Another Wishmaster Sighting
Charles C Cole
It should come as no surprise for anyone to learn that genies are most convincing liars. (“You want to be a prince? Now you’re a prince!”) This is particularly true of the lovable really-big-fish-in-the-really-big-pond Genie with whom I have recently become acquainted.
I was buying a magazine from a newspaper stand (something mindless on vacuous celebrities to help me fall asleep at night). Standing behind the counter at the register was my genie, two-thirds his usual size, dressed in shiny street clothes! He wore several gold chains over his bare, hairless chest. His shirt was open almost down to his navel, tied at the waist, like he was acting out a pre-schooler’s impression of a genie.
“Genie? What are you doing here?!”
“The owner, Mr. Schiavelli, with no lamp and no magic, was wishing hard for a chance to visit his dying mom in the hospital. I was in the area, so I volunteered to fill in for a couple of hours. Did I ever tell you I hear all wishes? All the intense ones. It breaks my heart that I can’t help out more! Really motivates you when you get a chance to actually do something!”
“Where’s the lamp?” I asked. “Aren’t you on the clock?”
“I needed to get out. Al is sleeping after a dreamy date with a supermodel. I hate sleeping! I don’t need it.”
“You know who I mean. I refuse to learn their names; three wishes and I’m off to another master.”
“What’s my name?” I teased.
“Detective Joe Avery.”
I was touched but, more so, I was offended and confused.
“What are you doing in the city?” I demanded. “I wished you a 2-week vacation in the Bahamas! It hasn’t been two weeks! You said I wasn’t breaking the rules!”
“I never actually came out and said that, but I certainly implied it, true. I didn’t want to hurt your feelings. You’re such a sensitive mensch. You’d make a great genie.”
“I’d need a much bigger lamp. Wait: so, do I still have another wish?”
“Technically. But take your time. Maybe wait until you get another broken-hearted client, then you can give away the final once-in-a-lifetime opportunity like you did the first two.”
“Technically, I gave away three,” I corrected him. He excused himself to sell a couple of newspapers and a lottery ticket. He smiled, he joked, acting surprisingly at ease. Then he returned. I was genuinely impressed. “You like people!”
“Sure, some. They’re quirky. They’re desperate to have better lives, but clueless as to how good they already have it: a supportive family, a roof over their heads, weekends and evenings off! I’ve seen real poverty in my day – and famine. They’re all so good at feeling sorry for themselves. When I make them laugh, I want to capture the sound in a glass bottle and give it to them so they can remember the moment.”
“You should get rid of the lamp and come work with me,” I blurted. “I think we have the same mission statement.”
He shook his head. “But different clientele. We’re both classic xenophiles: smitten with the Other, the one that comes to us when he’s in need but who would never consider hanging out with us socially.”
“I’d hang out with you anytime!” I said, and I meant it.
“But not now,” said Genie. “I’m working here. Can I interest you in a juicy periodical or an informative gazette? Maybe some overpriced chocolate?”
I grabbed my magazine from a nearby shelf and handed it to him, fully aware that the only thing that would help me sleep was a generous amount of alcohol. “There is one thing I recently heard about: a newsletter for faery-folk. Got a copy? Maybe Mr. Schiavelli hides them under the counter.”
“I know the one you mean. Not exactly a bestseller. I hear it caters to a readership of one. And I doubt that the royal inquisitor shops here. Though, for all I know, he may have an errand boy lurking in the dark, trash-filled alley across the street.”
I finished my business. There were two men waiting in line, one wore the uniform of the US Navy. His red-rimmed eyes suggested he’d recently been crying. Recipient of a Dear John breakup letter or did his favorite sports team just take a tumble? In either case, there was nothing I could do. I backed away, leaving Genie to his people.
“Quick question: Have you got a name?”
“Not that I recall. But you could always wish me one.”
“I’m saving my last wish for something amazing, maybe a chocolate-colored rainbow or a conversation with God.”
“Even I have my limitations,” he said.
“Which only you know. Convenient.” I turned and started home.
“Hey, Detective,” called Genie, “what’s the difference between wishes and prayers? Sometimes wishes come true.”
“Or,” I countered, “with wishes, you only get three.”
He was larger than life, probably knew more about humankind than anyone, having seen us grow up. I could fit my knowledge into a thimble by comparison. And he was on our side, that was sure! Even without any magical abilities, I felt, with his help, the world had a chance to land on its collective feet.