William Kennington was looking for love. He had been involved with someone for a span of several years, and when that relationship suddenly ended, he found himself unable to start a new one. The landscape of his social arena had changed dramatically during the time in which he'd been unavailable. Once he'd known many single women, he now discovered that they were all married or seriously involved with others. So for many months he struggled, with very little success, to meet someone who was single, whom he found interesting, and who also found him interesting.
He tried all the usual methods. He became very socially active, going to many parties and gatherings. He went to singles bars and nightclubs. He tried to get his friends, neighbors, relatives, and co-workers to introduce him to people. He had a few dates, but none he found very worthwhile.
After many failures he began to get desperate. He responded to a number of "personal" ads in the newspaper, and after a while, he placed his own. He called up several of those 976 "party-line" phone numbers. He joined a dating service. Still nothing worked.
One day it came into his head that Fate was working against him. In order to find out why, William sought out the services of a psychic. She read his palm and told him that he was going to get married and would have a very strong, long term relationship.
"How soon?" asked William.
"You will also have three children," said the palm reader.
"What will my wife's name be?" asked William.
"I'm not sure," said the psychic. "It's hard to tell."
"I don't get this," said William. "You can tell my future, and you can tell me something specific like how many children I will have, but you can't give me any actual, useful data?"
"If you know I'm going to get married, why can't you tell me the woman's name so that I can go meet her and get on with things?"
"I'm afraid it doesn't work like that-"
"What's the use of a trade like fortune telling if you can't give me information that I can actually use? If you know I'm going to get married, then you should be able to tell me the name, address, and telephone number of the woman I'll eventually marry!"
"If I could do that, do you think I'd be working out of a two-bit joint like this?"
"I guess not." William grabbed his hat and left.
He tried several other psychics, including a couple of tarot card readers, a tea leaf reader, an old man who supposedly saw visions of the future in his dreams, and a young Italian woman with a fortune teller's act so corny that she actually employed a big crystal ball. But they all gave him conflicting predictions, none of which held up to his ruthless scientific analysis.
One day, William Kennington was strolling through the park, glumly considering his failed romantic efforts. He passed a small wishing well, one he'd passed many times before without a moment's thought. This time he paused, and looked down at the layer of pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters that shimmered below the surface of the still water.
Suddenly gripped by an absurd impulse, William pulled out the half dollar coin which he habitually carried as a good luck piece. Wishing to meet the girl of his dreams, he tossed it in. It sank to the bottom with a loud plop.
And that very day, William Kennington met a wonderful girl named Elizabeth Zinnimann in the Smith Brother's Supermarket. He was carrying an armload of groceries, and she ran over his foot with a grocery cart. It started as a bizarre accident, but apologies gave way to casual conversation and eventually to an exchange of phone numbers.
They dated for four months and then she moved into his apartment. They were perfect for each other, and were very deeply in love. They even started making plans for marriage. William Kennington became the happiest man in the world, and every time he passed by the wishing well, he thanked his lucky stars for granting his wish.
One day William Kennington was walking by the wishing well and noticed that it was being emptied out. Two men were standing in the water, scooping up the coins with buckets, and handing them to men at the top, who dumped the coins into a big vat on a truck. William wandered over to the workmen.
"What happens to the coins when they're removed?" William asked.
"They're given to charity," grunted a workman.
William wandered off, but a bigger question burned in his brain. "What happens," he wondered, "if a wish gets granted, and then, later on, the coin that was wished upon gets removed from the wishing well? Does removal of the coins imply cancellation of the wishes as well?"
As he thought this, William felt a sudden twinge of pain and loss that he could not account for. Then he brushed off his questions. "After all," he thought, "everyone knows wishing wells don't really grant wishes. Why, I myself tossed in a whole half dollar once, and my wish didn't come true."
William wandered glumly back to his lonely apartment. He perused the newspaper's personal ads, but found none worth responding to. He spent the whole evening feeling sorry for himself, and that night he slept a very restless sleep.