Uriel Fox and the Wishing Machine
When Uriel Fox witnessed a large metal box crashing near the highway, he assumed he was observing a small section of an airplane. However, as he approached the wreckage, he realized the object resembled a small satellite or perhaps a medium sized microwave oven. Uriel finally picked up the peculiar box, and turning it over, speculated it might be some kind of scientific device. Believing no one else had observed the box descending from the sky; Uriel liberated it from its hiding place behind a large red bush. To make certain no one had followed him home; he peered through his bedroom window. When he felt sure he was alone, Uriel placed the artifact on his kitchen table and examined it closely.
At first, the metal box resembled some kind of military hardware because of the dials, buttons, and knobs. It also had a speaker like component that looked like part of a communication system. It seemed like a formidable device in some ways, but Uriel, being much more adventurous than cautious, decided to experiment with the device and attempt to switch it on. He methodically turned on various controls and attempted to decipher the device’s obscure symbols, but nothing happened at first. Exceedingly disappointed, Uriel continued tinkering with the machine. After several hours, he experienced a breakthrough, and the speaker in the device began to communicate with him.
“Who are you?” the voice from the box demanded.
Uriel, being surprised, but not alarmed replied, “I am Uriel Fox.”
“Uriel Fox,” the voice repeated. “You are now the owner of this artifact, and you must use it wisely.”
Uriel had no idea what the voice meant, so he said, “Who are you? What is the purpose of this device?”
“I am a secret voice recording that instructs each new owner about the artifact’s function. The device itself is a wishing machine.”
“Where did it come from?” Uriel wanted to know.
“I do not have that information. I only know the device is not of this place,” the voice replied cautiously.
Uriel now felt impatient. “Can you at least describe the purpose of this machine? What do you mean it is a wishing machine?”
“Obviously,” the voice answered. “The device grants wishes. As long as you own the wishing device, it is yours to employ for whatever you desire.”
Uriel became instantly more interested in the machine and asked, “Are there any specific rules? Can I operate the wishing machine to help others with it?”
“Yes,” the voice answered with authority. “There are three very important instructions that must be followed by anyone employing the device: 1.The wishing machine allows one wish per person. 2: This wish must be personal and not extravagant. 3: The machine may never be used to hurt anyone at any time.”
Uriel thought for a moment then asked, “Since I own the wishing machine, do I receive more wishes?”
“Everyone receives one wish,” the voice explained. “Now I must end this transmission. My part in these proceedings is over. Goodbye and God bless!”
After the cryptic voice ended, Uriel felt a sense of power and duty. Despite some of the voice’s ambiguous statements, Uriel felt quick witted enough to figure out most of the instructions on his own. For the next several days, he carefully considered how to proceed. Obviously, since he had only one wish like everybody else, then the machine was meant to be shared. The rules about the wishing procedures also made it imperative that Uriel consider his potential wish carefully. He would need to devise a system for allowing others to make a wish as well.
Uriel decided to walk through town to clarify his thoughts and finalize his plan. He was merely a visitor in the town of Affinity, yet he still could observe their possible needs and problems. He desired to be both fair and honest with his wishing machine project, so all could have an opportunity to benefit from his device.
Finally, Uriel completed his plan for the machine. First, he decided to rent a store front with the device behind the counter. Then he noted the store hours as 8am-5pm. Most importantly, Uriel created a poster describing the three regulations and the wishing machine: First, One wish per person. Second, The wish must be personal and not extravagant. Third, No wish can hurt anybody else for any reason.
Soon after Uriel had posted his sign, it became an immediate source of curiosity and ridicule. Most people were afraid to appear naïve or foolish, so they peered into the front window, but nobody entered. At last, a young boy arrived at the store in the afternoon, and he appeared to be very upset.
“What’s your name?” Uriel asked kindly.
“My name is Jeremy,” the boy whispered. “But I don’t think you can help me.”
Uriel became even more sympathetic. “Why don’t you tell me anyway?”
“I lost my gym bag with all my school books in it,” Jeremy began. “If I can’t find them, I will have to pay for them.”
“I think I can help you with your missing gym bag,” Uriel replied cheerfully. “Please come up to the counter.”
“Is that the wishing machine everyone keeps talking about?” Jeremy asked, more encouraged now.
“Yes, yes,” Uriel assured. “Now, talk into the speaker and tell the wishing machine what you want.”
Jeremy did as instructed, “I want my gym bag back.”
“Good,” Uriel replied. “Now continue searching for your gym bag and textbook books. They will appear soon.”
The hopeful boy ran home and immediately told his story about his wish to his parents. For his reward Jeremy was sent to his room. His parents understandably assumed that their son had lied about his story. However, when the gym bag eventually appeared on the back porch the next morning, Jeremy’s family came to the realization that their son’s story was credible. The family spent the rest of the day announcing to the entire town that the wishing machine was indeed genuine.
The next day, Uriel Fox was suddenly very busy with customers who desired information about the wishing machine. Initially, everyone simply wanted to know about the rules and procedures. However, by late morning, people began lining up and waiting their turn to make a wish. Soon, the group became chaotic with some people saving places and brazenly cutting in line. Nevertheless, Uriel decided to ignore this behavior because he simply wanted to help others in need.
One of the first customers to approach the wishing machine was a portly man named Mr. Dunberstir. “I’ll tell you what I want,” he demanded arrogantly. “I want a new sports car!”
“Speak your wish into the wishing speaker,” Uriel answered somewhat annoyed. “You will get your wish in twenty four hours.”
Mr. Dunberstir repeated his demand and then hurriedly walked out the door past the line. Later in the evening, a well-dressed woman named Miss Otona rushed up to the counter and shouted that she should be given one hundred thousand dollars, so she could buy her neighbor’s house. Uriel carefully explained to the woman that one hundred thousand dollars seemed like an extravagant wish and that she should be more reasonable. But Miss Otona remained obstinate. “Plenty of people have that much money!”
Before long, Uriel relented. “All right, but I’m not promising you that your request will be granted.”
After Miss Otona completed her wish, she walked out of the store in a pompous manner, assuming her desire would be fulfilled.
Uriel accepted one final customer that evening, and he had the strangest wish of all. He was called Jay Styverson, and he confidently ambled up to the counter. Having already watched the others make their demands, he knew what to do. He placed his face against the speaker and demanded, “I want a rich woman.”
Uriel looked stunned and required Styverson to repeat his wish.
“I want a rich woman,” he repeated.
Uriel realized the problem with the wish. Although it was personal, it directly involved manipulating another person.
“I’m sorry,” Uriel answered carefully. “That is an improper wish. No one can own someone else. You probably won’t be granted this wish.”
“I don’t care about your rules!” Styverson shot back angrily. “That’s my wish.”
Uriel decided to end the argument and let the machine make the decision.
Styverson repeated his demand and left rudely. As soon as Styverson was gone, Uriel locked the front door. He felt puzzled that people with so many simple needs could wish for things that seemed so outlandish. What good were cars, better houses and anonymous women when so many other important needs existed?
Yet for now, Uriel could only wait to see how things would develop. He remained in Affinity, to continue his work and waited patiently to determine how he might spend his own wish. He felt certain it would be needed. Uriel still couldn’t decide whether the wishing machine was a divine blessing or a sinister curse.
By the next day, the wishing machine proved that it was a genuine sensation. Yet, the consequences for the customers who employed the wishing device were also apparent. When Mr. Dunberstir woke up the following morning, he did discover a new car in his driveway. He immediately sojourned to his favorite tavern, got drunk and crashed the car against a tree. He wasn’t seriously hurt, but the car was demolished.
However, Miss Otona’s wishing decision describes a more disturbing story. She arrived at her neighbor’s house with the wishing money she received, just as her wish stipulated. Yet, even though the house was already for sale, the neighbor refused to sell it to Miss Otona because she simply didn’t like her. Later when the neighbor finally grew weary of Miss Otona’s tantrum, the neighbor merely declared that the price of the house had been doubled. This made the house far too expensive. Sadly, if Miss Otona had simply dropped the whole matter; she would have spared herself what followed.
Late that night, Miss Otana seized a big rock and hurled it into her neighbor’s upstairs window. This commotion startled the woman and caused her to stumble down the stairs. The ensuing lawsuit cost Miss Otona one hundred thousand dollars.
By far the most bizarre consequence of the wishing machine concerned Mr. Styverson. The morning after his wish, he received an invitation to a surprise party. The letter indicated that if he were to come in person, he would win a prize and have the opportunity to participate in a singles’ dance. At the party, Styverson, completely forgot about his five-year outstanding warrant for forgery, and fell victim to a sting operation. Ironically, he was arrested by a female officer.
Uriel felt deeply troubled. Not only did he fail to help others, but he also made their situations worse. He believed that since the wishers could only make a single wish, perhaps they couldn’t “fine tune” them. Perhaps they needed more chances to practice with the wishing machine. However, Uriel eventually concluded that no matter how many wishes they received, they all would still choose foolishly. In fact, only Jeremy with the missing gym bag seemed to be able to wish for a genuine need. Everyone else spent their precious wishing opportunity on satisfying their desires, and somehow the wishing machine understood and punished them.
Uriel at last, discerned what his one wish should be. He requested that he could gift the wishing machine to a more capable owner. Therefore, late that night, he packed the wishing machine into a mailing carton with a fictitious address. He also left out the return address, so the wishing machine couldn’t be returned to him. Perhaps someone else will have better luck, he thought. Uriel left the town of Affinity the following morning and hoped he had done the right thing.
John Zurn has earned an M.A. in English from Western Illinois University and spent much of his career as a school teacher. In addition, John has worked at several developmental training centers, where he taught employment readiness skills to mentally challenged teenagers and adults. Now retired, he continues to write and publish poems and stories. As one of seven children, his experiences growing up continue to help inspire his art and influence his life.