House warming gift

old sleeping bag

More from the Dinner Party

The gazebo had seen better days. Paint peeling from the rafters littered the benches and stairs landing with a dusting of moldy, white flakes. Old spider webs, hanging like shredded bunting, decorated corners, and railing slats. Atop the only rise in the park, the pavilion was once the venue for local outdoor concerts and arts events. The abandoned structure was now in danger of collapsing.

Nestled along the banks of the recently unannexed Arrowhead Lake, Pioneer Nature Preserve lost its city funding and had fallen into disrepair. With no regular law enforcement presence, it had become a haven for lusty teenage miscreants, and the homeless. A short chain-link fence enclosed the preserve, keeping most large predators out, and the overgrown landscaping provided plenty of shelter.

Ignoring any danger, Jasper, concierge for Mr. Augustine Stiles, climbed the rotting wooden stairs up to the gazebo landing so he could survey the entire park. He was searching for Mr. Stiles’ latest Wish Recipient.

Cameron J. Prescott, of the Bellingham Prescotts, was a guest at Mr. Stiles’ most recent dinner party. That night’s entertainment was to submit a wish in writing. A wish that revealed the guest’s deepest, and sometimes darkest, desire. A wish, that Mr. Stiles guaranteed would be granted, no matter the expense.

Prescott, a sixth-generation trust fund baby, had a truly unexpected desire. The heir apparent to take over the family enterprise, Prescott had been groomed from an early age to be ruthless and unwieldy in his business dealings. He was a killer shark in a koi pond.

His wish left Mr. Stiles in a curious position. The typical wish was intended to improve the life of the wisher. Love, money and fame being the most sought after desires. Mr. Stiles would then mete out his version of granting those wishes, usually in ways the requestor did not expect, nor want.

The opposite was true for Prescott. His wish was to live a simpler life. He wanted to defect from his dysfunctional and cold family, and be totally on his own. No board votes, or back room deals, no back-stabbing, just to have dinner with his parents and siblings.

Jasper was at the park to find Prescott and to fulfill the last part of his wish. The temperatures were expected to fall into the 20s over the weekend, and Prescott needed shelter. Pioneer Nature Preserve was where he settled and Jasper had brought him a new sleeping bag.

Mr. Stiles, intrigued by Prescott’s desire for autonomy, allowed him to keep what money he made independent of his family. While he had enough to live modestly, Prescott instead chose to be self-supporting. The sleeping bag was merely a consolation gift Mr. Stiles explained in his hand-written correspondence.

After searching the park for the better part of an hour, Jasper located Prescott’s nest, but no Prescott. He delivered the sleeping bag and Mr. Stiles’ note, then left as unannounced as he came.

Prescott watched from his hiding place farther down the fence row. He remembered Jasper from Mr. Stiles’ dinner party. He had been the one who collected all the guests’ wishes that evening. When he was sure Mr. Stiles’ agent was gone, Prescott inspected the sleeping bag deposited at his spot. It was good quality and would be a welcome pocket of warmth during the freezing night. He unzipped the bag and draped it over his shoulder, then sat down on the ground. His back against the chain-link fence, Prescott let out a contented sigh.

He would need to send Mr. Stiles a “Thank You” card, but for now, Prescott just wanted to savor his freedom.

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Light and Shade Challenge: “Painless poverty is better than embittered wealth.” ~ Greek Proverb

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