Adam Michael Wright
MAKE A WISH FOUNDATION
None of us thought he’d make Disney World
in time, which is what he asked for
before he died. A fever steered Jonah, Mariah’s brother,
toward extinction on a mattress
in Biloxi. He was nine; wouldn’t make it to ten,
and overflowed his bed pan orange
a second time—a side effect of his yellow meds—
and Mariah cried with small,
almond eyes over her sibling’s wet sweat. I said
we should take a walk
to the brown, black sand of the Sound. Sometimes
broken bottles glinted in the muddy terrain.
She slipped off her K-Swiss sneakers and I wanted
to carry her
because Mississippi was gross. Mariah did not want
her hand held. She was short,
busty, and Italian, and refused to hear my stammering,
insecure guesses at an afterlife.
I thought that’s what a boyfriend was supposed to do.
I told her what I thought—
Jonah’s special. He’ll be in a better place—
then, as we kicked over soot and rock,
I offered to hold her white shoes. She shooed me
away; said “Not now. I wish you’d stop.”
I was her afterthought. She wanted me to stop,
like a stillborn. She wanted her brother
to start over, like rebirth. My Mariah promised
we’d talk. Not then,
but later. And that’s how she broke up with me: all opaque
and with her brother’s breaking body up there in Biloxi.
I didn’t know what she meant, at first, but I thought
we really might be through, so I was dying for
Make a Wish to make me an offer too. Maybe
the charity workers,
unlike a clown or magician, could perform
a miracle. They were like genies
in a lamp, only for sick people, and I was
heartsick. And if the wish-granters would not
cough up my universal request for infinite
wishes, then I’d resign
my one wish to Jonah: for him to have vitality and good health
in the Magic Kingdom.
But since her brother would live, I’d still also wish (kinda like hope)
Mariah wouldn’t be mad
at me, and I still wished to save her from her dirty ocean feet.
She wasn’t gross. I was grotesque—
looming over my loss as Jonah, like baloney,
neared an expiration date: just lying there.
When we returned to the hospital Jonah’s fever
broke. He had a chance,
they said. Not like Mariah and me. Thanks to those
damn pills that forced him to piss
Tropicana. The doctors squeezed the fever out, like juice
from an orange. His color returned, but the Foundation
did not. Because he got better, they took Jonah’s
wish away. His head healed.
The charity had a change of heart. The deal was off.
Genies make dreams come true—only for dying kids.
I protested that we’re all terminal, and we should all get
what we want before we die, and to get back together
with our girlfriends. Whether angry her brother might never see
Disney, or incensed that I thought
he wouldn’t make it, Mariah swore we were through
forever. I thought Indian giver, and I’m sure
Jonah did too. That’s how afterthoughts think. He and I
will never forget the wish takers
are also the granters. The good news, like side effects,
always gets coupled with bad,
like you’ll pee orange; like the love of your life
can be unfair; like you can’t live
forever but you’re not gonna die just yet.
You’re not going to see God. You’re not going to see Mickey.
—from Rattle #34, Winter 2010