Friday, February 7, 2014

An Unknown Cost

By: Krystalyn

They said that if you put in a Susan B Anthony instead of a quarter, it granted one wish.  I'd never tested it out personally, but I'd heard plenty of stories handed down by my dentist and my hairdresser and anyone else who deemed me a captive audience. 

I'd never tried it. I'd never wanted to until the one day I did.

The ground had been touched by snow, not enough to cancel school, but enough to prove that it was darn cold out. My eyes watered and my bones shivered as I walked home. I just wanted to get home, so I wasn't paying attention to the "Walk/Don't Walk" sign. I took a step off the sidewalk and flung myself into the intersection. 

The sound of screeching tires froze my blood in a way that the cold never could. The bright red letters of the "Don't Walk" sign came sharply into focus. And that's all I saw.

The next thing I remember is staring into the driver's side of the wrecked car. The bloody man lay back against the head rest. The air bag rested in a pool across his body. The part covering his stomach moved, barely.

"He's breathing! He's still breathing!" yelled a voice shockingly close to my ear. "Call 911!"

I jammed my hand into my pocket to pull out my phone, but I couldn't figure out how it worked. "I can't. I can't..."

The owner of the voice yanked the phone out of my hand. Her words echoed distantly as she issued directions to the operator. 

I kept my gaze locked on the man. Each tiny movement of the air bag was one more breath. If I kept watching, he would keep breathing. I had to believe that I could fix him.

I vaguely registered sirens and flashing lights. Eventually, someone pulled me away. They asked me if I was fine.

"No, I'm not." I wasn't hurt, but I wasn't fine.

They guided me into an ambulance.


Hours at the hospital. Waiting room. Talks of surgery. Whispering adults. Sobbing children.

And thoughts. Well, just one actually.

I did this.

At first, I didn't think about the phone booth. Those stories I'd heard while getting my teeth drilled or my hair chopped had taught me that certain types of knowledge came for a price far greater than the Susan B Anthony.

Skinny Pete asked for the winner of the Super Bowl so he could bet a ton of money on it and live like a king. He sure did win, but the next day, lost his arm in a freak lawn mower accident.

Lily King asked how to get the hottest guy in our county. She got him, but then he stole every cent she'd earned as a Bob Evans waitress and skipped town.

Stupid people, I'd always thought. They threw their lives away for wishes.

But sitting in that hospital room, I suddenly understood the allure of wishes. My thoughts drifted to that shiny red phone booth and the promise that it offered. I wasn't asking for love or money. I was asking for the most essential thing a human body needs - life. My cost would be steep.

Before I could talk myself out of it, I left the hospital and walked down to the all night laundromat. They had a change machine that gave out dollar coins. I put a five in, the only cash I had. Out came four Sacajaweas and one Susan B Anthony. I left the Sacajaweas on a counter for someone else to use and headed for the phone booth.

It was a long walk to the outskirts of town. I shivered the whole way even though I didn't feel the cold. The stretch of road was deserted. The booth looked lonely, like it needed me to come inside. I stared at the door. The red color reminded me too much of the man's blood and how it covered his body. When the color had burned into my eyes like a permanent after flash, I stepped inside. 

I ran my thumb over Susan's face, felt the soft bumps. One dollar. And an unknown cost.

I picked up the receiver and shoved the coin into the slot. A soft crackle filled my ear for an eternity before an ancient voice finally asked, "What is your wish?"


"He made it," the doctor said.

Cheering wife. Jumping children. And me, sitting in the corner until everyone had gone to see then man that was the center of their lives. 

I sat alone, my hand propping up my head until I heard feet shuffling through the doorway. An ancient voice spoke softly. "It's time."

Photo By: wintersixfour


  1. The first lines of this story are fabulous.

  2. I love the idea of the booth being for wishes. Great details here.