My Genie is Jeanie
Most Genie's out of a bottle are big and somewhat terrifying but not mine.
Jeanie is a Genie well over 20,000 years old but doesn't look a day over 25. I suppose you could say she has great Genie-cells.
Anyway, when I came across the bottle, shaped as it was, my first thought was to take it home, clean it up and put it on the mantle over the fireplace. And part of that I did. After carefully washing the grime and caked on dirt from it, then drying it off, it looked like it might have been solid gold and had a very fine inlaid design on both sides.
I started for the fireplace to put this on the mantle, when I heard a tiny voice. I stopped, looked around the room but didn't see anyone. I continued to the mantle and almost had set it down when I heard that voice again.
"Hey! I'm no good to you here! Haven't you ever seen a magical lamp before? Rub me, stupid!"
That grabbed me. The voice was coming from the Genie lamp and I was thinking, "Wow! All my life I dreamed this might happen."
"Okay, buster, so it happened. Rub the damn lamp and let me out. We have to talk."
I rubbed the lamp twice, up and back, and just like in the movies, a puff, no, make that a wisp of smoke came from the spout end and there before my eyes was Jeanie, the Genie.
"Ah, hi. I'm Craig. You sure don't look like any Genie I would have imagined."
"You can call me Jeanie. We aren't all ugly and gross. But look, handsome, it's time for you to make a wish. Just one wish. We only do one. If you want more, you have to pay for them and they are expensive."
"Let's just say the value of the world and let it go at that."
"Okay, then I guess I just get the one wish."
"Here's the deal sweet-cheeks, make sure your wish is a good one because I don't make it happen, but I do give you the solution needed to answer your wish."
"Wait. So, this is just an example so don't grant this, but if I wanted a hundred-million dollars right now, you can't make it happen, but you can tell me how to get it? Is that what you're saying?"
"Exacto-mondo, honey-bun. So lay it on me, what's it gonna be?"
I sat in my recliner and started thinking. What one thing would I want her to solve that would be important.
"One other thing, sweetie, your time is almost up. This isn't a forever ask, answer, have dinner, spend the night thing. I have places to go, people to see, so, how about if you speed that brain of yours up some."
"All right, I think I have it. People all over the world, and right here at home have so many different diseases from cancer to leukemia, heart problems, and so on; if you can do what you say you can do, then how about a cure for all life-threatening diseases that threaten human beings and get rid of them once and for all?"
"You can only pick one, sweets."
"But I did. Life-threatening diseases. How do we go about ending them?"
"Hmm ... okay, you got me there. When you say diseases that makes it one. Okay, you got it. I'm going to pop back into my lamp for now, but when you wake up in the morning, on that desk over there sitting under a painting of ... dogs playing poker? Do dogs really play poker? Never mind. Anyway, there will be instructions, detailed instructions on how to rid humanity of all types of diseases. And trust me baby-cakes, it ain't a short story either. And if you want it to work, you have to follow everything written. One misstep and you don't get a second chance."
"Sounds good to me and ...."
True to her word, Jeanie the Genie evaporated into a filmy smoke and reentered the bottle. Not another sound came from her, even when I said, goodnight.
I laid in bed a good hour tossing around the crazy conversation I had with Jeanie and knew if I told my friends about this, they would want some of whatever I was smoking at the time (though I don't smoke). Finally, my eyelids became heavy and I drifted into dreamland, dreaming of Jeanie and our future together.
The next morning I woke up and popped right out of bed, went downstairs to my desk, but not before looking at the mantle and seeing the lamp was gone. So much for that future.
But on the desk was a stack of papers, each one numbered to 3,000 pages. Now, I'm no Brainiac, but from what little I understood, the answers doctors and scientists have been after for decades was right in front of my eyes.
I looked online for a specific phone number and when I found it I called.
"Department of Health and Human Services. How may I direct your call?"
The Biggest Problem Ever!
I don’t know about you, but I love to go to antique shops and browse around, maybe even take some pictures. On this one day, I noticed a lamp. Now mind you, this wasn’t any normal lamp like one you’d put in your living room, from the old oil lamps that legend says genies inhabit. Something about it pulled me towards it, and I knew I’d get some cool pictures out of it. Picking it up, I carried it to the cash register.
“Sir, I’d like to get this one.” I held the lamp out to the man.
“Okay.” He took it from my hand and searched it pver for the price tag. “Oh, miss! This came from the free pile, you can just take it.”
“Really?” I was surprised. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah, there isn’t a tag on it.”
Overjoyed, I said,“Thanks!”
I took the lamp - now rightfully mine- and dropped it into my purse.
“See ya later, George!” I waved goodbye as I exited the building.
The whole way back to my house, the lamp weighed heavy on my mind. I knew just where I’d put it - on the dresser next to my bed. It was cute and rustic, and I’d gotten it from a garage sale.
I unlocked my door, kicking off my shoes as I entered. A moment of sadness overcame me when my mom didn’t tell me to pick them up.
Just not used to her being in a nursing home. . .
I sighed. I set my purse on the table, pulled the lamp out, and went to go make coffee.
Wouldn’t that be so cool if fairytales were real and there were genies?
I laughed aloud, but the thought wouldn’t go away. Leaving the coffee brewing, I went back to the living room, taking the lamp in my hands. It was colder and heavier than before, almost as if there was a whole new world inside it.
“Should I rub it?” I asked myself out loud. “This is so ridiculous; I feel like I’m nine. Good thing no one’s around to see this . . . !”
Go a head and rub it.
I took my thumb and rubbed it slightly over the top. A shudder raced through me. I had done something, but what? I did it again, this time a little harder and longer.
And then it happened. Not a little puff of smoke or a cloud of it.
This Genie wanted to come out with style! It was as if someone had thrown a smoke bomb into my kitchen, alarms going off (fortunately for me, not the sprinklers.) I started to cough as I grabbed the beeping smoke alarm off the wall and threw it out my front door. I opened the windows and started to fan away the smoke.
As it cleared I saw a figure standing in the middle of the kitchen, arms folded over its chest. It was a boy, not many years older than me.
“Um....” I didn’t know quite how to say it. He was actually a pretty good looking person, considering he was a genie. “This is my house and....”
“Why’d you wake me?” he asked patiently.
“Well, I wondered if it was a genie lamp so I rubbed it. I didn’t know you were in there,” I explained, a little confused.
“I’m Amani and I can grant one wish. Well,” he thought for a moment. “Not really a wish. I can solve one problem and only one. Do you have one you want to be solved?”
“Look, Amani, that’s tough to just come in here and tell me I have to choose between a million different problems.”
I poured a cup of coffee and grabbed my book off the counter. I had started it earlier today and wanted to finish it.
“But you have to choose! I can’t wait for forever you know,” he exclaimed.
“You were asleep for how long waiting for me to rub your lamp?”
“Twenty years but I don’t have that....” he started to say.
“You can wait a day or two then, can you not?” I looked up from my book, glaring at him.
He swallowed. “Sure.”
Sitting on the couch, my mind was not on the Amani but rather on the book and what was going on inside of it. It was as if I was at a window watching what was happening outside. The window was locked though, and I could not unlock it to go through. The thought was very sad to me and in a second, the genie popped back into my head. He could solve only one of my problems and the biggest problem for a bookworm (that’s me.) is not being able to actually travel to these fictional worlds.
I zoned out for a moment, mind going through all the possibilities. After a minute or two, I looked up at Amani who had now made himself comfortable on the couch across from me. I leaned forward and set my coffee on the coffee table.
“You can solve one problem right?” I double-checked.
“Yes,” he answered. “Have you decided?”
“Yeah.” I stood up and started to pace, book under my arm.
“It’s always been my dream to be able to travel to fictional worlds whenever I want too. No limitations, nothing. But, my main problem is that I can’t. I’m trapped here on this earth. You can solve that problem though.” I turned to him. “Can’t you?”
“Go over it one more time so I get it,” he requested.
“I know normal people would maybe ask to never run out of money again or a cure to all the diseases ever but everyone knows I’m not a normal person,” I started. “I want to travel to any fictional world for an unlimited amount of time and whenever I want too. Oh, and no time passes here on earth and I don’t age while I’m in the fictional worlds. Understand?”
“Yup,” he nodded. “I don’t read much but that sounds like an amazing problem to have solved.”
“Well, where do you want to go first?” he asked, standing up.
I pulled my book close to my chest. “Alice in Wonderland.”
“I read that one once!” he exclaimed. “Wonderful book. Good choice.”
“What do I do?”
“Just think of the book and POOF! you’re there,” he explained.
“How do I get back though?” I wanted to know. I also didn’t want to get stuck in a fictional world though.
“Just think of home,” he shrugged.
My heart started to beat faster as the possibilities flooded my mind.
“I hope you have fun in your worlds, Jordan.” Amani reached his hand out and I shook it.
And just like that, with a smaller puff of smoke, he was gone, back into his genie lamp. I thought hard, concentrating on a little white rabbit with a pocket watch. There was a thump as my book fell to the floor.
I was off to Wonderland.
Lost In The Clouds
The lava lamp had always been special, because it was a gift from Taylor. True when she clicked it on at night it gave her room a most magical air, but Leah had never expected this wispy golden form of a woman to spring from it and offer her a wish. Suspicion surfaced, disbelief lacing itself in her words. "What do I do to earn it?" Leah well remembered her father's countless "nothing is free in this world" lectures, cigarette smoke swirling through his freezing cold study, the irratating scratch of his pen as he balanced the checkbook."Present me with a problem, and I will grant your wish." The voice was to giddy, like Leah's dad's girlfriend when she'd had to many glasses of champagne.
"Unless of course, your without worry." The tease wrecked Leah's train of thought, sending it spiralling back to when she'd found out, weeks and weeks ago that felt like yesterday.
It was a still night when Leah crept out the back door and found Taylor crumpled on the porch swing. The sun was seeping from the sky sending a vibrant farwell in orange and pink. Leah focused on the sunset and pretended not to see the mascara dripping down her sister's nose. Taylor had always been the mom Leah never had, now that she was the one broken; Leah had no idea what to do. She leaned into Taylor, hoping to breathe in her sister's signature mixture of scents that never failed to comfort. Dove soap, melting power, and a spritz of summery melon perfume. Instead she smelt sadness, like rain.
"He doesn't understand. He doesn't see people as human beings with thoughts and feelings, just a long string of numbers added to the budget." Leah could almost see her father as he confronted her sister, hear his pockets jingling with the change he never wanted to part with. A sob escaped from Taylor's lips and she pressed a thin hand against her belly. Somehow Leah knew she wasn't protecting what she held inside, but mourning what was gone.
"Have you thought it over?"said the genie, almost motherly, if not for the mysticism and unpredictability playing in her voice. There were other more valiant things to wish for; like world peace. But Taylor meant the world to Leah. She pressed the button on her lava lamp, watched the colors bubble up, and took a deep breath.
"My sister hasn't been happy for so long, she can't forgive herself for having an abortion."
There wasn't a puff of smoke, shower of sparkles, or magic word; but as the genie faded away, Leah glimpsed into the future. She saw Taylor in the clinic lot scribbling a letter to her unborn baby, and sliding it out the window. As Taylor drove away the exhaust from her car pushed it upward, and her letter was lost in the clouds.
Not Of This World
I watch the rain splatter on his brown, leather loafers. His wrinkled hands, dotted with age, are clasped between his knees. Gray wisps stick out under his bowler hat. He has a properness about him—British, perhaps. In a city as large as Portland, it’s not uncommon to encounter expatriates at the bus stop.
“It’s a rainy one, eh?” he asks, eyes trained at the sky. Not British. Irish, maybe?
“Sure is,” I answer, leaning against the plastic back of the shelter.
We sit in silence for a moment, listening to the staccato of droplets. A few simple words exchanged, and I like him. I place great weight on first impressions, and this unassuming, well-tailored old man has my heart. He reminds me of Dad before the cancer.
I look at my watch. The chemo appointment starts in thirty minutes. Where is the bus?
The old man leans forward, places a hand out into the shower. An odd thing to do, but endearing—to touch the water as it falls from the sky, as a child might. An act of wonder.
He turns back to look at me, his hand still stretched in front of him.
“I’m going to make it stop raining now,” he says, his foggy blue eyes driving into mine.
And it stops.
The rain just… stops. In an eerily abrupt way, the air is suddenly dry. The droplets that were mid-air never even made it to the ground. The rain disappeared. I gasp and sit up.
“Wow, some timing there,” I say. “How…” I shake my head.
“Shall I make it come back?” he asks.
I simply stare.
“Yes, I think I will,” he says, and just as the words leave his mouth, the rain suddenly returns. Droplets that had disappeared moments before return to their place in the falling order and splash upon the ground. It was as if we were watching a movie and this old man had the remote control.
I am glued to my seat. My body is still as my mind tries desperately to process what I’ve seen.
“How… how did you know?” I ask.
“I didn’t know it was going to happen, Emma. I made it happen.”
“But…” I shake my head.
What did he just say? Panic sets in. I stand up and start gathering my things.
“Please don’t be afraid,” he says.
“How do you know my name?” I demand, slinging my backpack over my shoulder. I take several steps back and glance around, looking for other people. Who will hear me if I scream? If it came to it, I could probably disable him. He’s old and appears frail. A knee to the groin would probably do the trick. Adrenaline surges through my body; I’m suddenly sweating.
“I mean you no harm at all,” he says calmly. His hands have returned to his lap. “I can understand your confusion, but I promise you there is no reason to be frightened.”
He hasn’t moved.
“Emma, I’d like to give you something,” he says. “A gift.”
As a practical, city-raised, street-worn woman, I know this is out of control. This man is a total creep. He’s getting progressively weirder and I need to get out of here immediately. Right?
But my intuition says otherwise. The brief panic has disappeared, and I am left with a supreme sense of calm and well-being. The warmth and affection I felt when I first met this stranger—it has returned.
“Tell me how you know my name,” I say softly.
“I know many things,” he responds casually. “I am not of this world.”
Resisting an urge to roll my eyes, I collapse onto the bench beside him and sigh.
“Well, obviously not,” I say. If nothing else, this encounter will make one hell of a story. “So, what is this gift?”
He glances at me and grins. “My gift to you,” he says, “is that I will solve your problem.”
Well, that’s not what I was expecting. “What do you mean?” I ask.
“Just what I said. Pick a problem, only one, and I will solve it for you.”
“Ah,” I say. “This is a genie thing. You want me to make a wish.”
“No, not at all,” he says firmly. “I want you to choose a problem for me to solve.”
“But, when people make a wish, don’t they usually wish for the solution to a problem?” I challenge. “Money solves the problem of being poor. Companionship solves the problem of being lonely. I feel like we’re talking semantics here.”
“No.” He sits up straighter, clasps his hands tighter. “On the contrary, wishes are often for material items, which often cause more problems. Instead, I want you to choose a problem, and I will provide a solution.”
“Alright,” I concede. “I’ll play ball.” I pull my feet up onto the bench and hug my knees. My jeans are wet from the rain. I bury my face in my arms to think.
“I’m sorry, Emma, but we don’t have a lot of time.”
I unfold out of my ball and stare at him with frustration.
“I’m convinced whatever I choose will have unintended consequences,” I say.
He looks at me with a gentle smile, kindness in his eyes. “Dear girl,” he says, “that’s a risk you must take.”
I’m on the brink of tears. The words tumble out before I can stop myself.
“Cancer,” I whisper. “Solve the problem of cancer.”
I hear the bus approaching. The old man stands and adjusts his hat, looks down at me. “Nice to meet you, Emma,” he says. He walks away down the sidewalk, rounds a corner, and disappears.
I wipe my eyes and gather my things. As I’m counting out coins for the bus driver, my cell phone starts to buzz. I dig it out of my bag, sinking into a seat at the back of the bus.
“Hey mom,” I say. “Sorry, the bus was late. I’m on my way. You’re not going to believe-“
“Emma,” she sobs. “He’s gone. Daddy’s gone.”
When the Wrong Person Gets the Wish
"One wish?" asked Kyle.
The genie folded his arms and said, "That's correct."
"Anything I want?" asked Kyle.
"Yes." The genie was starting to get annoyed. "One wish, to solve any problem you want." The kid had been asking him the same question for about a minute straight.
"One wish..." Kyle repeated. "I have an idea,"
'Finally', the genie thought. "Well, what is it?"
"School lunch is crap. Make them serve us better food."
"Your wish is my command."
Problem? What Problem?
I was walking down the street. Shops lined each side of the road. I had nothing to do so I took my time. I looked at each shop and casually watched the people pass me by who were tied to some kind of schedule. It was nice to just relax and take the time to notice the little details that I wouldn't have time for if I had a purpose but my purpose for the day was to just enjoy myself. Having company would have been nice but everybody is busy and in a hurry and I really had the feeling that life was passing me by.
I was walking along and I passed this dark alley. As I passed I thought I heard somebody calling to me. I looked around and didn't see anyone. As I was just about to continue my journey to nowhere, I heard the voice again. As I turned to look, a guy in a trenchcoat appeared out of the alley. "Hey, you" The guy said in my direction. I looked around to see if he might be talking to somebody else, but there wasn't anyone else around.
"Are you talking to me?" I asked. I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, not by a long shot.
"You think I'm talking to the fire hydrant, of course I'm talking to you" He said sarcastically as if I was some type of moron. "Come here. I've got some business I want to discuss with you."
Following a guy with a trenchcoat into a dark alley didn't seem like a prudent thing to do, but curiosity got the better of me and I followed him anyway.
"I've got this magic bean I want to sell you." The guy says.
"Seriously, a magic bean?" I ask.
"I got to rid of it so I'm going to make you a deal you can't refuse." He said. He talked like that guy in the Godfather movie and it was kind of creepy.
"What does it do?" I inquired. If I'm going to get stuck with a magic bean, it better do something pretty incredible.
"Well, you just plant it in the ground, water it and it grows." He answered.
"You mean like every other non magic bean." I was starting to get snarky with him and it was clear he didn't appreciate it.
"Look kid, let's cut to the chase, how much money you got?" He asked. I got a lump in my throat. I pulled out my wallet to see what kind of shape my financies were currently in. I had a dollar.
"I've just got a buck" I said. He grabbed my wallet from me. I guess he wasn't the kind of guy who takes your word for it.
"I just wanted to be sure you weren't holding out on me." He said finally as an explanation for his behavior. He takes my dollar and throws my wallet back at me. "Because I like you kid, I'm going to sell you this magic bean for a dollar. Just plant it in the ground and water it and something magical will happen." He hands me the bean.
"Where am I suppose to plant this bean?" I asked.
"Hey, that's your problem." He said as he disappeared into the darkness.
I slip the bean into my pocket. I was saving that dollar to get a large drink at McDonald's but I guess I'm going to just have to deal with being thirsty.
I return to the street and continue my journey. After a little while I come upon this guy who seems really out of sorts. He's sitting on a bench in front of this resale shop.
"Yo dude" I said, "What are you all boo-booey for?" This guy looked kind of old but then pretty much everybody over thirty looks old to me. He looked like a bum who was down on his luck. It looked like he hadn't shaved or washed his hair for quite a while. I felt sorry for him.
"I'm in an awful predicament." He lamented "I found this perfect vase in this resale shop for my dying mother and I don't have any money to make the purchase. I caused quite a ruckus that the owner threw me out. He had no pity for me at all." The guy was being super dramatic. Maybe at one time he was an actor or something.
"Dude, why didn't you just use a credit card?" I asked.
"I tried that but the shop doesn't accept credit cards." He explained.
"Who doesn't accept credit cards?" I wondered out loud.
"I know." the old guy agreed. "You must go and buy it for me." He said more cheerfully.
"Dude, I just gave my last dollar to some guy in the alley." I explained.
"Then you must steal it for me." He said, not giving up.
"Dude, You want me to lift it for you?" I asked horrifically.
"Yes. It was my dying mother's last request, to buy her this specific vase in this specific resale shop."
"Sounds like your mom is super picky" I offered.
"Nevermind that, get in there and steal me that vase." After saying this the old guy practically pushed me into the resale shop.
As I entered the resale shop, I looked for the specific vase the old guy wanted. It took me a while to find it because the place was a mess. I guess the owner thought that cleaning was just a suggestion you could do only if you felt like it and the owner didn't feel like it. Once I found the vase, I went up to the register. The guy behind the register wanted Ten dollars for the vase. I told him all I had was a magic bean and I asked him if he would trade me the lamp for the bean. The guy thought about it for a long time.
I said "Dude, what's there to think about, do you want to trade me or not?" I was getting kind of impatient with the guy but he just stood there. Finally he agreed to do it and I walked out of there with this old dirty vase.
Once I stepped outside, the old guy grabbed the vase like it was pure gold or heroin, I couldn't tell which because he had this wild look in his eyes and started running down the street saying something about it finally being mine. I was starting to think that his whole story about his mother dying might not actually be true. Now I was not only out a whole dollar I was also out a magic bean and a lamp. The day was starting to really suck.
I watched the old guy run down the street because it was actually pretty hilarious. The guy probably hadn't tried to run for years and he started running out of gas pretty quickly. He stood there weezing with his hands on his knees. I causally walked over to him and asked him if he needed any help. He selfishly guarded his junky looking vase. I told him to relax. After another minute the guy fell to the ground and I thought he had a heart attack. I took the vase which was rightly mine anyway and I called 911. I stayed
with the old guy until the ambulance arrived and took him to the hospital. With the old guy out of my life, the shifty looking trenchcoat alley guy lost in the darkness somewhere
and me being a dollar short, I took my dirty old vase and headed back home.
Once I got home, my mom asked me if anything interesting happen to me. I gave her the standard response which indicated my life was boring and headed to my room. Once in my room I examined the vase carefully. There had to be something about this vase that the old guy was willing to risk me going to jail for. Of course the old guy could just have been crazy, which I think would be a more reasonable explanation, but still I wondered why he wanted this vase so badly. I placed the vase on my already crowded desk. I just put stuff on my desk because I'm too lazy to put it where it should go and now my desk has too much stuff on it. My mom used to get mad at me and tell me to clean up in my room. Now she just makes sure my door is closed so she doesn't have to look at it.
After awhile I forgot about the vase and in the course of doing 'stuff' I accidentally knock the vase off my desk. It falls to the floor and breaks into three pieces. Some smoke appears when the vase breaks and a genie appears in my room. The genie looks at the vase and then looks at me.
"What did you do that for?" he asks, "You just broke my house!" He seemed a bit cranky.
"I didn't know it was your house besides your a genie, just use your magic and fix it." I shot back.
"I can't do that!" he said. "You can never live in a vase after it's been broken. Everybody knows that. I would never be able to resell it and after all the upgrades" He seemed pretty frantic at this point.
"Dude get a grip on yourself" I said unsympathetically, "You sound just like a girl and besides I thought genie's were suppose to live in old lamps anyway." I added.
"People don't try to light vases" he shot back.
"Point taken." I respond.
"Now look, I can fix one problem and one problem only." He stated. For a genie with magical powers he sure did seem jittery for some reason. He was really killing the mood.
"What about granting wishes?" I asked.
"People just waste wishes, There always selfish and they want wealth and love and house on the beach or their own private island. It's disgusts me so I don't do it anymore." He explained.
"You sure are cranky." I observed.
"Well how would you feel if you're always the one giving wishes, where are my wishes, when do I get to have my wishes granted." I started to regret my snarky comment because he started monologuing. If I wanted a lecture I would just ask my parents to explain something. He continued ...
"Nobody every says thank you or please. They never think about my feelings. It's always about them and what they want."
"Are you done yet?" I asked impatiently.
"I'm just getting started." He shot back "You live for thousands of years granting wishes to ungrateful slobs and see if you don't get an attitude." I thought about it for a moment and he did have a valid point.
"Okay, solve the problem of world hunger" I commanded.
"Sorry, can't do that." He replied.
"How about averting natural disasters"
"Nope" He said.
"Okay, what about making that hot girl in my geometry class fall in love with me?" I said finally.
"That's not a problem, that's a fantasy and it's never going to happen by the way."
"Well it was worth a shot" I said pathetically.
"Okay, how about fixing old Mrs. Miller's leaking faucet?"
"You could solve any problem in the world and you want me to do that?" The genie said disgutingly.
This guy was beginning to be a major joykill. He shot down every idea I had.
"Look" I said, "It seems to me that maybe I don't know what the word 'problem' means. Could you explain what you mean by that?" I was starting to get a bit frustrated.
"well duhh," the genie responded, "a problem is something wrong that need to be made right."
"That's not helpful" I said, "Maybe I could sleep on it and get back to you in the morning."
"And what am I suppose to do until then?" The genie asked, "You broke my house."
"I don't know" I shot back, "Your a genie, go to the Bahama's for a few hours or something, live a little, have some fun."
"fun?" the genie repeated
"Yeah, you've lived for thousands of years and you have never had any fun?" I asked again.
"No, I've never had any fun." The genie replied. His voice was kind of sad as if it never had occured to him that he could have fun until this very moment.
"Well, I think that's a problem" I said, "and I am going to fix it"
"You are?" the genie said.
"Yep, ever been to the Bahama's?" I asked.
Balancing the Equation
They gathered in a clearing— at the secret convocation spot. There weren’t many, but just enough; representatives of every feather, tail, scale and stripe. They had huddled round a gold elaborate historical object wrapped in a towel—a thing man-made yet otherworldly inspired.
Owl had seen it used eons ago, and Wolf had seized it and brought it here today. Rat sniffed it now, and declared it ripe for the occasion. So Cat began to rub an arched back across the belly of the golden lamp that was unraveling partly from within the clothe.
A coral smoke curled from the spout, and from the friction of the fur and whiskers a flame lit at the lip and revealed a specter hovering over with white turban, and arms folded across the chest, mustache, and beard. The giant stood silent despite having his feet suddenly held to the fire. At the sight of the light the insects lifted and danced before him to pay an homage: “Genie, Genie, Genie!!”
Lion rose slowly from the pride and thus began: “Genie, we are tired. Tired of the scourge on the face of the Earth that pollutes the air, the water, the soil... That kills for sport, wastes energy reserves on hate and war; and forgets again and again what good will is for—We are not against reconciliation and return to a fraternal order, if we could only get to the root of the trouble.”
A murmur lifted from the assembly. “It’s Man; it’s all Man.”
“That is, of course, Whoooo, ” said Owl.
”—but wwhy???” whinnied the herd of foals, old goats, and sows, until Bear growled, arresting every sound. Then Parrot let out a well rehearsed:
“Your wish is my Command! Your wish is my Command!! Your wish is my Command!!!”
And old Baboon coughed, and cleared a throat to resume: “Genie, we know the limits of your power and we’re willing to do whatever it takes to resolve the matter as best we can regarding How. Our question is but one— Please help us to understand just—
What Is Man’s Problem?!”
Time, Energy, and Wishes
Every year we would pile more and more junk into the attic. One day I had nothing planned. My goal was to clean up. While digging through a box I found a lamp. It was pretty; one of the ones you would see on tv or in an antique store. Since it was so elegant, I brought it down. When I set the lamp on the table it started smoking. I jumped back, ready to grab a fire extinguisher from the other room. A ghost-like form appeared.
The 'smoke' then spoke.
Genie: You can have one wish.
Me: Anything I want? (*It's a genie!*)
Genie: No, I only solve problems.
Me: Ok... (*Let's see...*)
My wish for you,
Is to help me with,
Time and energy.
I want to do everything,
The world offers so much,
But we only do little.
Swimming, dancing, sailing,
Music, art, school, work,
Friends, family, lover.
How can I spread out,
My time and energy?
Will you help me manage and organize?
Maybe I should ask,
For a better deed,
One that matters to more.
You could probably solve,
Many world-wide problems,
Or something important.
But could I pass you on, to someone else?
Could I get my personal wish,
Then give you to someone who,
Will wish for something better?
Problems are for pansies
Oh here she comes. About time. Spending most of my time alone in a lamp doesn't exactly make me the most charming, insightful being, but if I had to guess, I think this one is an obnoxious old bumpkin. Although, I have been known to misread my subjects. But who picks up a genie in a lamp and doesn’t make an attempt to engage it’s magical power? The look of my humble abode is so classic surely any idiot would attempt a rub or two.
"Bumpkin" picked me up at a garage sale a while back from a sweet old lady. I heard her nasty tone that day. Kinda scared the crap out of me. Exactly how long ago that was I couldn’t say because inside this lamp, for obvious reasons I have lost all track of time. If I had to guess, I’ve been dormant for a year or two, maybe more. And I still can’t get her annoying voice out of my head.
“Hey lady. How much for this old piece of crap lamp?”
“Ten dollars,” said "Sweetie". When she asked me to solve world hunger as her only wish, I told her I’d be happy to grant her unselfish wish as best I could, but to remember; I’m just a genie, not a miracle worker.
I then asked Sweetie if she would kindly pass me along quickly, because quite frankly my accommodations are a little tight as you might imagine. If I can, I try to manipulate as much stretching time as possible in between gigs. She agreed without hesitation and said there was a neighborhood garage sale in a few days where she would pass me along for less than the $40 dollars she paid for me at an antique shop, for a quick sale.
Bumpkin continued that day like an out of tune violin, “Are you kidding me? For this piece of crap? Look lady. It’s late in the day and I’m sure you want to wrap things up. I’ll give you five to save you the bother of packing this junk back into your attic where it will sit till your next garage sale.
And I think she dropped the five and more or less walked off with me because I could hear Sweetie's diminishing exclamation to have a nice day.
And since then I’ve been sitting in total darkness biding my time. Perhaps I should think of this as a well deserved sabbatical. I’ve done hard time. You wouldn’t believe some of the problems I’ve been asked to solve. There are more than a few good doers out there, like the the old lady I just spoke of. Some have asked for cancer cures; an end to gun violence; a solution for the opioid epidemic and more, difficult complex problems too large to permanently solve, even for a genie, but I do what I can. And get this. I’ve also been asked to murder a few wives, making it look like an accident and as equal rights do prevail these days, a few husbands too. Call me a pseudo hit man if you will. This is the part of my job discription I cannot appreciate, but Genie's gotta do what Genie's got to do. Truth be told, the people I knocked off deserved it, otherwise I’d opt for a creative malfunction of sorts.
Oh yeah. She’s rubbing, come on baby, that’s it,........and.......YES! I’M OUT! Even though I’d rather not give nasty Bumpkin my standard spiel after the way she ranked on my housing and the way she treated Sweetie, I must, but not before I stretch.
“Greetings. I am your Genie. I have materialized to solve a problem that you most want to solve, but one problem only.”
“Genie!? Ha!? I knew it when I picked you up at that garage sale and decided to teach you a lesson. What gives you the right to be messing with God’s intentions? All this hocus pocus nonesense is just bullshit I tell ya. Bullshit. That’s why I’ve let you sit and stew all this while. Been 3 years since I tossed you in my attic. And problems...HA! Problems are for pansies. My momma always said, “There are no problems, just situations that need tending.”″
“Look lady. I’m just doing my job. Do you want me to solve a problem for you or what? You are giving me a headache and even though I really feel like stretching, at this point I’d rather go back inside my lamp than have to deal with you.”
“Well then I guess you can say you just solved my situation that needs tending. Genie, do the world a favor and go back into your lamp for good. Problem solved!”
"That's right," the genie tells me. "One problem that you would like to fix."
"So, what if not having a million dollars is my problem? Then you'll give me a million dollars like I asked?"
He turns toward me, regarding me and it's like I'm seeing into a mirror. Short, dark hair - except his has no grey in it, coffee brown eyes that swallow up the pupil. His olive skin seems to to reflect the light as if he shimmers so slight that it seems like your glasses have a spot on them wherever he stands but otherwise he looks just like a normal man. A normal man wearing a cream colored robe.
"That's not a problem."
"So you'll do it?" I ask.
"No. Not having a million dollars is not a problem. It has to be a real problem," he states in a manner that's clearly bored, uninterested.
"But I do need money. I work too hard."
"You don't look like you're working too hard right now," and it's the first time I've seen him smirk and it makes me think that he is toying with me like I used to place a stick in the middle of a line of ants.
"Yeah, well I was working until I found your lamp!" I felt the sweat dripping down the back of my arms from my armpits, the warehouse really felt like an oven on days like today.
He glances away, rifling though the items on the nearest shelf, curiousity overtaking him as he rips into a bag of pretzels.
"Hey, don't eat that! I've got to pack them up to ship them out!"
"Well, that sounds like a problem. Do you want me to fix it?"
"Yeah, I mean no! I want you to stop but that's not my wish." I grab the bag from him.
"Then I guess I don't have to stop." He rips the bag back from me and grabs another handful of pretzels, crunching so loudly I start to get irritated.
"You chew so loud! Good god, what are you eating? Glass?"
He chuckles, "I don't know what you call these things but they are quite good."
The heat from the warehouse and the strain of working all day felt heavy on me as I scowled at him eating up the product. "So what do you actually fix? Give me an example." I crossed my arms and leaned up against the boxes I had stacked on the dolly.
He began talking with his mouth full, pretzels spilling everywhere. "One man in Arabia needed a new camel because his had a broken leg, I gave him a new one. Another man in China said his wife talked too much, she lost her ability to speak. I fixed a man's roof, I gave a woman a baby, I fixed a fisherman's boat in Thailand." He waves his hand in a twirling motion to suggest the list continues.
"Gave a woman a baby?"
"Yes, she couldn't have kids and I gave her the baby she wanted."
"So you can make a baby but you can't make a million dollars appear? I mean, I'm not even being greedy, a million dollars is.."
He laughs again interrupting me, "I didn't make the baby; I gave her a baby," and he raises his eyebrows and looks at me in a way that suggests irritation.
"Gave it to her from where?"
"Some people have too many, so I just took one." He laughs again, plops another pretzel in his mouth and chews loudly, watching me as he chews, lips not even touching.
"You stole a baby!" I glance around because I shouted much too loud and by a glance at my watch I realize I have to get this last load onto the truck before it ships out.
He shrugs his shoulders. "Isn't there something to drink? I'm thirsty from all that time in the lamp, I love new taste experiences!"
"So, you don't grant wishes, you steal babies and you chew real annoying?"
He loses the smile. "Then make your decision and be rid of me." He continues muttering in a language that I cannot place but the body language speaks for itself- brows low to his eyes, mouth taut, shoulders turned away, the fist holding the pretzel bag with knuckles white.
"Uh. A problem, a problem..." What do I need?
"Jerry?" I hear my name being called by Mike my boss.
"Yeah," I call back and I can hear footsteps coming closer.
"Where the hell are those boxes you went to get? We're trying to load this up."
I move closer to the genie and whisper, "Can you get in your lamp? I don't want him to see you."
"Why?" he glares at me. "Are you afraid I'm going to fix his problem too? Selfish humans... always with their insistance on..."and he switches back to that language again.
"In the lamp!"
"What in the hell?" and Mike is staring straight at us, his big shiny head gleaming on us like a spotlight. "Who is this guy and why is eating all the product? Did you let him in here?"
The genie tilts the bag to shake the crumbles into his mouth and pretzels fall to the ground all around our feet.
"Mike, look, he's a genie and I found him in this lamp here," I grab the lamp and show it to Mike who is still furious at the mess and the fact that I'm not done with my work.
"I don't care who he is! We have to get this truck out and you're sitting here, eating with this louse."
"He solves problems, Mike."
"Then solve this problem right quick."
The swishing sound is immense as it rushes past my ears and causes my eyes to squint. Dust swirls around us with bits of pretzel hitting me in the face. The genie leans back to be taken up into what appears to be a dust devil with the air force so strong that I crouch down to the concrete, leaning back against the shelving, looking for something to grab so I don't get swept up. Mike has thrown himself face down on the ground covering his ears with his hands, pretzels bouncing off his bald head and then floating up into the air.
Sheilding my eyes I glance up to see the genie staring at me as he smirks punches a hole in the roof and lifts his arms up to direct the cyclone up through the fresh new skylight.
He winks at me and shouts down at us, "As you wish." The wind pressure increases, I jam my eyes close and then the wind stops. I look up to see the sun filtering down on the floor a few feet away from me and I glance up to the sky to see that the genie is gone.
Mike peeks up from the ground.
All the pretzels on the floor are gone, including the boxes I had just loaded on the dolly. The lamp is gone even though I never got to make a wish.
"You're fired," says a shaky Mike as he stands up unsteadily.
I look around and scratch my head as Mike walks away.
After gathering my things to leave the warehouse for good, I step outside to feel the sun baking off the asphalt. The sky, a clear blue gem, shows no sign of the genie and I can't believe my day. Just as I reach out to open my car door, an intense gush of wind ruffles my hair and swirls around my body just like from before.
The faintest sound floats out of the whirl almost like the genie's whisper, "Problem fixed," it sighs and then the wind whips westward.