They stumble over toys, bags of fertilizer, and charcoal grills. They slip on the dewy grass, muttering “fuck.” Jeff stops and nods toward a yard. “Check it out” he says. In the moonlight they can just make out the objects there: a wooden man with a blue Ball jar head and a garden spade violin, a swaybacked horse of tree branches, a tin bird with bike reflector eyes, all displayed like trophies. In the center of the yard sits a crumbling stone well. Jeff ruffles the flange of hair spilling over his collar, takes a swig of Everclear, and hands the bottle to Emmie. She shakes her head. “What the hell is wrong with you tonight?” Jeff asks.
“Nothing.” Emmie stuffs her hands into her pockets. “I’ve just had enough.”
“I can’t believe you never heard of this place,” Jeff says. But Emmie has heard of it. She’s found excuses to wander by, alone, many times. If Jeff knew she thought the place was cool she would never hear the end of it. “Must be some kind of devil worshiper or fag to have shit like that in your yard,” Jeff says.
“Maybe.” Emmie decided months ago that the yard was an artist’s. An artist was what Emmie thought Jeff was when she first saw him in the back of civics class, drawing a perfect replica of the inside cover of Led Zeppelin Four. She moves to the well, her sneakers squeaking on the grass.
Jeff follows. “Maybe,” he mocks. Emmie dips her fingers into the water and then touches her face. “Jesus, Ember, that water stinks.”
“Emmie,” she says, wiping her fingers on her jeans. “I told you to call me Emmie.”
“Here we go again. Emmie. Sounds like some old lady.” Jeff sits down on a brick wall under a tree. “Nasty well.” He lights his pipe and inhales. A seed crackles. Getting stoned is all Jeff wants to do these days. He has stopped drawing. Emmie had grown tired of heaping phony praise on his unoriginal works, anyway. The stuff in this yard, though, Emmie has never seen anything like.
Emmie peers into the well. “Wishing well,” she thinks. Emmie never knows what to wish for, but she knows she wants something. She digs a penny from her pocket and tosses it in. The penny plops, leaving tiny circles in its wake. Emmie feels her wish fluttering inside her, nameless. A fish leaps from the water, arcing in the air, glistening, water droplets trailing like shooting stars. It splashes back into the water. Emmie gasps.
“What,” Jeff says through held breath.
“There’s a fish in the well. It jumped.”
Jeff snorts and exhales a stream of smoke. “Ember, you are stoned out of your gourd.” But one sip of Everclear is all Emmie has had tonight.
A window over the backyard fills with light. “Aw, shit,” Jeff says. He falls to his knees, groping the overgrown brush for his dropped pipe. Emmie runs, not looking back.