins to buy myself a real home.”
Over forty years, this little man had collected almost enough to buy a small house in town on the corner of Modgekin Street. It wasn’t much to look at, but he planned to spend his remaining years in front of a warm fire eating savory lamb stew. When he waded into the murky knee-deep waters to feel for the metal coins along the algae floor, it was worth the disgusting slime on his fingers that smelled like sewage and mildew.
“Just a few more pieces, and that house will be all mine,” he’d excitedly remind himself, tossing the coins into his wooden box.
Meanwhile, the townspeople waited for their wishes to come true, and as time passed slowly, many of them hoped for something more. Sparing a coin from the weekly paycheck or Dole, they continued to trek to Paddy’s wishing well and toss another request down the hole.
“Please cure my mother from her sickness.”
“I wish for my stringy brown hair to be wavy and blonde.”
“I wish for my bloody husband to get a job and make enough money to feed his family. Here’s another five-cent piece if you can cure him from the drink.”
Down in the hole, the little man collected the people’s wishes and dreamt of his own. But on the other side of town, a witch named Helga had wishes and hopes of her own. For years she had observed the silly locals trudge across town to Paddy O’Toole’s property and toss a shiny coin or two down his well.
“There must be enough money down there to buy me a one-way ticket to the Bahamas,” she mused. “And all I have to do is climb down that hole and gather it into this burlap sack.”
One late night, when the moon shone extra bright, Helga crept across Paddy O’Toole’s land to the old stone wishing well, where the greedy little man was tucked under his blanket and fast asleep. Hooking a rope to the base of the well, the witch hoisted herself into the hole and clumsily scaled the wall, but when she dropped her feet into the mildewy waters, the SPLASH startled the little man awake.
“AUGH!” he yelled.
“Eeeee!” Helga screamed in fright. “What are you doing in the bottom of this well?”
“I should ask the same of you!” the little man cried. “This here’s been my home for the past forty years!”
Suddenly, the witch noticed how her boots were planted firmly on solid ground. No coins shifting and clanging when she moved around. Where have all the people’s money gone, she wanted to know.
“There’s no money in this well,” the little man insisted, attempting to block his wooden box from her view.
“You’re lying,” said the witch, and then she spotted the container he was trying to conceal.
Lurching forward, she attempted to steal it away, but her boots slipped on the algae surface and she went flying into the air and landed on her bottom. Angry that her black dress was now wet and brown, she reached for the little man’s feet and dragged him toward her miserable soul. They tumbled and fought, scrambling to own the box of coins at the water’s edge. In their fitful rage, they punched and bit and kicked, and just when it seemed the witch had an upper hand, the little man swung with all his might and pushed his tiny fist into her one good eye. As she wailed in pain, she lost her footing again, falling backwards and knocking her head against the cold, stone wall, which split her skull in two. Releasing her grip on the little man, he, too, found himself falling into the unfortunate path of his beloved wooden box, and when his own head cracked against its corner, the rotted wood splintered and peeled away, causing forty years’s worth of coins to tumble out and bury the greedy man and witch in a whole town’s hopes and dreams.
– Written by Miss A on October 11. 2011