The morning sun dappled the kitchen wall with an outline of wind-fumbled leaves loosely hanging on trees, cooking in the early morning heat.
On the card table, slash, breakfast table, slash, dinner table, the future lay exposed in a circle of plastic cards organized among the ruins of last night’s fast food feast.
Her husband called it the “Wheel Of Life”. A wish made real. They could live as they wanted to live, without want, without need, without anything that they didn’t want to do without. A perpetual money machine.
“See, it works this way. Credit card number one pays number two, who pays number three, who pays four and on and on until you come around back to number one. What’s not used to pay the next card goes into our pockets. The trick is making sure there’s a new number one for every cycle. Given that, we’ll never have to have money to have money.”
He looked up. His face beamed with the innocent surety of a child on Christmas Eve.
She looked down, closed her eyes and lightly touched the table for balance.
Here it was. The final betrayal of reality spread out before her using his best “influencer” presentation style. Influencer, that had been a disaster. The word itself gave her a headache. He had given up his last year of college for that one.
“A wish is a promise waiting to be fulfilled,” he had said.
“I wish . . .” she had whispered.
From that day on every course they had set by that damned star sailed their lives closer and closer to the edge. Their life together became an accretion of failures portrayed as opportunities “just missed” and “almost made”.
The lacquered sheen of increasingly disastrous schemes ever so artfully applied with the collapse of each sure thing and each eventual, painful late night reinvention as someone else, somewhere else, looking for something new.
“I wish . . .” she whispered one last time.
Catherine opened her eyes and despaired at the sight of the wheel.
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