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[cover]View the reading group guide for The Answer Is Yes.

MAKE A WISH. In this course, you'll watch for shooting stars, search for heads-up pennies, throw coins into fountains, blow out candies on a cake. Make as many wishes as you want, then tell of their fulfillment to the class. Field trips include a walk to a shopping-center fountain, a shooting-star watch, and a penny search. Mondays, beginning August 4. Course cost: $15. Materials: Please bring birthday candles, a wishbone, and pennies to share with the class.

I was on a ladder on the stage, resetting a light. I had a wrench to turn the knob and was trying to loosen it while at the same time maintaining my balance on the ladder. The knob was resisting, either because it had been tightened by someone stronger than I was or because it was old and rusted. Most of the equipment in our theater was old because we had bought it used or borrowed it from someone who didn't need it. The tech run-through was in two hours; the only dress rehearsal was the next day, and the day after that was our opening. I remember thinking that I had about four minutes to get these fights where they need to be. I took hold of the wrench with both hands and put more of my weight against it. The ladder wiggled. Many things that were meant to move here didn't, like the knob I was fighting with; other things that weren't supposed to move did, such as the ladder I was standing on. I regained my balance and looked down to see if there was someone standing around doing nothing who could hold the ladder steady for me.

Priscilla and Edward were on the stage, Edward on his knees pinning Priscilla's costume together. Tiffany was going over a speech that she hadn't quite memorized. Clara was collecting props. If I asked one of these people to hold the ladder, I would be slowing down another person. We might not be ready on time. As I remember it, Edward and Priscilla seemed to look up at me at the same time, to say something—to warn me?—but then they looked down again and went back to what they were doing.

Michael walked across the stage in his purple bike shorts, sweatshirt, and pink ballet shoes. He glanced up for a second and said, "Be careful up there."

I said, "I am being careful."

Then I fell off the ladder.

I felt pain in my head before I opened my eyes. Michael was next to me. I looked at him, closed my eyes again. I looked at Priscilla and Edward on the other side of me, then at the white sheet that covered me, at a woman I didn't know, a nurse. Slowly I realized that I was lying in a hospital bed. Michael said, "Jenny, you're all right! Are you all right?"

"I don't know," I said. "It's hard to tell." I tried wiggling my fingers and toes, moving my legs, my arms, turning my head.

There were some sore spots, but everything seemed intact. "Yes," I said to Michael. "I'm all right." My voice sounded quieter, more tentative, than I expected. The small smile that I managed to produce hurt something on my face.

Michael looked across the bed at Priscilla and Edward. "She's OK! She talked to me. You heard her!" He started kissing me all over my face. "You're my angel! You know that, don't you?" he said. "I love you, Jenny!" He laughed with relief, held my hands, and kissed them. I closed my eyes again, feeling his warm breath on my skin, his soft lips touching me over and over.

Someone else was standing at the door of the room. I heard the nurse say, "No more visitors, please. We're taking the patient down to X-ray now that she's conscious. You'll have to wait. Are you a family member?"

Michael paused for a moment to turn and see who was at the door. I looked, too, but all I could see was the nurse, her white uniform top stretched tight across her broad back.

"A family member?" I heard the visitor say, "I'm her husband!" Then Todd pushed past the nurse into the room. He looked down at me, lying in the bed. His hair was plastered to his forehead, as if he had been running a long way. His mouth was slightly open, and it seemed to me that we all waited a moment for him to say something more, to ask a question. Michael's hands were still in my hair; my face was still damp in the places where his lips had touched me.

When Todd didn't speak, I said, "What time is it?" I looked at a big clock on the wall. "Oh, no!" I said. "We're supposed to be in the middle of a run-through! I've got to get out of here!"

Todd stood there for a minute at the side of the hospital bed, not saying anything. I tried to get up. "Jenny, don't!" Michael said. "Just rest now." He pressed a hand hard on my shoulder.

Todd opened his mouth to say something, closed it again, then walked quickly out of the room.

Priscilla, Edward, and Michael stood there looking at the door without saying anything. I was still a little slow, trying to piece together what was going on. Too late I said, "Wait." Todd was probably halfway to the elevator by then.


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Text © 1992-2007 by Sara Lewis.

Sarah Lewis