The sun shined bright in the blue autumn sky as the Thompson family drove along the winding
mountain road. The air was just cool enough for sweaters but not cold enough to prevent a vacation in the
mountains where Bill Thompson grew up.
Andrea rode in the back seat and marveled at the colors of the leaves on the trees. Browns, reds,
golds, and yellows of all different shades were on display for all to see.
As they rode along the winding mountain road, Ruth Thompson wondered what it must have been like to have grown up in such pretty surroundings as this. For she grew up in the heart of the big city, where trees were hardly ever seen.
In the ten years since she had met and married Bill, this was the first time that she and Andrea had visited Bill's boyhood home. Bill, himself, had only been back once since leaving to go to college, and that was to attend his mother's funeral. Ruth would have come along then if she had not been about to give birth to Andrea.
In the seven years since then, the only contact Bill had with his two brothers and three sisters was through letters and telephone calls.
But this vacation was mainly for Andrea. She so badly wanted to meet the people who wrote those
letters and made those phone calls.
Bill also wanted to come, for his own father was getting up in years and he didn't know when he
would get to see him again.
"There's the McMurtry farm," Bill said as they passed an old run down house and barn. "Old Mr.
McMurtry used to grow the biggest, juiciest water melons around. People would come from miles to get one of those melons."
A little further down the road, they passed a small store. Bill was surprised it was still open for
business. "We used to sit in the shade of the front porch of that store and drink ice-cold soda pops for hours. I wonder if they still gather there on Saturday night and play music like we used to do?"
And then Bill saw the small mountain church and cemetery that now holds so many of his ancestors. It brought a tear to his eyes to think of his mother, aunts, and uncles that now lay buried there. Ruth saw the tear rolling down his cheek and gave Bill a tissue.
They drove on a mile or two more when Bill turned off the paved mountain road and road onto a winding dirt road that lead off into the trees. Another mile and they pulled into the driveway of a small wooden house. Bill was home again.
Andrew, Bill's oldest brother, was swinging in the porch swing. "Been expecting you all
day long," he said as he rose to greet his youngest sibling. It was Andrew who urged Bill to leave the
mountains and go to college, but he never dreamed he would go away and stay.
As he and Bill shook hands, the front door of the house flew open and out came Peggy. She was the youngest of Bill's sisters and the only one not to get married. When asked why she never got married, she simply said "I want a rich mountain man, and they are hard to find."
She grabbed Bill and hugged him so tight that he thought that he was going to pass out. But, he
managed to get free and introduce Ruth and Andrea to them.
After all the pleasantries were passed outside, he took Ruth and Andrea in to meet his father,
William Thompson Sr, eighty-two years old and still as cantankerous as ever. Bill's mother named
him after William, though he didn't want a Junior around. "Too confusing," he would say.
Bill led Andrea up to him and said, "Andrea, this is your Grandpa. Pop, this is your granddaughter
Andrea and my wife Ruth."
Andrea looked at him and timidly held her hand out and said, "Nice to meet you sir."
William, although great in years, still had excellent eyesight. As he looked at Andrea, a single tear
rolled down his cheek.
"What's wrong Grandpa?" she asked.
"You look just like your Grandmother. She was named Andrea, too," he said, and showed her a
picture of them at their wedding.
Bill had never made the connection before, but you could now see it in his eyes, too.
Andrea smiled her little smile and knew that she and Grandpa would become close friends.
For the next week, Andrea met more people than she ever dreamed of meeting. There was Aunt Elizabeth, Bill's oldest sister, and her husband Bob and son Jeff. Uncle Tommy, the middle of the three brothers, was away in the Army and couldn't make it home for the get together. Aunt Wanda, the middle of the three sisters, was there with her two children, Joseph and Ellen. Her husband, James, had to work and could only come to supper on Thursday. Although Ellen was only five years older than Andrea, she was the closest one there to her age. Andrea, being the youngest, soon began to feel out of place.
One day Andrea was sitting in the porch swing, feeling lonely, when Grandpa noticed her. He looked around, Bill and Andrew were sitting on the bench under the big oak tree in the front yard. Ruth, Peggy, and Elizabeth were in the kitchen cooking supper. The other kids were playing down by the barn.
" Andrea, come here child," he said.
Andrea came into the house where he sat in his big chair. "Come over here and sit with me," he said and she quietly climbed up onto the arm of his big chair.
"Do you know that you are the only person to sit in this chair, besides me of course," he said. "This
is my favorite chair and no one is allowed to sit here but me."
Andrea just sat and looked at the chair. Its soft arm was all cushy and smooth to her bottom. The
bright colors had faded over the years but still showed an inviting warmth.
As she sat there, Grandpa began to speak, "Do you see that tree that your daddy and Uncle Andrew
are sitting under?"
"Yes sir," she said, looking out the window beside Grandpa's chair.
"Well, that old tree is full of 'em," he said as he waved his arm towards it.
"Full of what Grandpa?"
"Elves. Wishing elves to be exact."
"Really, I've never heard of wishing elves before. Isn't an elf an elf?"
"No-o-o-o-o. You've got Santa's elves that make toys, leprechauns that keep pots of
gold at the end of rainbows, and imps. They're the mischievous ones. But these are Wishing Elves."
"What do they do?"
"Why, they grant wishes."
"Nope, only to special children."
"Why?" she asked in that little child voice of hers.
"Because, children are special to them," Grandpa answered. "Grown ups can't see or hear them, but on special occasions, children can."
"Have you seen one Grandpa?"
"I sure have," he said. "But it was by accident."
"But you're a grownup, how did you know they were there?"
"Well, I found on once," he said. "I know, I know, how did I see him? Well he was only an
apprentice elf. He wasn't all that good with his elf magic yet. His name was Peter."
"Like the rabbit?"
"Yep, like the rabbit. But of no relation of course.
"Well, anyway, like I said, he was not very good with his magic. One day when I was sitting on that bench, where your daddy is sitting now, Peter fell right into my lap."
"Wow, what happened then?"
"Well, I had never seen anyone as small as him before. He was less than two feet tall, dressed in a
brown shirt and green pants. He had on brown shoes with the toes all curled up and a little green pointed
hat on his head. On his forehead were two little bumps, one over each eye."
"What were those for Grandpa?"
"Well just slow down and I will get to that. Now, where was I? Oh yeah! Now I had never seen anything like him before, and I could tell he was scared of me. Well, we just sat there for a bit, neither
of us knowing what to say or do.
"All of a sudden, he put his two pointing fingers up to the sides of his head, squinted his eyes, and
grunted. But nothing happened. He slowly opened his eyes and looked around and tried it again. But still nothing happened."
"That's when he spoke, 'You're not going to eat me, are you?' he asked."
"Why shucks no,' I answered. 'What are you anyway?' I asked"
"He's a Wishing Elf," interrupted Andrea.
"Now who's telling this story, me or you?" grumped Grandpa.
"You are," she chuckled.
"Well O.K. then. He said 'I'm Peter, a Wishing Elf. Well, Apprentice Wishing Elf anyway.' I think he might have been a little embarrassed cause he bowed his head down when he said that.
" 'Apprentice Wishing Elf? What's that?' I asked.
"That's when he told me of the way that they go all over the world granting wishes for special
children. He told me that that old tree has been their headquarters for centuries."
“ 'What's those two bumps on your forehead for?' I asked."
"Well he held his head down again and said, 'That's why I'm only an Apprentice Wishing Elf. I
haven't earned my antennae yet. I've been trying for over two hundred years and still can't do it.'
"Wait a minute' I said. 'All the elves I've ever heard of before didn't have antennas.'
" 'We're the only ones that do,' he said. 'We use them to help us find the children that need to have a wish granted.'
" 'Well how old are you?' I asked."
" 'Only two hundred and fifty. But other elves have earned their antennas in a lot less time. I'm just
not very good with magic. That's why I fell from the tree and you can see me now. And it's not from the lack of trying. I practice every day. The best way to earn them is to find a child that needs a special wish and grant it. The Head Elf says I'm not very lucky at finding such a child. I wish there was a Wishing Elf for Wishing Elves.' "
" 'Well, I'll tell you, just hang in there and some day you'll find that child and earn your antennae.
Now, how do we get you back into that tree?' I asked."
" 'Just put me on that limb right there and there's an invisible door there that I think I can get in.'
"So I put him on that tree limb, you see that big one right over your daddy's head, he felt around a
bit, then he waved bye, and walked into the tree trunk."
"Wow," said Andrea, "Are you sure he's still there?"
"Well, he did say it was their headquarters, and they've been there for hundreds of years, so why
would they move now?"
"I'm going to go look for him."
"Do that, and if you find him, say hello for me."
Andrea jumped from her perch on the arm of the big chair and ran outside just as fast as her little
legs could take her. She ran out to the tree and started looking up into the branches of the old tree.
She had walked around the tree several times when her father asked her what she was doing.
"I'm looking for Wishing Elves," she said. "Grandpa said they live up there."
Bill and Uncle Andrew only smiled at each other and remembered the day when they first heard the story of the Wishing Elf.
For the final four days of their visit, Andrea would sit and stare for hours into the branches of the old tree. Every once in a while, she thought she could see an elf looking from behind a leaf or branch, but she never was quite sure she saw one.
When the day came for them to leave and go back home to the city, Andrea was sad to leave
Grandpa and the tree. "Take care of that tree and keep an eye out for Peter." she told Grandpa.
"Well," he said, "I'm an old man now, but I'll do my best. In fact, I'll get Andrew to help me, How's that sound?"
"O.K. But I think you'll do fine." she said as she turned to get into the car.
As she climbed into the back seat of the car, she turned to Grandpa and said, "I love you Grandpa."
She didn't see the tear roll down Grandpa's face, but Bill did.
"Don't go soft on us now Dad," kidded Bill as he got behind the steering wheel of the car.
When they started down the driveway to leave, Andrea saw something in the tree. It was a little head peeking out from behind two leaves. She knew it was Peter because of the two bumps on his forehead. She giggled and waved and to her astonishment, he waved back and disappeared.
Andrea watched the tree through the rear window of the car until it was out of sight. The last she saw of it was through the dust of the dirt road. Under it was Grandpa, waving good-bye. Andrea slowly turned and sat down.
"Buckle your seat," said Ruth. "It's a long trip home."
So Andrea sat back, buckled up and got ready for the long trip home.
Whenever they passed a large tree, Andrea would wonder if any elves lived in them.
On the way home they had to go down a long steep hill. As they started going down it, the car started going faster and faster. Bill stepped on the brakes, but nothing happened. Sixty, seventy, eighty miles an hour they hurtled down the hill. Nothing Bill did could slow it down.
Grandpa had settled back into his chair and was reading his newspaper when the phone rang. Andrew answered it in another room. He couldn't hear what the conversation was about but he knew it couldn't be good from the tone of Andrew's voice.
Andrew hung up the phone and came into the room where Grandpa was. His face was pale with
worry and fear.
"What's wrong?" Grandpa asked.
"There's been an accident, Pop," he said. "Bill's brakes failed on Jacob's Grade."
"What happened?" asked Grandpa, his voice quivering with fear.
"About half way down, the car left the road. It rolled down to the bottom of a ravine. Bill's got a
broken leg and shoulder. Ruth is scratched up and has several bad cuts but will be O.K."
"What about Andrea?" Grandpa asked. "What about my granddaughter?"
Grandpa sat there in a cloud of fear when Andrew spoke, "She's unconscious Pop. Her back is
broken and if she lives, they don't expect her to ever walk again."
"You get down to that hospital now. Keep me informed of everything those quack doctors do."
"What about you?"
"Don't worry about me. Peggy's just a phone call away if I need anything. Now get going and be
Andrew jumped into his old pick-up truck and sped off down the dirt road. Grandpa just sat and
stared out the window in disbelief. Then he remembered. He struggled to his feet and using all the strength he had, he made his way out to the old tree.
Standing there, he looked up into it's branches and yelled, "Peter.........Peter.......I know you can hear me Peter and I'm not going away until you come out and talk to me."
He paused and listened. Nothing.
"Dad burn it Peter, my granddaughter needs your help so come out here and talk to me." Still
no response came from the tree.
"Peter remember when you fell from the tree and I helped you get back in it. Well, you owe me a
favor now so come on out." he yelled angrily.
He listened for a moment and then he heard a leaf rustle. Peter appeared from the same place that he had disappeared into so many years ago.
"I'm here,” he said. "What do you want."
"My granddaughter and her mother and father were in a bad car accident. She's hurt real bad Peter.
If you want to earn your antennae, now's the time."
"We know about the accident. But there's nothing we can do until she wakes up."
"Peter, now you know that there is a possibility that she may not wake up."
"I know. But there's nothing that we can do until she wakes up and makes the wish to live and walk again herself."
"Then what about me, Peter?"
"But you're an adult. I can't grant your wishes."
"What is an adult anyway Peter? An adult is a person who doesn't believe in elves, isn't he Peter?
Well I still believe in Santa Claus, elves, the tooth fairy, and such don't I? Doesn't that make me a child at
Peter thought. He paced back and forth on the limb as he thought.
'What he said made sense,' Peter thought to himself. 'You're only as old as your heart will let you feel and William must feel pretty young to still believe in elves. After all, he was standing here talking to one.'
"Wait here," said Peter and he went back into the tree.
Grandpa sat down on the bench and waited. It seemed like an hour that he waited. He waited so long that he was getting ready to call Peter again when he appeared with another elf.
This elf was shorter and fatter then Peter and his green clothes were trimmed in gold.
Peter spoke first, "William, this is Phillip, Head Elf of this tree. Tell him what you just told me."
Again, Grandpa told how he truly believed in elves and if he were a true adult he couldn't do that.
"She's my granddaughter, I just met her for the first time and I don't want it to be the only time," he said, "Can't you help me?"
Phillip, the head elf thought a minute, he looked at Peter, then at Grandpa, and back at Peter.
"You're right," Phillip said, "Adults, true adults, can't believe in us anymore because their hearts
have outgrown us. William, wish your wish, but in doing so, a wish of this size just might drain all the
belief in us out of you."
"Thank you," said Grandpa.
"Peter," said Phillip, "This can also do it for you. You can get your antennae with this wish, so don't blow it."
"I think this one is in the bag, sir," said Peter.
"Good, then get yourself down to the hospital and as soon as William wishes his wish, you grant it," ordered Phillip.
"Yes sir," said Peter and he saluted and disappeared.
"I think he just might make it this time, if he doesn't get lost," said Phillip.
"When can I make my wish?" asked Grandpa.
Phillip waited a second, as if listening for some distant signal, and said, "Now."
Grandpa wished with all the wishing power that was left in his tired old heart and said, "I wish that Andrea will live and walk again. Please."
Phillip stood for a second, cocked his head to one side, smiled, looked at Grandpa, and said, "Wish
Grandpa felt as if he had just awoke from a nap. He didn't know how he gotten outside under the old tree, he only knew that he had to get back inside the house to listen for the phone and news from the hospital. He stood on his tired old legs and as he began to walk towards the house, a smile began to grow on his face. A smile that came from deep in his heart. He stopped, turned around, and saw a tiny figure whose green clothes were trimmed in gold, wave and disappear. He knew that Andrea would be alright.
Andrea awoke in the hospital; tubes and wires were attached to her arms and body. She felt real sore.
All around her machines beeped and hummed. As her eyes began to focus she saw a small figure standing at the foot of her bed.
Peter grinned at her when she recognized him. "You'll be fine now," he said.
"What happened?" she asked.
"You were in a car wreck. Dreadful invention of modern man, cars. But you'll be O.K. now." he said and began to fade away.
As he waved good-bye and disappeared, Andrea noticed two fully-grown antennae sticking out from the two bumps on his forehead.