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    Mary Gaitskill

    4. Wish Fulfillment

    By Mary Gaitskill

    One night Mary, a little girl with sisters and parents who loved her, woke in a dark forest. At first she was afraid and then she realized it was her backyard. During the day she sometimes pretended her backyard was a forest and now, in the dream world of night, it had become a forest. During the day she pretended there was a door on the floor of the forest, and so now she went to look for it. She found it between the garage and the fishpond, and she opened it with excitement and a little fear. During the day she had imagined that under the trapdoor there was a staircase lit with lamps, and so there was. Knowing by now that she was dreaming and that this chance might never come again, she went down the stairs, closing the door behind her.

    As Mary descended the stairs, she became me, or, to put it another way, I became dimly aware of her, descending down into herself as I, a middle-aged woman, drove through the town where I live on a rainy spring night listening to an old song on an obsolete tape. The music in the song started with the sound of a crippled machine stripped to its barest function, turning unevenly round and round on a cockeyed pivot, screeching sweetly and brokenly. There was a sound like slow-struck bells and a voice like that of somebody looking for something in the dark. I used to listen to it years ago, lying drunk on my floor in the dark. I would listen and think of a woman I loved, or tried to love. Her name was Karen. We did not belong in the same world, but somehow our separate worlds had overlapped. I see your wishes on the wall. Karen was overspilling with impossible wishes and so was I. Our wishes were glowing, and always out of reach; they made life around us blurred, magical and painful. Our wishes were not the same at all, but somehow, we had met in the dark and, for a moment, our wishes had overlapped. . . . Read More.

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