Twitter Facebook Newsletter Sign Up Constact Us You Tube

Behind every skyline there are neighborhoods, relationships, people, and stories …

Windy City Stories by Dave & Neta Jackson


When You Wish Upon a Star

© 2001 by Dave Jackson


            When Barry Matson wished upon a star, it made no difference that he was four years older and twice as big as his sixth-grade classmates or that they called him Raspberry. He had wished real hard on that star.

            And sure enough, one Sunday night Barry got his wish. Greg and Kathy Parker announced that they were taking the junior high youth group to Disneyland.

            “Everyone?” asked Linda Parker.

            “Yep, everyone who gets their parents to sign this note can go.” Linda’s dad held up some pink sheets with a purple dittoed message on them and began passing them out. “Here it is,”—he began to read— “‘Disneyland Trip, August 15, 1959. I hereby give permission for my son/daughter … ’”

            “Well, I don’t need one of those,” interrupted Linda, “’cause you already know I’m going.”

            Someone in the back snickered. “Neither does Raspberry ’cause he’s too big and dumb to go.”

            “No I’m not.” Barry straightened in his chair. “I’m goin’! I’m goin’”—his fifteen-year-old voice cracked, and he finished an octave higher—“’cause I wished on a star.”

            The snickering spread.

            “That’s enough, kids,” said Mr. Parker. “Barry, don’t you think prayer might have done more?”

            “Oh, I did that, too.” Barry stood up to reach over the other kids for his pink sheet. Ricky Seymour was in the way, so Barry moved him aside with one hand like he was lifting a three-year-old by the arm.

            “Hey, take it easy, you big ape. That’s my pitchin’ shoulder.”

            But Barry got his pink sheet, and the following Saturday he was the first one off the church bus in the Disneyland parking lot.

            Ticket books in hand, the kids walked under the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad and into the Magic Kingdom. Barry looked at the quaint storefronts that lined Main Street. “Is this really where the Mouseketeers live?”

            “Oh, Raspberry,” Linda Parker sneered.

            “Hey, quit callin’ me that.” Barry’s voice rose. “You’ve called me that every since the swim party, and it ain’t nice!”

            “Don’t be so touchy … Raspberry.” Linda giggled and other kids joined in.

            Mr. Parker ignored them. “All right, everybody, gather round, gather round … . No, come back here, girls. Come on, now. I want everyone to stick together.”

            A groan rose like a Greek chorus. Then the kids all began clamoring about where they wanted to go first—the Explorer’s Boat ride through the jungle, sports cars in Autopia.

            I’m riding the bobsled down the Matterhorn,” declared Ricky Seymour.

            “No you’re not,” scoffed Linda.

            “You just wait and see!”

            “You won’t ’cause you can’t.” She flipped her ponytail with a snap of her head. “The Matterhorn won’t be finished till next month. I know!” Then she turned to her father. “How come we have to stay together? I don’t want to drive those stupid little cars. I want to be first in line for the TWA Rocket to the Moon! Please, Dad … Daddy, Daddy.”

            Greg Parker turned to his wife, who shrugged. Linda jumped between them. “Come on, Dad. We won’t get lost. Everybody’s been here before.”

            “I haven’t,” said Barry.

            Mr. Parker looked around at the rest of the group. “Well, all right. But only if you use the buddy system and meet back at the ice cream parlor for lunch. Does everyone know where that is? And I want …” The group dispersed, and his voice trailed after them. “… everyone to have a watch … . Okay?”

            Barry held out his arm, thick as a limb on an oak tree. “I got a watch, Mr. Parker.”

            The youth leader smiled at his wife and then looked up at Barry. “That’s good. That’s good, Barry. Guess you can come with us.”

            “You ever been to a penny arcade, Barry?” Mrs. Parker sounded like an older version of her daughter. “We just love Main Street. Don’t we, Dear?” She grabbed her husband’s arm, and Barry followed along behind like an awkward puppy.

            Barry frowned. He still hadn’t seen Mickey and Annette or the Mouseketeers.

            “Look here, Barry,” said Mr. Parker. “This is the ice-cream parlor I was talking about. It’s got marble-topped tables and wrought iron chairs. They serve real ice cream—”

            “Oh, Greg, look, the glass blower is in.” Mrs. Parker pulled her husband toward the window of a small shop. “He’s making a little dove. Oh, Greg, I want one of those. I want that one—the one he’s working on right now—so I can wear it on a chain around my neck and say we saw him making it.”

            “Well, it’s a little hot right now, dear. Try wearing that and you’ll end up with a raspberry on your neck.”

            Barry stepped back and checked the button at the top of his heavy, corduroy shirt. Raspberry? Why hadn’t Mr. Parker said cherry or plum? Was he making fun of him? But the couple wasn’t even paying attention to him. They were walking into the glassblower’s shop, hand in hand like two lovebirds.

            Don’t be so touchy,” Linda had said. It made Barry angry. Maybe Mr. Parker hadn’t meant anything, but Linda always did. She was mean.

            He stood on the sidewalk, looking up and down Main Street. So many people, but no Disney friends, … no friends at all.

            Wait. What was that? A huge brown … Barry’s jaw dropped. It was Pluto, getting his picture taken with some children. Barry grinned and drifted toward them. This was the real Disneyland, just like on TV.

            But the moment he got near, Pluto waved at the children and walked away. Barry followed. Pluto walked faster. Barry hurried. Then Pluto turned down a little alley between two buildings. Barry peeked around the corner.

            Pluto stood there pulling at one paw with the other. Suddenly, it came off like a glove. Barry’s eyes widened. Pluto had nothing but a human hand inside.

            Barry stepped into the gangway and approached Pluto. “What’s the matter with your paw … uh, your hand?” He leaned down a little so he was on eye-level with the big dog. “Are you pretend?”

            “No more than you are, buddy,” said the dog head. “But I don’t know how they expect us to stay in these hot suits all day.” Pluto grabbed his head with one paw and the hand and lifted it up.

            “You are pretend!”

            “No kidding.” The Pluto person tucked his dog head under one arm and raked his other sleeve across his sweaty forehead.

            Barry giggled, deep-throated and open-mouthed. “I sure did think you was real!” He nervously rubbed his upper lip where a faint mustache grew.

            “Yeah, yeah,” said the dog suit. “Just give me a break, okay? And get outta here before some little kid follows you in here and sees me.”

            Reluctantly Barry turned and merged back into the crowd as they pushed deeper into the heart of the Magic Kingdom, past a horse-drawn trolley, popcorn vendors, and a surrey with a fringe on top. Putt, putt, putt came an old car. Barry started to hum “When You Wish Upon a Star.” But he stopped at the second line. Did it really make no difference who you were?

            Up ahead, he saw a huge fort, just like Davy Crockett’s, with log blockhouses on either side of the gate. Over it hung a sign—F-R-O-N-T-I-E-R LAND. Barry grinned. Frontierland! This was more like it.

            As he walked through the gates, Barry heard a steam whistle blowing in the distance. “Excuse me! S’cuse me!” he said, pushing his way forward. He checked his shirt pocket to be sure he still had his ticket book for the paddlewheel riverboat.

            “Stop in the name of the Law!” Bam! … Bam! Bam!

            Barry froze. What had he done now?

            He turned slowly. A Matt-Dillon-like sheriff held a still smoking pistol. With his other hand he gripped the collar of an unshaven man with an ace of spades in his hatband.

            “Black Bart,” yelled the sheriff, “I arrest you in the name of the law for cheating at cards, disrupting the peace, and—oh, yes—robbin’ the bank.” Then he hustled Black Bart away.

            Barry’s heart slowed. Boy that was something! The families and kids around Barry were nodding and talking. He grinned at no one in particular as they wandered away.

            Suddenly he had to step out of the way of a stagecoach that rolled to a stop right in front of him. Several people got out and went into what looked like an old hotel. The large ornate sign hanging from the balcony over the porch said, “The Golden Horseshoe.” Posters beside the door announced, “Pepsi-Cola Presents the Golden Horseshoe Revue. Come One, Come All.”

            “Well, don’t just stand there, pardner.” A beautiful young woman in a dazzling green dress touched Barry’s arm and winked. “Come on in and see the show.”

            Forgetting about the paddlewheeler, Barry followed her through the double swinging doors. Her auburn hair was pulled back into ringlets that cascaded down and brushed her ivory shoulders. Just before she disappeared into a side hallway, she flashed Barry a smile as warm and bright as sunshine in May.

            “Please find a seat,” said a little man in a white shirt with a red vest. “The show is about to begin.”

            Barry looked around. The room was filled with tables and chairs, and a bar ran along one side. Below the gilded stage at the front of the room was an orchestra pit with a piano and several musicians. Box seats behind little white fences hung from the side walls like oversized picture frames.

            Barry edged toward a table near the front where three men already sat drinking from dark mugs and eating peanuts from a basket in the center of the table. The men were older, balding, and fat. One glanced at Barry through pale, watery eyes, then turned away.

            “What can I get for you?” It was the little man in his white shirt and red vest. This time Barry noticed little black garters around his sleeves.

            “Uh …”

            “What would you like to order? Something to drink, maybe? Sarsaparilla, root beer, Pepsi-Cola?”

            “I like root beer.”

            The man brought a frosty mug of root beer as the room lights dimmed. Barry grabbed the edge of the table. “What’s happening?”

            “That’ll be a dime,” said the man.

            The orchestra burst into a twangy rendition of “Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight?”

            “That’ll be a dime … please.”

            “Pay him!” The fat man with the watery eyes glared at Barry. “He needs a dime for your drink. Just pay him.”

            Barry dug in first one pocket and then another. He stood up so he could reach all the corners of his pockets. Ah, there it was. He dropped a dime on the table as the watery-eyed man scowled at him. “Sit down!”

            The red velvet stage curtain parted, the limelights rose, and four girls came out dancing. Except for the colors, their dresses were the same—cut low in front with full skirts held out by frilly petticoats. The blond wore red, the girl with black hair had on yellow, the brunette wore blue, and the green dress … Barry sucked in his breath, coughing on his root beer. The girl in the green dress was the same one who had invited him into the saloon!

            “Ladies and gentlemen,” shouted the piano player from the orchestra pit. “Won’t you welcome the Golden Horseshoe’s famous cancan girls!

            Everyone applauded, and the girls began to dance across the stage, kicking high and swinging their skirts. When they were lined up in the golden glow of the footlights, the piano player said, “On your left is our dear Cricket McGruder.” Everyone clapped. Barry joined in.

            “And in the blue, please welcome, Miss Kate Duncan.” More clapping.

            “Next is the blond bombshell, TrixieFremont.” He strung out her name as the audience cheered with whistles and cat calls.

            “And finally, the newest addition to our Golden Horseshoe Revue, Miss Misty Moore!”

            Barry clapped as hard as he could. The watery-eyed man said, “Misty Moore, huh? You like Misty?” He turned to the other men and jerked his thumb. “Kid likes Misty.” Their deep laughs hacked like sticks along a picket fence.

            Barry stopped clapping. “Misty …” He whispered the name. “Misty.” Her green dress was like a forest morning, setting off the rosy flush on her cheeks. But … why were those men laughing like that? It didn’t sound right.

            All four girls linked arms and danced so that their line turned like a pinwheel until their backs were to the audience. Misty glanced over her shoulder and smiled—right at him, Barry thought, just like she had done after inviting him into the Golden Horseshoe. Then they all flipped up their dresses showing off long legs in black knit stockings.

            Everyone roared … except Barry. He was thinking about Misty. She looked familiar. Had he seen her before? He closed his eyes and tried to think. He opened them when the music stopped. Each girl stepped forward and made a deep curtsy as the audience hooted and howled. Misty was last, and as she bowed revealingly low, Barry suddenly remembered the calendar girl pinned high on the wall in Arnie’s Auto Repair. Could that have been Misty? Had some Peeping Tom—someone like that fat old man sitting next to him—taken a picture of her? Barry had never dared look very closely at the calendar, just a glance or two. But the vague image he carried in his mind sure looked like Misty.

            Barry scowled at the men near him. “Come on, Misty! Yea, Misty!” The watery-eyed man was whistling and clapping.

            Barry’s face grew hot. Was that man thinking about the calendar, too?

            The curtains began closing, and the girls sashayed back through the narrowing gap, each one flipping up her dress before disappearing.

            The men guffawed and slapped the table.

            Barry stood, clenching his big hands. He wanted to hit the watery-eyed man for leering at Misty. He knew what it felt like when people made fun of you. But he turned away and stomped to the back of the saloon. He followed the dark hallway down which Misty had gone earlier. Still able to hear the cheering crowd in the saloon, he looked ahead. There, in the glare of a single bare light bulb, the dancehall girls jockeyed for position around a small wall mirror to repair their makeup.

            Except Misty. She was leaning back against the wall, her shoulders slumped, head down. Barry squinted and moved a little closer.

            “What’s the matter? You sick or something, honey?” he heard the black-haired girl say.

            “Nah, I just hate this job. The old man won’t even give me a day off. Frankly, I want outta here.”

            In the shadows, Barry’s eyes widened. That must be the same old man out there at the table! Was … was Misty some kind of a slave? Having to dance so he and his mean friends could laugh at her? Maybe forcing her to take picture without any … Barry couldn’t stand the idea.

            He took the last few steps into the circle of light. “Hi, Misty. Don’t worry anymore about that old man. I’ll get you out of here.” He grabbed her hand and fled back down the hallway, pulling her after him.

            “Hey, kid!” she sputtered with a nervous little laugh as they ran out into the daylight in front of the Golden Horseshoe. “What do you think you’re doing? I’ve still got a show to do.”

            Barry looked up and down the street. “It’s okay, Misty. You don’t have to do any more shows if you don’t want to! I’ll help you get away.” Half running, half walking he headed toward the stockade gate at the entrance to Frontierland.

            Misty gave a short laugh as she stumbled along. “‘Help me get away’? What are you talking about?—Hey, slow down! I can’t run in these shoes.”

            Barry just kept going. Outside the stockade gate, he turned toward Main Street.

            “Hey, Raspberry … over here! It’s time for lunch.”

            Barry jerked his head around and moaned as he spotted Linda Parker and some of the other girls headed toward the ice cream parlor. He couldn’t let Misty hear that name! He hesitated … . But maybe Linda and the other girls would be impressed when they realized what he was doing for Misty.

            “Who are they?” asked Misty, finally jerking her hand away and shaking it to restore circulation. “You got a strong grip.”

            “Sorry.” Barry wiped his sweaty hand on his shirt. “Uh—that’s my church youth group.” He grinned.

            “What?” Misty looked at him more closely. “Aren’t you kind of young to be a youth leader? Look, Raspberry …”

            “My name’s not Raspberry.” He spat out the loathsome name and grabbed her wrist. “I’m just Barry.”

            “Okay, ‘just Barry.’ Ouch! Don’t squeeze so hard. This little game has gone far enough. Look, I’ve lost my shoes, and I’ve got to get back to the show, or I’ll get fired. Okay? Thanks for trying to help me out, but—”

            “Hey Raspberry,” called Linda Parker. “Who’s that? You playin’ Beauty and the Beast?”
            Barry eyed the girls coming toward them. He took a step back. No! They wouldn’t understand, and … and he didn’t have time to explain to Misty, either. Suddenly he gave her a pull and began running across the plaza.

            “Barry, stop! Let me go!” Misty shouted.

            Behind him, Barry heard Linda’s shrill voice. “Hey! Help, somebody! Rasberry’s kidnapping that woman! Help! Call the police!”

            Police? Kidnapped? The words tumbled through Barry’s mind as they ran. He would never kidnap anyone. What was Linda talking about? But he had no time to worry about her. She was just mean, anyway.

            “Stop in the name of the law!”

            Barry glanced over his shoulder. The sheriff from Frontierland was running out of the gate. Barry felt a stab of panic. He sure hoped Matt Dillon wouldn’t start shooting like he had at Black Bart.

            Still holding tightly to Misty’s wrist, he took off toward … toward … where was he going? He ran past a huge white rocket ship standing on its tail and headed deeper into Tomorrowland. Just beyond the Autopia track, he could see a large mountain, the top half covered with snow. He headed toward it. Maybe they could hide there or get away in the hills beyond.

            He could hear Misty making strange noises as she staggered along behind him. Was she laughing? … or crying? He wanted to stop and tell her it would be okay, but one glance over his shoulder told him he couldn’t stop. The sheriff, some policemen, several people in uniform, and some of the kids from his youth group were running after them. They had to hurry. He dragged Misty around a corner but was stopped by a gate with the sign, “Coming Soon! Matterhorn Bobsled Ride.”

            The gate was locked with a chain. Barry looked up. He could climb over, but what about Misty? “We gotta find a way.”

            Misty’s breath came in ragged gasps. “Barry, … please. Don’t do this. … You’re going to get into big trouble. Just let me go, and I’ll—”

            “Oh, don’t worry ’bout me, Misty. C’mon, I think we can get through over there.”

            He pulled her through a gap in the fence and ran for the mountain. At its base he found an opening—like a cave was his first thought. But inside were huge timbers and tracks. It looked more like the inside of a warehouse. Light came through holes higher up—or were they windows? And then Barry saw some stairs.

            After two flights up the steep steps at Barry’s fast pace, Misty was nearly collapsing. “Here … I’ll carry you,” he said gently. “They won’t get us.” He swung her up onto his shoulder and continued.

            “No! Put me down, Barry. You’ve got to stop this!” Her voice had changed, and Barry could feel her fists pounding his back. “Put me down!”

            He paused. “Misty, what’s the matter? Am I hurting you?” But just then he heard their pursuers enter the mountain. “Go away,” he yelled. “Leave us alone.” He pushed Misty’s green dress out of his face and leaned over the railing to look below.

            “Look out!” she screeched. “Hey, you’re gonna drop me.”

            Suddenly it became silent below, and all Barry could hear were soft sobs from Misty. Then someone yelled, “Everyone out! He’s threatening to drop her!”

            Barry turned and continued up the steps but more slowly now. “It’s … okay … Misty. I won’t … drop you,” he puffed.

            “Barry, listen.” Her voice was pleading, sobbing. “I appreciate … what you’re trying … to do … but you’ve got to put me down.”

            But Barry couldn’t stop now. Up he went, slower and slower with the most beautiful girl in the world over his shoulder. Finally he reached the top—a small room with open windows on opposite sides—and put Misty down. She sank to the floor in a heap, and Barry watched in horror as he realized that she was actually crying.

            Somehow it had gone wrong, terribly wrong.

            “Oh, Misty. I’m sorry. Are you hurt?”

            She took a deep sobbing breath. “No. I’m not hurt. It’s just the … the… Oh, this is ridiculous!”

            “I didn’t mean to … I would never …”

            Misty wiped her eyes with the back of her hands and then gave Barry a red-faced smile that still looked like she was half crying. “I know, Barry, but this is really stupid, carrying me up here to the top of the Matterhorn. You could get hurt. What do you think they’re doing down there? We both could get hurt!” She stood up and took a step toward the stairs. “I’m getting out of here.”

             “No. Wait!” Barry held her his hand out. “I just wanted to help you.”

            Misty rolled her eyes impatiently. “I know, Barry, but this isn’t help.”

            Barry stared at her. He wasn’t helping? Was he just … being stupid, like she said?

            He turned to look out the window by the stairs, his bulk still barricading her way to the steps. A hundred and forty feet below spread the Magic Kingdom.

            “I always wanted to come to Disneyland, but … but it’s not like on TV. It don’t seem magic anymore.” He stopped and watched the people scurrying around between the trees and buildings. Then he frowned and leaned out the window a little. “Hey, they got guns down there, Misty. They got guns. Why do they have those guns, Misty?”

            But there was only silence behind him.

            “Misty … Misty?” He turned. She was gone. He looked down the stairs and listened but heard nothing. He looked around frantically. Where was she?

            Suddenly, a scream shattered the mountain’s quiet.
            “Misty!” He ran to the other window and looked down. “Misty! How’d you get down there?” She clung to a handhold several feet below.

            “I thought I could … Just help me, Barry! I can’t hang on anymore!”

            “But how?” Even as he asked, Barry was climbing out the window onto a workman’s ledge about four feet below the window. Still gripping the window with one hand, he tried to lean down. “I can’t reach you, Misty.”

            He looked below. Like little cartoon characters, the police came running to this side of the mountain, their guns drawn. He could hear them yelling for him to surrender or they would shoot.

            Then he heard Linda Parker’s shrill voice. “Leave her alone, Raspberry! She didn’t do nothin’ to you.”

            He gritted his teeth. No … and she doesn’t call me Raspberry, either. But what if she saw—? He licked his lips, watched the crowd of onlookers and the ones with guns, and fought down panic.

            “Don’t worry about them, Barry,” Misty pleaded. “I can’t hang on anymore. Try reaching down with one leg.”

            He swallowed and did as instructed, stooping on the ledge, clinging to the window above, and stretching one foot down as far as he could.

            “It’s not enough, Barry! Use your shirt. Take it off and roll it up like a rope. Reach one end down to me. Hurry!”

            Barry just clung there to the side of the mountain.

            “Barry! What are you waiting for? Take your shirt off!”

            “Oh, Misty! Oh, Misty, Misty. I can’t! You’d see …” He felt desperate. “O God, I don’t think wishin’ on a star works. Please, Lord, what should I do?”

            If he took his shirt off, she would see. Would Misty laugh at him too and call him Raspberry?

            “Barry, please—”

            With a choked wail, Barry peeled off his heavy, corduroy shirt, rolled it up, and reached down.

            He knew that Misty and the whole world could see the large raspberry birthmark that covered half his chest and one shoulder, but he lowered his shirt until the end brushed Misty’s white knuckles. With a weak cry, she released her grip with one hand and grabbed the dangling shirt, then did the same with the other. When he felt her weight, Barry hoisted her up as smooth as a derrick until her feet came to rest on the ledge beside him. Putting his arm around her thin waist, he helped her climb through the window.

            Finally, he crawled in behind her.

            She stood there breathing hard and looking at him … without his shirt.

            Barry’s face colored, and he quickly unrolled his shirt. But before he could slip into it, Misty stepped forward and gave him a hug that would hold him for life. “Thank you, Barry. You know, you saved my life.”

            She drew back and smiled sheepishly as he slipped into his shirt. “Guess what I did was pretty stupid, too, huh?” She extended her hand. “Now can we go down?”

            Shyly, he placed his hand in hers. “Okay Misty.”

            Her smile widened, beaming at him like sunshine in May.

The End


By Dave Jackson, “When You Wish Upon a Sstar,” The Storytellers’ Collection 2 (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, 2001), pp. 128-139. NOTICE: This story is protected by copyright (© 2001 Dave Jackson).

© 2013, Dave & Neta JacksonCastle Rock Creative