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The Fourth Wish: Chapter 6 - Daisy's Do-nuts

The mysterious Mrs Seraphina, the granter of wishes, makes another appearance. And now it is Melanie's turn to wish...but will she wish wisely.

To read earlier chapters of Elizabeth Varadan's wonderful magical tale for children of all ages click on The Fourth Wish in the menu on this page.

A yeasty smell of fresh doughnuts greeted them. The sudden warmth after the wetness outside made Melanie's face tingle. Seeing the green-iced Christmas-wreath doughnuts in the glass case, she wished they hadn't spent most of their money on popcorn.

Daisy hovered at a window table, filling coffee cups for three men in business suits.

"Let's sit over there." Arthur pointed. They made their way to the corner booth and slid along the vinyl seats. Automatically they all dug through pockets, then spread their coins—mostly pennies and nickels— on the table to see what they could afford.

"What'll it be today?" asked Daisy, when she came over to their table. Her round, good-natured face was as coppery as the pennies. Her flowered uniform made her look more like a friendly neighbor than the proprietor. Everyone called her Daisy because of the shop's name, but her husband, the cook, was always Mr. Jackson. Even Daisy called him that to the customers. Her eyes checked out the coins.

"Gotta special on crullers," she told them. "Four for a dollar. Some of Mr. Jackson's finest. Been rolled in cinnamon." She flashed a smile when Arthur smacked his lips.

As Daisy went off to get their crullers, Cory hunched forward across from Melanie, elbows on the table. "We have to make Mondo leave us alone," he said.

"We have to get Mondo’s job back for him, and then he’ll leave us alone," Arthur pointed out.

Melanie rolled her eyes. "Like, we'll just go talk to Mr. Cottler and he'll agree, right?"

"We have to make Mondo’s magic go away," said Cory. "Man, it's creepy! I thought it was just a joke at first."

Melanie dropped her sarcasm. "I thought Mrs. Seraphina was just a bag lady," she admitted. "I hope she leaves us alone."

"How are we going to make another wish if she leaves us alone?" Arthur asked.

"What makes you guys think we get another wish?"

"She did have more than one box," Cory said.

"But, you know what?" Erin piped up next to Melanie. "Wasn't it funny when Mr. Cottler floated around like that?" She giggled. "I liked it when he said, 'Put me down, put me down.'"

Melanie caught Cory's eye, then Arthur's. Cory looked like he was gulping down a laugh. Arthur put a hand to his mouth. She could feel her own mouth quivering. Suddenly all three of them broke into fits of laughter.

"What's so funny?" Daisy grinned as she set down a plate with four hot, fragrant crullers. Arthur and Cory stopped laughing to sniff.

"Guess what?" Erin told her. "We saw The Great Mondo today!"

"Really!"

"And he could do all these things, just like the newspaper said!"

"It was a magic act," Melanie explained.

"He did magic tricks," said Cory. Arthur snorted. All of them started laughing again.

"Yeah, well, it must have been a funny show." Daisy smiled, then nodded at three businessmen who were heading toward the register. "Enjoy your crullers," she added before hurrying off to ring up the order.

An idea occurred to Melanie. "Can I see your box?" she asked Cory.

"Huh?"

"Mrs. Seraphina said wishes come home, remember? Maybe there's something inside. Like in a fortune cookie? Like, maybe there's a message?"

"Hey! Cool!" Cory started going through his shirt pockets. Then his pants pocket. A funny look came over his face.

"Cory, you didn't lose it! That was probably our only clue!"

"Try your jacket," suggested Arthur.

"Here it is." Cory pulled the orange lacquer box from a pocket in his jacket, and they all leaned forward to peer as he lifted off the lid. The box was empty. No fortunes. He held the box upside down and gave it a little shake.

"Nothing!" said Melanie, unable to hide her disappointment.

Nobody else said anything. In the silence, Arthur took a cruller from the plate and started munching on it. Cory took another, then Erin did, too. Melanie was just reaching for the last one when she felt a gust of cool, damp air blow into the cafe.

They all looked up to find Mrs. Seraphina closing the door with a firm push. She paused to settle her small black cap against the white fluff of her hair. Her eyes lit up when she saw them, and she proceeded toward them. Almost before they knew it, she was standing next to their table, one hand on her carved wooden staff.

"How was the magic show?" she inquired, looking around at them.

As if she didn't know. Melanie pursed her lips.

"Guess what?" said a breathless Erin. "Mondo got fired!"

"Yes, he told me that while we were talking."

"And he's very, very mad at us."

"Oh, I don't think so. Not anymore," Mrs. Seraphina assured her. "May I join you?"

Melanie scrunched against the wall, and Erin wiggled closer so that Mrs. Seraphina could sit down.

Daisy came flitting by with a pot of coffee. She paused to give the woman a curious glance.

"This is Mrs. Seraphina," said Erin. "She's our new friend."

"Pleased to meet you. I'm Daisy Jackson."

Mrs. Seraphina smiled. “Likewise.”

"Can I get you anything?" asked Daisy.

"No, thank you, I won't be here long."

"Well, just give a wave and a holler if you think of something." Daisy hurried over to a table where two women seemed deep in conversation.

"I love crullers, don't you? Especially with cinnamon!" Mrs. Seraphina reached over and took the cruller Melanie had planned to eat.

"So Mondo isn't mad at us anymore?" Arthur asked, around a bite. Crumbs dusted his chin. "Does that mean he isn't chasing us?"

"That's right. Have a cruller," the woman told Melanie. Annoyed, Melanie glanced back at the plate—and jumped. A brand new cruller lay there. That was impossible! She looked across at Cory and Arthur, but their eyes were on Mrs. Seraphina's face.

"Can he still read minds?" worried Cory.

"I put his mind reading on hold, it was upsetting him too much."

Melanie studied the new cruller, a finger against her lower lip. Maybe the plate hadn't been empty. Maybe she had just expected it to be. Things were so confusing today. Daisy could have brought an extra one that she hadn't noticed, even though Melanie was sure she had counted four, not five. She hesitated, then took it from the plate, licking off some of the cinnamon before sinking her teeth into the flaky dough. It was still warm. It was a real cruller, not imaginary. And it was delicious. She must have counted wrong.

Across from her Cory nudge Arthur. "So we don't have to worry about Mondo for awhile.”

Cory nodded. “Cool.”

Mrs. Seraphina's chuckle was like a soft purr. Her glance fell on the lacquer box and she arched her white brows.

Melanie had a new thought. "How long will Cory's wish last?"

"Hmmm." The woman tilted her head to one side. "Some wishes last until sunset. But this won't be over at sunset," she told them. "Some wishes last forever." She fingered the orange box lid. "I don't think you want this one to last forever."

"No," the four of them said in unison.

"How will I know when my wish comes home?" asked Cory.

"It already has, in a manner of speaking. Every time you look at this box, you'll remember your wish."

He grimaced. “Oh.”

"To return to the first question...." Mrs. Seraphina regarded Melanie over Erin's head. "Some wishes need another wish to make them work better."

"See? I told you," Arthur gloated to Melanie. "Okay,” he began. "I wish...."

"Actually, it's Melanie's turn to wish," said Mrs. Seraphina.

Melanie nearly choked on a bite of cruller. She quickly swallowed. Her throat felt scratchy as she croaked, "My turn?"

Part of her still didn't believe in wishes. Today had been like a weird dream. Soon she would wake up and find out that they all needed to hurry and get ready for the magic show and the movie. On the other hand, if everything today really had happened—Mr. Cottler, all those bunnies, and running away from Mondo—the thought of a new wish rattled her. Look what had happened with Cory's wish. She would never hear the last of it from Cory or Arthur if she messed up.

Mrs. Seraphina patiently waited.

A wish to make the first wish work better. Melanie knitted her brows in thought.

"Undo everything," Arthur prompted. "Like it was before."

"Do you mind? Just let me decide." After a moment, Melanie said, "We need to, um...put things back the way they were before the last wish." She hooked a strand of hair behind her ear. "That's what I wish."

But Mrs. Seraphina gave her head a rueful shake. "Nothing ever goes back to the way it was," she said.

"See? I knew that was a dumb idea," Melanie told Arthur.

"What would be the point?" continued Mrs. Seraphina. "You were trying to solve a problem, and you did, from what I can see. You wouldn't want Erin still crying, would you?"

"No," Melanie admitted.

“Erin, did you like the magic show?"

Erin gave a delighted grin. Melanie scowled. That grin had forced her to miss Race to Tomorrow.

"Still, solving one problem sometimes creates other problems," resumed Mrs. Seraphina. "Which is why you should be...specific."

"What's spe...spe...?" Erin gave up.

"Saying what you mean," explained Arthur.

"Saying exactly what you mean," corrected Melanie.

"Right." Mrs. Seraphina smiled. She waited.

Everyone waited.

Melanie's face grew hot. The more she thought about it, the sillier she felt about making a wish, no matter what had happened earlier.

Across the table from her Cory mouthed, "Fix Mondo's magic."

Arthur's lips moved soundlessly, "Get Mondo's job back."

Even though she hated to admit it, their suggestions did seem to take care of everything. She took a deep breath and folded her arms. If they didn't feel stupid about making a wish, she might as well go ahead. "I wish Mondo will get his job back and his magic will go away."

"All of his magic?" inquired Mrs. Seraphina. "Some of his magic?"

"I think...all." Melanie looked at Cory and Arthur. They both nodded. "Will that wish work?" she asked Mrs. Seraphina anxiously.

"Of course it will work. If you're sure that's what you want to wish."

Melanie chewed her lip, trying to see what she might be missing. "Oh," she said, figuring it out. "You mean Mr. Cottler might be upset if Mondo comes back? But Mondo won't be able to make him float this time."

"Mr. Cottler isn't the point." The veiled smile was back.

Melanie thought again. Probably Mrs. Seraphina just wanted her to be sure what she was wishing. "I can't see anything wrong with it," she said. She looked at the others. "It's...specific," she told Mrs. Seraphina.

"You all have to agree," Mrs. Seraphina reminded them.

"I can't see anything wrong with it either," said Cory. "It covers everything that needs fixing."

Arthur considered it. "Mondo gets his job back; no more magic. I agree. It was my idea anyway."

"Can we go see Mondo do his real show? His trick show?" asked Erin. When Melanie nodded, she turned to Mrs. Seraphina. "I agree."

"Very well." Mrs. Seraphina took a new box, identical to Cory's, from her cape pocket and stood up, holding it in her palm. She closed her eyes. Her frosty brows knotted together over the bridge of her nose.

This time Melanie watched closely—they all did—trying to see how she made the wish happen. But Mrs. Seraphina only looked like she was thinking hard about something. Just as before, she opened her eyes and blinked.

"That'll do," she said.

Melanie narrowed her eyes. That had to be the magical part, she decided. That'll do. As if Mrs. Seraphina had given instructions to someone. The idea was so weird, Melanie gave a little shudder.

"Goodness, look at the time!" The woman peered at the top of her walking stick, the way someone else might consult a watch. Melanie wished she could get a closer look at the top of that stick.

"I'm already late for my appointment,” said Mrs. Seraphina. “Oh, before I forget...." She gave the orange box to Melanie.

Melanie inspected the smooth, shiny box. It was just right for the charm bracelet her father had sent her from Nicaragua last Christmas.

"Thank you," she said and politely added, "have a nice appointment." She wondered just what kind of appointment that might be. She watched Mrs. Seraphina start across the room, moving pretty quickly for someone who used a walking stick. She was already halfway to the door, her black cape wrapped tidily around her.

"Merry Christmas," Erin called.

"Oh, I'll see you before then." Mrs. Seraphina’s voice wafted over to them. Now she was at the door. Then out the door. Then gone.

Arthur stretched his arms and slouched back. "Well, that's all taken care of."

"Yeah, I'm glad we fixed everything," Cory agreed.

But Melanie wasn't so sure. A faint uneasiness nagged at her, as she remembered Mrs. Seraphina's smile. What if they hadn't fixed things after all?

© Elizabeth Varadan 2006

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