The pier jutted out into the lake like a tongue tasting the water. Strewn all over it were inner tubes, super soaker squirt guns, brightly colored inflatable balls, and nerf toys. At the end, with their legs dangling, sat two boys facing the setting sun.
Pete said, “Today was so random.”
“Best day ever,” Jon said.
Jon felt a strange sense of familiarity; like he had spent more than a vacation week playing with Pete. It felt more like a year, maybe even years.
Pete pushed his wet hair up off his forehead with his fingers splayed out and it stood up straight like it had been moussed. “Too bad we gotta go back to Massachusetts in two days.”
Jon said, “That’s a long way from where we are in New York.”
Pete stood up and struggled to get his hand in the pocket of his wet shorts. Fishing to the bottom, he pulled out some change and separated out a single shiny penny. He said, “My Auntie Liss says if you put a penny in your hand like this, smack your forehead and make a wish, the wish will come true.”
“It’s true. She told me to do it once when my soccer team was playing their last game. Sometimes I mess up passing the ball, like maybe I get nervous or something. So I said the thing she told me to say and made a wish and it worked.”
“What did you wish for?”
“I wished that I wouldn’t trip over the ball. And I didn’t.”
Jon figured it was more a case of the power of suggestion, but he kept that thought to himself and just nodded. He asked, “What did your aunt tell you to say?”
“I’ll just do the whole thing and you can watch. Okay?”
“Sure.” Jon again perceived a sense of foreboding he could not quantify. It was like he was here before, watching Pete do his wishing thing.
“Alright, it goes like this: wish a penny, penny wish. Lincoln’s head to mine.”
The penny was shiny, glinting in the sunlight. Pete lightly smacked his forehead with the penny in his open palm and held it there.
“To make my wish come true for me would be real fine. So I close my eyes and wish—toss the penny away. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but it’s all I can pay.”
Pete threw the penny over his shoulder and it plinked into the lake. Then he made his wish.
“I wish this summer was longer.”
Pete looked all around, as if expecting something to happen right then and there. Everything seemed unchanged, so he sat back down.
Jon said, “That’s it?”
“Yup. More summer. Auntie Liss says you gotta keep the wish simple, or it won’t come true.”
“Yeah maybe, but it can’t hurt to ask.”
Jon wanted that cloud of eerie familiarity to pass. It bothered him more and more that he had been down this road before. He stood up, surveying the distance to the inner tube floating a few feet from the pier. He said, “Bet I can dive through that inner tube.”
Pete checked it out and said, “Never make it.”
Jon took a step back, retraced the step and dove for it. The inner tube squawked as his skin tried to stick to it, but he made it through. His momentum carried him toward the bottom of the lake and he opened his eyes as he slowed. The water was crystal clear and as soundless as another world. Yet there was a subtle stretching, twisting sound of something huge and all encompassing, muted by the lake.
The bottom shimmered and he swam closer for a better look. What he saw were pennies. There were hundreds—maybe thousands—of shiny pennies littering the bottom of the lake near the pier.
At first he just marveled at them and then it occurred to him why they were there and his eyes went wide with the horror of it. Pete’s wish—over and over again—had come true. They were stuck in a loop and Pete’s wish was the hub. He pushed off the bottom and when he broke the surface he gasped for a breath.
He said to Pete in a rush, “You’ll never guess in a million years what’s down there.”
Jon’s father called out to them from the cabin, “Boys? Dinner. Come on up.”
As Jon was climbing back up onto the pier Pete asked, “What? What’s down there?”
Jon had just enough time to think about it and said, “I’ll show you later, let’s eat.” He stormed off toward the cabins already planning his intervention of the wish the next day.
He just hoped he remembered.