BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR
A SHORT STORY
By A.C. Hutchinson
Copyright 2015 A.C. Hutchinson
It was a usual
Wednesday morning for David Patzpowski. He was sitting in the
motorway diner with a newspaper in one hand and a fork in the
other. On the table in front of him, a full English awaited his
attention. The clock on the wall read ten past eight, five minutes
later than the actual time.
reading a trashy news story about a famous footballer involved a
drunken bar brawl. The only thing capable of diverting his
attention away from the newspaper and the string of similar stories
was the pretty waitress clearing the table next to him. She smiled
at him as she passed, holding a stack of precariously balanced,
dirty plates in both hands. He returned the smile, which was not
quite as aesthetically pleasing as hers, but it was the best his
chubby face could muster.
He was glad the
waitress had smiled at him. Every morning he would watch her taking
orders and clearing tables. He had wished only yesterday for her to
pay him a little attention. He guessed that she was about twenty
years old. That would make him seventeen years her senior. [_But
who’s counting?_], he thought.
As she walked
past, his eyes followed her pert, swaying bottom, inducing a
further smile on his sweaty, reddened face. With a warm feeling of
satisfaction, he returned to reading his newspaper. With his right
hand, he blindly stabbed the sausage on his plate and lifted it to
his mouth. His eyes momentarily shifted from newspaper to fork and
back again, causing him to notice, with surprise, the man sitting
at the other side of the table.
“Can I help
you?” David said, lowering his newspaper. The man stared back at
him, blankly. Probably a weirdo, David thought. “You know
there are plenty of other tables you can sit at.” David motioned
towards the empty booths opposite.
There was a
moment of tense silence. The man stared David in the eye and held
his gaze. David began to wonder if the man was not just a weirdo,
but a very dangerous weirdo. He didn’t want to be a story in
tomorrow’s edition of the paper he had been reading, with a
headline like Man Killed Over Pork Sausage.
Just as David
was about to move tables, the man said: “Do you consider yourself
to be a lucky man, David?” His voice was calm and steady.
morning I–” [_He said my name! The goddamn weirdo said my
name!_] “Do I know you?” David asked, suddenly very interested in
“You don’t know
me, David, but I know you very well.”
not from the Inland Revenue, are you? Because, I declare
everything. Got a draw full of receipts at home too. If you need to
investigate me, I’ve got nothing to hide.” David’s mind began to
question if that was actually true. He paid his accountant
handsomely to hide his wealth.
This has nothing to do with your tax affairs.”
“You a cop
appreciate it if you would stop asking questions, David.”
“You know who
you look like? Samuel L. Jackson. Especially as Mace Windu in those
Star Wars films.”
It was true,
even down to the elaborate cloak the man had wrapped around
“I’m here on
important business,” the man said, leaning forward. “Earlier, I
asked you if you thought that you were lucky. I believe that
you are very lucky.”
nice car, good job, great wife. Yes, David thought. [_I’m
very lucky indeed_]. “I guess I don’t do bad.”
“You know, you
shouldn’t eat a fried breakfast every day,” the man said. “It’s bad
for your heart.” The man tapped the left side of his chest.
doctor. I’ll bear that in mind.” There was more sarcasm in David’s
voice than there was fat in his cholesterol-laden breakfast.
“Do you think
you punch above your weight, David? Let’s face it, your wife is
very beautiful, but you’re not exactly a looker, are you?”
“Oh, I see
where you’re going with this,” David said, making a connection in
his head. “You gonna blackmail me or something? Kidnap my wife and
ask for a ransom? Or maybe threaten to show her some incriminating
evidence of me at the office Christmas party unless I pay up?”
“If I did want
to use blackmail, David, then I could find enough crap on you to
fertilise every field in the Northern Hemisphere.”
“Aren’t we the
“How did you
meet your wife, David?”
“Seeing as you
know me so well, Mr Windu, maybe you should tell me.”
“Okay. She was
the girl you adored at school. The girl you could never have,
because you were the fat kid. The one with no friends. The last one
to be chosen when teams were picked for football. The one that
finished last in cross-country. You reeked of BO and were teased
about it constantly.”
This man knew
too much. David was becoming a little scared. He was either being
secretly filmed for a This Is Your Life-style TV show or he
was having a very bad dream.
“But you wished
hard,” the man continued. “Very hard. You wanted to make her yours.
And much to the surprise and disgust of everyone, the unthinkable
happened. The would-be prom queen dated the king of the dorks.”
“Who are you?
How the hell do you know so much? You better start giving me
answers, buddy, or I’m going to start getting very pissed off!”
It was an empty
threat. David – who had been bullied throughout his entire
school life – did have the ability to lose his temper, but being a
wimp at heart lacked the necessary valour to back it up.
“Do you believe
in angels, David?”
with Father Christmas and the goddamn tooth fairy!”
“What if I said
that I was an angel, David?”
“I’d think you
were even more nuts than I currently think you are.”
“I have wings.
Would you like to see them?”
[_Is this guy
nuts or what?_] [_He may have some scary inside knowledge of
intimate parts of my life, stuff no one else should know, but this
man is clearly short of a few fuses._]
his arms, sat back in his seat and said: “Show me.” [_This should
be interesting_], he thought with a smile. [_Maybe the crazy guy
popped in at_] Toys ‘R’ Us [_on the way. I hope he
remembered batteries!_] David sniggered to himself.
The man stood
and untied the cord from around his neck that held his cloak in
place. Underneath he wore a white, frilly shirt. With a shrug of
his shoulders, the man let the cloak drop to the floor. To David’s
amazement, two large, black, feathered wings sprang from behind the
man’s back. They looked like they belonged to a giant crow. They
flexed and flapped as if they were real.
around the diner expecting the clientele to be watching this
impromptu sideshow with wonder. To his surprise, no one was. People
continued to eat, drink and chat, seemingly oblivious to the black
man with the large flapping wings. David was beginning to question
“How are you
doing that?” David asked.
The man turned
around showing David his back. His shirt was conveniently cut to
allow the wings to poke through. David stood, wanting to closer
inspect the feathery appendages. He could see the skin on the man’s
back moving – taut and slack, taut and slack – with each
out and touched the feathers. They were real enough. He moved his
hand to where the wings joined the man’s smooth skin. They were
seamlessly attached, like a hand to an arm or a foot to a leg.
David pulled his hand away quickly, suddenly disgusted by the
abomination. Had the wings been surgically attached? The word
‘crazy’ was now inadequate.
said, backing away. “I think it’s about time you and me parted
The man put his
cloak back on, hiding the wings, and returned to his seat at the
David,” the man said, gesturing with his hand towards the now empty
“You know, I
think I’ll just grab my briefcase and be gone.” Still standing,
David reached over to grab his briefcase, which lay on the
you knew a young man called Michael,” the man continued. “He was
good at everything he did, far better than you. He was handsome
too; in fact, your girlfriend had a crush on him. You, however,
despised him. Hated his guts. Is this ringing any bells with you,
David sat down.
It was as if the man could see inside his head and read his
thoughts as if they were a book.
“One day, at
the end of term, just after Michael’s football team won the league,
he went out to celebrate. You were dragged along too, namely by
your girlfriend. Michael had every reason to be happy. That year,
he received countless accolades from his lecturers. He was a young
man going places, with a bright future.
“The pub was
full when you arrived; he had so many friends. Everybody loved him.
Later that evening, you caught your girlfriend giving Michael the
eye. You were furious. You stormed off home, wishing Michael was
dead.” The man paused and leaned forward. “What happened next,
exactly what had happened next. [_It was pure coincidence, that
was all_], he thought. A goddamn freaking coincidence.
“He died didn’t
he, David?” The man who knew too much said. “Stabbed for his wallet
on the way home from the pub that night. Bled to death on the
pavement. Just as you’d wished.”
David looked at
the man in wonder.
“That’s not the
only time you’ve wished for something to happen either, is it,
David?” the man continued. “Along with your wife, your job, your
dream home, that small lottery win, not to mention the extramarital
affairs. Everything you have ever wished for has come to pass.”
always thought the same, but he didn’t like to admit it.
fortunate,” David said. He was more than fortunate, though.
Somehow, he always got what he wanted. He could kid himself and
pretend that he deserved the lifestyle he had been gifted, but deep
down he knew that wasn’t true.
anyone makes a wish, David, it goes before the angels. They decide
whether the wish comes true or not. Every once in a while, though,
a person is born with the ability to bypass the angels. Their
wishes always come true. You are one such person, David.”
“You expect me
to believe this shit?” David said. But he was beginning to believe
everything the man was saying.
“Your wife was
meant for someone else, David. That someone was Michael, your
deceased university associate. You have no idea how many problems
you have caused the angels.”
David said, holding his hands up as if in surrender. “Let’s just
say, for the sake of argument, that all you’re telling me is true.
I’m a lucky bastard and I get everything I wish for. But tell me,
Mr Angel Wings, why are you here? Why are telling me all this?”
“Your wife is
very unhappy, David.”
“I wouldn’t say
she’s unhappy,” David said, hurt. “She’s a bit down at the moment,
because she has been with the wrong man for most of her life.”
“I make her
happy when I can. Just this morning I said to her that my wish was
for her to have anything she wished for.”
The angel, if
that’s what he was, smiled. It was the first time David had seen
him make any sort of facial expression. “And what did your wife say
in return, David?”
“She said she
wished I–” David suddenly realised the whole point of this
impromptu meeting. “–she wished I was dead!”
David,” the man leaned forward. “I am an angel of death and you
really shouldn’t eat fried food; it is extremely bad for your
David felt a
tightness in his chest. It felt like his ribcage was being
squeezed. The pressure continued to intensify until it felt like
his bones may snap like twigs. He gasped for air, but his lungs
wouldn’t inflate. He was suddenly drenched in a cold sweat, which
his shirt soaked up like a thirsty sponge. Shots of pain exploded
from his chest and travelled to the far ends of his body.
table, the man who professed to be an angel of death had his wings
out again, spread wide and vibrating, like a bird in a courtship
dance. His face no longer resembled that of a Hollywood movie star,
but instead a demonic vampire, with an exaggerated brow and two
protruding sharp teeth hanging down from his top jaw.
began to swim and then darken. He remained conscious long enough to
taste more of his Full English as his head flopped into it, face
Article in the
following day’s newspaper:
[_Angelica’s Diner, a man suffered a fatal heart attack
whilst tucking into a full English. Thirty-seven-year-old David
Patzpowski was discovered face down in his breakfast by a concerned
customer. Proprietor, Angelica Godbell, said that Mr Patzpowski was
a regular customer. “He would eat here every morning, but this is
by no means a reflection on our fried breakfasts,” she said.
Witnesses claim Mr Patzpowski was eating alone at the time, but was
acting strange before his death. One fellow diner said Mr
Patzpowski was talking to himself and waving his hands around
erratically prior to the incident. Police are not treating his
death as suspicious._]
[*A full-length novel,
THE GHOST AND THE RAILWAY. Available from selected online
Thanks to: My son,
James, for supplying the cover photograph; Paul Monkman, as always,
for his proofreading prowess; and my wife, Lindsay, for her
continued support (also, this short story happens to be one of her