“Flutter Fruit” by Erik Bundy
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Sometimes a wish must be allowed to grow before it can change lives.
Please enjoy our Feature Story: “Flutter Fruit” by Erik Bundy
Cody’s hospital room smelled of chlorine and peppermint. I waited while the nurse in a pink smock injected medicine into his IV drip. She wished me a nice day and left.
I crossed two fingers and pressed them against my witch’s mark, the red mole on my neck. “Hecatee, please let it come.”
But nothing fluttered into sight. What was I doing wrong? Why didn’t the grimoire’s directions work?
“What are you doing, Mom?”
“Trying to catch a wish and make it come true.”
“Wow, you can do that?”
“It’s a new spell I’m learning.” Smiling to reassure him, I bent over Cody’s high bed and kissed his hairless scalp. “I’ve got to go now. I’ll see you this evening.”
Downstairs, I stepped into the gift shop to buy more peppermint gum; it relieved the bitter aftertaste when Cody vomited.
The woman behind the shop’s counter said to a lab technician in a white coat, “I wish I could go to Spain.”
Quickly, I pressed crossed fingers against my mole and mumbled, “Hecatee, please show me her desire.”
A pale moth, emerald tinged with envy, shimmered into sight above a fake silk fuchsia in a plastic pot, but before I could grab the wish, it faded into oblivion, as wishes do.
“Blast,” I muttered.
Displeased, the lab tech frowned at me. It took effort not to hurl my anger at him, not to ask him why he and his kind didn’t cure my darling boy.
But what had I accomplished? All my potions and all my forest herbs hadn’t expelled Cody’s cancer either. Even rattlesnake venom had failed. I couldn’t even make a wish appear long enough for me to catch it.
At one o’clock that afternoon while I was showing a $400,000 lodge to a woman with a pixie haircut, she sighed and told me, “It’s a dream house. I just wish I could afford it.”
Again I pressed fingers against my witch’s mole and whispered, “Hecatee, let this true wish come to me.”
A tiny moth, purple with longing, appeared in the bare living room and hovered near my face. I snatched it from mid-flight. The client sidled away from me.
“Thank you for the wish,” I told her. Beating wings tickled the palms of my cupped hands.
“I have another appointment,” the woman said and almost ran to the front door.
Why had she asked to view a house she couldn’t afford? Had Hecatee brought about our meeting?
The captured wish turned lumpish. I peeked between two fingers and saw a purple grape. I wrapped it in a tissue. If Cody ate this magical fruit, it would grant him a wish that would come true.
But it transformed again by the time I got home. From my purse I pulled out a pulpy mass pocked with ulcers, something I flushed down my toilet.
Teary-eyed with sour anger, I again consulted the grimoire my grandmother had left me. The giving of it had skipped a generation because my mother had been born unmarked. The instructions for the wish spell lay on page thirteen, a number with true occult power:
Crossed fingers on a witch’s mark and mumbled plea
will flying wishes like moths bring thee
when spoken aloud to Hecatee.
Snatch them, catch them, and use at a trot
for fragile they be and are quick to rot,
though the wise woman knows how to make this not.
Three days later, I watched Cody lay out the metal parts of a kit on his bed. His dream was to become a robotics engineer if he grew up. He glanced at me and said, “You know, Mom, I wish Dad was still alive so he could be with you.”
I mumbled my plea with fingers pressed against my sacred mark and caught the flitting moth, its feather-weight body the color of my wedding ring.
By the time I reached home, I found the dusty moth had become a tiny cankered apricot. I sucked my sticky thumb and nearly vomited. This foul fruit would cause pancreatic cancer rather than cure it.
“Why am I failing? Why?”
Then I laughed. Did the directions not read, “Though the wise woman knows how to make this not?” Of course, a witch knew the ways of plants. More was required of me.
I tore open the fruit’s squishy flesh and plucked out its heart-shaped stone, which I planted in potting soil moistened with sky-fallen rain.
The next morning, I awoke to find a mushroom-pale stem three inches high. That afternoon, leaves sprouted like furry mouse ears. By the second day, a pearl-like bud appeared. On the third day, it ripened to the color of an apricot. Instead of picking the fruit and starting its rotting process, I carried the entire plant to the hospital.
“Wish yourself cured and eat this,” I told Cody. “But I want the seed.”
He bit the tiny apricot open in his mouth, tongued out the heart-shaped pit and spat it into my cupped hand, then ate the sweet flesh. I pressed the precious seed he had given me into the pot’s loamy soil.
Watching me, Cody raised his eyebrows.
“We’ll use it again and again for other children on the ward,” I told him. “And I’ll catch more wishes.”
Erik Bundy is a graduate of the Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop (2010) and a grand prize winner of the Sidney Lanier Poetry Competition (2011). He has published more than thirty stories and poems, and his fantasy novel, “Magic and Murder among the Dwarves,” will be published by Untold Press next spring.
Tags: erik bundy, metro fiction, short stories