The Un-Wish Bone

Submitted by Jim Hirtle to Contest #9 in response to: Write a story that focuses on the relationship between siblings.... view prompt

Delectable Thanksgiving aromas fill the home, sweet cranberry mixed with savory turkey and green onion dressing. Pumpkin spices dance with fresh apple tarts announcing the season. A Christmas tree has been adorned with a handful of shiny metallic balls; a string of lights, yet to be unraveled, wait patiently on the plush carpet for someone to wrap their length around the tree’s generous girth. Football is on the television but the father has turned down the sound. The children knew that was not a good sign.

Twins, a boy, and a girl, standing next to the dining table, heads bowed; all their effort being exhausted to avoid meeting the foxlike stare of their father. The once beautiful crystal decanter lay shattered on the tile floor; a light bouquet of very expensive brandy mixes with the Thanksgiving aromas. On the grand table, a small white plate, the edges trimmed in Christmas green and gold. On the plate’s center, a wishbone; all that remains of the fifteen-pound turkey.

“I know I heard your mother ask you both to stop running. Now if I heard her, I must believe you certainly heard her.” He pauses, longer than required; a dramatic effect, or so he believes. “You did hear her, am I correct?”

“Yes, sir.” The twins respond in perfect harmony.

“I thought so. Now, why didn’t you listen?” Another pause, this one shorter. “That decanter belonged to your grandmother; it is very special to your mother.”

“Mom said I could have the wishbone this year. But she,” he turns looking at his sister, offering his best nine-year-old, “you’re in big trouble” look, “tried to get it before I could. And it doesn’t belong to her! She is being a thorn in my side!”

The girl stands silently, studying the tiled floor.

Their father picked up the V-shaped bone from the plate. Holding it up to the light he appears to study it very carefully. His smile is hidden from his children by the exaggerated tilt of his head. Memories of past Thanksgiving dinners flicker before his eyes. The wishbone tradition had been passed down from generation to generation for almost a hundred years. Each Thanksgiving one child is chosen to snap the bone. The twin’s father, just as his father and his father before him, would grasp one stem of the bone offering the other to the chosen child. Fingers placed carefully in just the right position always assured the lucky child would be rewarded with the longer side of the bone. A peace-making idea occurs to the father.

“Wishes granted.” He said. “Wishes. More than one. Did you know that?” He asks.

Again, in perfect harmony, a whispered: “No, sir.”

“So, you each take a side, make a wish, and pull. You will also need to apologize to your mother. Is that understood?”

Without waiting for his children to answer, he returns to the living area. A moment later the sounds of the football game could be heard stealing their father’s attention.

Patrick glares at his sister. Patricia smiles at her brother. Words thankfully were not exchanged. Tiny hands, one of his, the other hers, reach for the wishbone.

Patricia, or Trish her preferred nickname, closes her eyes, “I wish, I wish for a Barbie playhouse, filled with all the finest furniture and lights that really work”

Patrick, who did not like nicknames, closes one eye, sneaking a peek at his sniveling sister before closing the other, “I wish, I wish…she was never born!”


“Patrick! Patrick, what are you doing? Have you fallen asleep standing up?” Gisela’s familiar accent enters the room, followed by the sounds of her heavy footsteps tapping across the ceramic tile.

The boy opens his eyes. The plump German housekeeper standing next to him, the aroma of apple pie floats up from her flour-covered apron. The sound of seventy-thousand fans cheering for their football team is coming from the family room. A mirror hung in the passageway, reflects the tall Noble Fir, decorated from stem to stern, thousands of tiny lights dancing to a song only heard by them. An angel resting, as she has done every year, on the very top. On the grand table, a crystal decanter filled to the slender neck with an expensive brandy. In small white plate with green and gold trimmings, sits an unbroken wishbone.

Patrick looks around the room, confused. “Where is Trish?” He asks Gisela.

“Wer?” Gisela inquires.

“Patricia! My sister! Where is she?”

The little German woman laughs, “The baby is not due to arrive until spring. Your hopes for a baby brother? Where have those gone?’ She laughs again.

I wish she was never…

Patrick bounds up the staircase with the speed and agility reserved for nine-year-old boys. Running down the long hallway, he could see the closed door to Trish’s room. Placing his ear upon the door he listens. Nothing. He taps lightly. Nothing. Opening the door—

Patricia’s room is gone. Her princess white canopy bed has been replaced by a white crib, a baby’s crib. A matching changing table sits across from the crib. A white rocking chair; on the floor before it was an oval rug with wool braids died bright green and brilliant blues, the braids woven together to fashion a picturesque magical forest. A mobile, with colorful dancing unicorns, hangs from the ceiling, is the only other occupant of his twin sister’s room.

Where are her things? Her toys?

Patrick turns from the doorway, running back down the hallway. His shoes screeching loudly in protest when he comes to a sudden halt. The portrait that hung on the wall above the landing has changed. It is painting was from last Christmas; his family standing together in front of the large fireplace as the artist presented her skills across the canvass. His father and his mother standing in the background smiles on their faces. In front of them stands…Patrick.

I wish she was never…

Gisela was sitting at the head of the grand table. A cup of hot coffee had joined the decanter and small white plate.

He looks at the little woman, “Gisela, I did something bad.” A tear escapes.

“I know, mein schatz.”

Sitting down, he asks, “How?”


“I overheard your wish.” She tells him. “I was afraid you may be wishing me away.”

“I would never do that,” Patrick replies, a second tear falling away.

“But this Trish? You wished her away?”

“Yes.” He whispers.

“She was your sister?”

“My twin sister.” He answers the woman. “What am I going to do?”

Gisela puts one stubby finger on the edge of the white plate, pushing it gently across the polished table. Patrick looks at the wishbone. He did not want to touch it. He would never touch another wishbone! “Do not fret.” She says as if reading his young mind. “A wishbone cannot undo a wish. A wish is forever. Do you know where wishes wished go after they are granted?” Gisela pushes the small plate a little closer to the edge of the grand table.

“No,” Patrick mutters, thinking of his twin sister and what he has done.

“Noch ich I. No one knows. You see, that is why wishes are forever. They are in a place no one can unravel. No one or nothing can bring them harm.” Pushing the plate a little closer, “You should have been more careful with your wish.”

The sounds of a cheering crowd come from the family room. Patrick hears his father release a moan; the other team must have scored.

“What will I tell my parents?” Looking at Gisela.

“There is no need to tell them anything. They never knew of your sister. You wished her away—as if she was ever born.”

He had lost command over his tears, they streamed down his face, landing on the small white plate now sitting in front of him. “What am I going to do?” He fretted aloud.

“My Opa. My grandfather, he once told me of a wayward wish he had made as a child. His wish brought him much sadness…like yours has. But he learned what to do.” She waits.

Sitting up straight, “What did he do?”

“Does it matter to you, Patrick. Your wish was granted. Your sister is nicht mehr. Gone. Der Dorn in deiner Seite is kaputt.”

Shaking his head, “What?”

“The thorn in your side, Patrick, is no more.”

“But I want her back! Please tell me what he did.” He begs the woman.

Frau Gisela picks up the small wishbone, holding the bottom of the V between her thumb and index finger. Patrick had never noticed how small her hands were. “My Opa discovered the secret.”

“Secret?” the boy asks.

“Ja, the secret on the Un-Wish Bone.” She whispers the last words carefully.

“Opa was a young boy when the Great War was fought. Stalluponen was a terrible place for a little boy. Exploding bombs filled the night robbing children of sleep and sweet dreams. Most of the men had been called to battle. One who remained was a man called the Metzger. The Butcher. He was very old, too old to fight. He was also very wise. Opa’s wishbone came from Metzger’s meager supply of poultry. After Opa’s errant wish, it was this butcher that told him the secret of the un-wish bone. It is the only way to erase a wish. To undo a terrible mistake, Patrick.”

Patrick Goode looked at the woman he had known all his life; all nine years. Was she telling him the truth? Or was she making up another tale? When he and Trish (there is no Trish!) were small, Gisela would tell magical tales each night before their tiny eyes closed.

He decided a challenge was in order, “Did he tell you this secret?”

She nodded. “Ja.”

“Please tell me.” He asked her with a quiver in his voice.

Placing the wishbone against her heart. “You must hold it like this.” With her other hand, she pointed to the position of the wishing bone. “The true feelings of your heart, Gefühle deines Herzens, will fill the wishbone’s V. Pressing it against your heart, close your eyes. Then gently pull, but do not break the bone. If the bone breaks...the true feelings will escape. The un-wish will be gone" She warned. “And then count to three, eins, zwei, drei. And then...you un-wish.”

Patrick looked at her round face, searching for signs of truth

“Was sind die wahren Gefühle des Herzens?”

“What?” he asked.

“What are the true feelings of your heart, Patrick?”

Peering into the family room he could see the reflection of the Christmas tree in the large wall mirror. The lights dance as if nothing in the world has changed. He hears his mother and father talking about the holidays, about gifts, shopping, and family visits. The sounds of the football game had been replaced by Christmas music.

“I want her back. I want my sister back.” He whispers.

Gisela places the wishbone into his waiting hands. Slowly pressing the bone against his chest, looks to the little German woman for her approval. She nods and smiles.

Patrick closes his eyes, inhaling deeply. His bright blue eyes suddenly pop open, “Do I count to three aloud?” He asks.

A warm smile, a gentle nod.

Closing his eyes again, “One…two…three.”

Patrick Goode opens his eyes. 

“What did you wish for?” Trish giggled.


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