Once there was a faraway kingdom ruled by a king who was privileged to command his subjects as he wanted. But in the entire kingdom, there was only one who could turn wishes to reality, and that was the sorcerer.

On the driest day of the year, when all vegetations became wilted and the air was bitter with dust, the king went to the sorcerer’s house and found the courage to knock. When the sorcerer came, he saw behind her firewood burning on the hearth, brightly covered furniture as soft as newly sheared wool, and a lamp lit. He sat in one, with his boots on the rug and his hands stretched to the fire.

The sorcerer said nothing, and at last the king spoke his visit. “Can you help me? I have three wishes.” The sorcerer asked what they were. When the king gave descriptions of his wishes, she said, though she could brim the river with fresh water and make all trees bear fruit, the first two wishes were unachievable.

“The last one, though,” she said, mulling over the desperation of the king. “Your third wish, perhaps.”

Then the sorcerer opened her treasure box, pulled out a crippled stick as long as the king’s scepter, and said, “Walk throughout the season with this.”

She led the king to the door in silence and watched him disappear on his horse back to the palace.

The king carried the stick for months. But it did not make the plants bear flowers, or have the next mornings with rain, or fill his visitors’ hand-baskets with sweetmeats and fruits. And so, eventually, telling himself that his scepter looked better than the crippled stick, he stopped walking with the stick. He hated looking at it and so ordered one of his privy councils to take it out of the palace. The council left it leaning against the huge rock in the palace garden.

On the next day, there came a restoring rain after months of drought. Dry leaves were blown away from the roads, rivers filled, birds flew across the waking sky, and flowers ornamented the mornings. Everything around the palace turned green.

After the rain ceased, the king walked out of his palace and saw the stick. It was no longer crooked. At the top, leaves were sprouting out of the wood. Buds were starting to puff out along its length. He didn’t take it in to the palace but instead checked on it every morning. When flowers came, he left his scepter inside and started to walk with the stick again.

Astonished by this phenomenon, the people of his kingdom approached him with sweetmeats and all kinds of fruits, the craftsmen gave him with their beautiful products, the miners a couple of intricate gemstones. The stick flowered in eternal season of prosperity and made everyone happy.

One day, not long after sunrise, the king rode once more to the house of the sorcerer. He knocked, and the sorcerer came out.

“Look at the stick,” said the king.

“Yes,” said the sorcerer.
We spent so many Sundays together and with your hand clutched onto my arm, I could walk with not even an eye open.

In the dirty market in the early morn. Our pouches filled with citrus delights: oranges, melons, tangerines. Upon the sidewalk, we’d sit on benches to peel their skins, suck the juice, spew the seeds. Often I’d say, “Bitter!” You’d say, “Sweet!”

Lunch at the barbeque stall along the highway. We smiled to each other as cars and jeepneys travelled by. We gave slices to stray cats; some sprinkled on the ground, some served by hand.

The afternoon was for the city park. We liked to roam around the field of much green, streetsides lined with sunflowers.

But on this Sunday, all I can stomach is some cheaply-priced bread. A stiff, tasteless dough, the size of your fist.

At the stall, I only make it to see the cats but nothing to find there except burnt sticks shredding from passersby steps.

And I can’t look at the park. Instead, I find myself sitting in someone’s garden, facing these wilted roses and furling forget-me-nots.