The Jackalope Wish
Keely pounced. Her hands closed on squirming, wiggling fur.
"Got you!" she yelled.
"Ugh, ugh, let me go," said the jackalope.
"Not until you grant me a wish. You can do that, right?"
"You can so! I know because George used one of you to find the best place to dig the new well for the kitchen garden."
"Oh, very well," groaned the jackalope. "What is it, then?"
Keely held on to him. Now that she had the jackalope, she wasn't sure what to ask. She wanted her father to be safe, and for Flaming Gorge to stop besieging Green River, and to save Dymion, and --
"I wish," she began slowly, "that --"
"No, no, no," said the jackalope.
"What now?" Keely tightened her grip on the squirming beast.
"Don't start with the 'I wish' as if I were a falling star! Just ask me." His horn dug into her arm, and she winced.
"Wait. What other advice do you have?"
"Ask for something simple."
"You're not serious."
"Of course I am. I'm only a jackalope. There's only so much I can do. For instance, if you should happen to be thinking of having me save a friend from an unbreakable curse, like I'm pretty sure you are, that's a no go. You'll have to think of a better idea."
"How did you know what I was thinking?" demanded Keely, taken aback.
"It's just part of wish-granting. Sometimes people aren't real clear with their instructions." The jackalope snorted.
Keely thought again about asking him what she could do to help her father. Or maybe she should ask for details about the maze that might give her clues about who had put the curse on it. She only had one wish! Maybe she should use it to stop the Gorgers from attacking Green River Castle. That was the biggest thing. The gardens might have been destroyed already. Her father or her friends might be hurt. But there was also Dymion. He might be eaten by monsters before she could find a way to rescue him.
This was impossible!
The jackalope interrupted her thoughts. "Nuh-uh. I can't single-handedly stop a siege. Especially if I don't know what caused the war. Sorry. Can't do anything with that underground place, my magic's no good there. Any other ideas?"
"Look, I prayed to the King of the Desert and I think he sent me you. There has to be something! Do you know anything that could help me?"
"Is that your wish?" asked the jackalope.
"There's a woman not far from here. You should go to her and ask for help." The jackalope squirmed and kicked.
"Wait! Which way?"
"Towards the sun. You'll find her on the other side of the little hill. If you hurry. Better get moving." The jackalope gave a hard kick and burst out of her grasp. The last Keely saw of him as he vanished into the brush was his stiff little tail.
She squinted at the sun. It was already sinking into the west. Encouraged, she scrambled down the loose slope to the desert floor. The hill was just a few hundred yards ahead.
Who would the woman be? A Wind River explorer? Who else would come out this far?
The stone hill looked smooth, but its surface was like sandpaper under her fingers. Keely followed the curve. Ahead she could hear someone muttering, as though talking to herself.
The muttering silenced with a gasp. Keely rounded the last of the corner. "Is anyone there?"
All she saw was. . . legs. The hem of a plain wool dress brushed the top of a very large pair of boots. The tails of a buckskin surcoat swished as its owner backed up several steps.
Keely looked up. Way up. Her mouth fell open and she stood still. The woman the jackalope had found was a giant. She could have sat easily on one of the thrones Keely had seen in the labyrinth, and she was as tall as the grand doorways.
"Howdy," she offered at last. "I'm Keely." She didn't know what else to say.
"What are you doing here?" said the giant. Her voice was soft and lower than Keely's.