Once Upon a Time Writing Contest: Eric Martell

OUAT flash fiction entry by Eric Martell (@drmagoo on Twitter).  

Remember, if you don’t have your own blog just email me. I will be happy to post your entry on Yearning for Wonderland. 

Prairie Wishes
There are a lot of wishes made in rest stops.
“I wish I hadn’t gone to Taco Bell for lunch.”

“I wish I could stay awake without amphetamines.”

“I wish my kids would just shut up for one goddamned mile.”

At most rest stops, all except one, the wishes are answered in the more-or-less random way wishes are answered everywhere – that is, as a matter of happenstance.

Between mile markers 197 and 198 on a non-descript highway crossing a non-descript state lies the “Heart of the Prairie” rest stop. Most people speed past it, some stop and use the restroom or take a nap or buy a terrible cup of coffee.

The custodian at the Heart of the Prairie is an older man, slow, plodding, and the one who puts up the “Restroom Closed for Cleaning” sign that suffering travelers curse. The name tag on his faded grey shirt reads “Gene” in pretend-fancy script, and he is a three-dimensional projection of a nineteen-dimensional being whose name in his own language, oddly, is Gene.

Bobby Jones was having a bad day. He’d been fired. Again. The envelope marked “Final Notice” was on the floor of his car. And his last dollar was in the motherloving candy machine, but the candy was stuck in the twisty coil. Sometimes a man is brought to the end of his rope by the smallest of things, and he could take it no longer.

Bobby fell to his knees in front of the scratched faux-wood panel keeping him from his Whatchamacallit bar and wept. He wept for all the paths his life had not taken and all the choices he had not made. But mostly he wept for that candy bar.

“I wish, just once, I could have something go right. Just one time.”

Mopping the red ceramic tile in the lobby, Gene heard Bobby’s wish. He moved the mop forward, left, and back, and heard the hollow clunk behind him as the now-free Whatchamacallit bar fell from its perch.

He finished mopping the floor, secure in the knowledge that the universe was, once again, safe.


  1. That Denrele
    Apr 11, 2012

    Love this one. Simple wish, simple fulfillment, all’s right with the world.

  2. SJIHolliday
    Apr 11, 2012

    Funny, brilliant and gorgeous! Thanks for entering :)

  3. Meg McNulty
    Apr 11, 2012

    Love this – touching, poignant and funny too. Fantastic take on a fairy tale, brings it home. :)

    • drmagoo
      Apr 16, 2012

      I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  4. moonduster
    Apr 15, 2012

    LOL! Love it! I so wouldn’t want to waste a wish on something so simple! hehehe :)

    • drmagoo
      Apr 16, 2012

      If only he’d known that his wish might be granted, what could he have wished for?

      Or was it only granted because it was so simple?

  5. Evermore Evil
    Apr 15, 2012

    Wow, something so tiny, but so huge…amazing :)

  6. L.S. Taylor
    Apr 16, 2012

    Oh, I feel sorry for Bobby. Have to agree, very poignant. Guess the heart of the prairie isn’t too far from the desert! 😀

  7. Melanie Conklin
    Apr 17, 2012

    You did a great job bringing those characters to life in so few words — I feel like I’ll spot Gene one day at a rest stop and shiver!


    • drmagoo
      Apr 17, 2012

      Thanks, Melanie!

  8. Daniel R. Davis
    Apr 17, 2012

    Loved this one, on many levels.

  9. Miranda Boers
    Apr 22, 2012

    I will make sure I say my wishes out loud at all rest stops from now on – just in case! ( ; > Brilliant.

    • drmagoo
      Apr 23, 2012

      Thanks, Miranda! It never hurts to let the universe know what you want…unless there’s an imp around. 😉

  10. Ang
    Apr 23, 2012

    Plain and simple, I just really like this story. Like a lot a lot. Great work.

    • drmagoo
      Apr 23, 2012

      Ang, thanks very much for the nice words. 😉

  11. Cameron Writes
    Apr 24, 2012

    Oh wow that one got to me – be careful what you wish for – so many hundreds of wish tales all in one – and the Gene character had me howling. Love it

  12. drmagoo
    Apr 25, 2012

    Thanks, Cameron!

  13. Lisa Shambrook
    Apr 25, 2012

    Brilliant concept and great last line!

    • drmagoo
      Apr 26, 2012

      Thanks, Lisa!

  14. Natalie Bowers
    Apr 26, 2012

    I enjoyed this! Nice of Gene and his magic mop to grant Bobbly his wish. :)

    • drmagoo
      Apr 28, 2012

      Thanks, Natalie!

  15. J. Whitworth Hazzard
    Apr 29, 2012

    Nicely done, Dr. Magoo. I think I’ve been to that rest stop. 😉 I’m quite sure it’s in Illinois. If any state can bring a man to his knees it’s Illinois.

    • drmagoo
      Apr 30, 2012

      Thanks! I’m not telling where it is, though – Gene is not a being to be trifled with.

  16. Jeff Tsuruoka
    May 2, 2012

    Elegant in its simplicity. I love the idea of fairy tales in non-traditional fairy tale settings.

    • drmagoo
      May 2, 2012

      Thanks, Jeff!

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