On his eleventh birthday, sad, orphaned Benjamin Bartholomew Piff accidentally adheres to all of the wishing rulesand, in wishing for the mother lode of limitless wishes, he unknowingly sets into a motion a chain of events that threatens to disrupt the balance between the magical realm of wishes and curses. Before long, Benjamin has been recruited by the Wishworks Factory director himself to fight the evil henchmen of the Curseworks Factory. In the process, Benjamin will reclaim his original wishgiving new credence to the old adage: “Be careful what you wish for . . . ”
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After he’d waited long enough for Mr. Roach to return to his quarters, it had taken Ben no time to liberate his only birthday present, light a candle for himself, and cut a large slice of the gooey cake.
Ben glanced at the small black wick of the burned-out candle and sighed. What a lousy birthday.
Suddenly a voice that sounded like nails on a chalkboard startled him out of his morose thoughts.
“What did you wish for, Ben?”
Mr. Roach, in his pajamas and tattered bathrobe, stood in the darkened hallway with his hands crossed over his wrinkled and wiry frame. His black, beetled eyes glinted with triumphant glee. Ben knew that this time the punishment would be far worse than a long lecture from Ms. Pinch or an evening of scrubbing stew pots. He gulped and replied in as steady a whisper he could manage.
Mr. Roach approached, winding his way around the kitchen table like a slithering snake, baring his crooked, yellow teeth.
“Oh, I’m sure it was something.”
He was only several inches taller than Ben but seemed to tower over him, staring down with an evil smile. “Tell me.”
Ben was sick with fear. He had been tormented by Mr. Roach long enough to know that the evil cook would never rest until Ben did what he asked. But even though he was scared out of his skin, he couldn’t bring himself to confess what he had wished for. Ben hadn’t been too serious when he made the wish, figuring he might as well make it for something outrageous. But without really realizing it, maybe, just maybe, there was a tiny place deep inside of him that wanted to believe that such a wish were possible.
Feeling desperate, he wanted something to happen more than anything else he had wanted in a long time.
I wish Mr. Roach would forget about this whole thing and go back to bed.
A strange, faraway look transformed the cook’s features. He stepped back a few paces, looking surprised. Then, with his mouth gaping hugely, he yawned. His eyes were bloodshot and heavy. Mumbling as he turned to go back down the hallway, Ben heard him say, “Musta been a bad dream.” And without even closing the kitchen door behind him, Mr. Roach tramped upstairs to his tiny stone room and collapsed onto his rumpled sheets, snoring loudly.
Ben was stunned. He felt dizzy and sat down on a kitchen chair so that his legs wouldn’t give way beneath him. Did that really just happen? He gazed around the darkened kitchen for several moments, his mind racing, as he listened to the tick of the clock on the wall.
It may have just been a coincidence. He was probably really tired or something. In spite of the logic of this thought, Ben sensed that it couldn’t be true. Mr. Roach had reacted too strangely when Ben had made the wish for him to go back to bed. But since when did birthday wishes come true? He had made them all of his life, and up until this point they had never happened.
He glanced down at the front of his oily, grime-encrusted shirt. Staring at it, he mumbled, “I wish I had some different clothes on.”
The shirt seemed to evaporate in a blurry haze, and before Ben realized what was happening, a brand new clean black t-shirt was in its place.
Heart thumping, Ben walked over to the box that contained the only evidence that he had been in the forbidden kitchen. He eyed the partly eaten birthday cake and concentrated.
I wish the cake was whole again and nobody could tell that I had eaten any.
There was a brief pause. Then, like a film played backward, tiny crumbs of cake rapidly began to fill in the missing wedge. In moments the cake was restored to its original condition. Eyes boggling, Ben noticed that even the chunk of frosting with the words “Happy Birthday” written upon it was perfectly restored.
Oh, man. The world spun crazily around Ben as he stumbled out into the warm summer night and made his way back to his army cot in the dormitory.
My wish for unlimited wishes has come true!
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