“So Joe,” said the bartender, “you got another story for us today?” Joe just shook his head and reached for the glass the bartender had just placed in front of him. He took a sip and savored the whiskey and cola blend.
“Aww, Joe. Ya gotta have something.” The bartender, who had been leaning on the bar now straightened and stretched out his right arm in a sweeping gesture that included a small knot of men and women who were gathered just a few feet away at the end of the bar. They all nodded, as if on cue.
Joe searched his glass for clues. Finding none there, he looked at the bartender and then at the group who were apparently hanging on his ever word. He shrugged and lifted his glass for another sip.
“Well, there is a story I haven’t told. But,” he paused, as if to gather strength from somewhere deep within (in actuality, his reaction to his rather strong drink), “it might not be one you want to hear. After all, even living it was a disappointment.” He started into his story.
Nice day, Joe thought. A perfect day for walking on the beach. He was looking at the cloudless sky, not paying attention to what was in front of him or to the light breath of the occasional breeze. He paid the price for his inattention by tripping on a small branch. Still, he didn’t lose his balance and was able to recover without falling. He laughed at imagining the sight he made. He still hadn’t learned his lesson.
Presently, while fumbling with the carabiner clip on his front belt loop, he is musing as to why he forgot the bag he normally attaches to it. He trips over something and falls headlong into the sand. He sat up spitting sand from his lips and wiping sand from his face and hair.
And there it was, an old style pewter oil lamp. Now Joe could hardly blame the lamp, since it was he who was not paying attention and the lamp was just lying there. Still there was the urge to kick the thing. Lucky for him, he resisted.
He stood up and brushed himself off. He picked up the lamp, noticing the weight; it was a bit heavy for a trinket. He flipped it over to look at the base. There was no maker’s mark. He continued to examine it, noticing that the quality of workmanship in the body of the lamp and the graceful fluting of the spout and handle. He tried to open the lid, but it wouldn’t budge. After a few moments, he clipped it to the carabiner attached to his cotton pants. It bobbed about and rubbed gently against his thigh as he walked. Yes, this is a really nice day, he thought as he continued walking on the beach.
After some time, he heard a hissing sound, like the air being let out of a tire. He turned around trying to catch the direction and was engulfed in a cloud of smoke. Coughing hard, he fell to his knees as he wiped tears from his eyes.
The smoke cleared and standing before him was a man. A very TALL man, Joe mused.
The man was an anachronism, to say the least. He was really muscular and his biceps rippled as he adjusted his arms crossing his chest. He was bald but for a braided jet black lock that rose from the top of his head and fell behind his left ear and ended up resting oh his left arm. A large jewel was fastened to the end of the lock. He must be at least seven feet tall!
He was shirtless as well, but wore a red satin vest brocaded in gold. And those pants. Those pants! They were narrow at those impossibly narrow hips and flared very wide and were tight again at the ankles. The pants were diaphanous and fluttered in the light breeze, with stripes the color of the rainbow, and in the same order. Joe realized he had just made a mental note. That’s when he noticed the man’s footwear. Unlike anything Joe had ever seen, they were gold brocaded red satin slippers, just like the vest. And the toes curled.
“WHO HAS SUMMONED THE GENIE OF THE LAMP!” boomed the voice of this impossibly huge man. Joe realized the man was staring down at him, with one eyebrow sternly raised. His lips were drawn thinly across his face in that stare, causing Joe to stop laughing even before he started. Joe was obviously speechless.
Joe may have recovered, but he didn’t move.
The genie’s visage softened. He uncrossed his arms and put them on his hips. Joe didn’t react. After a moment, the genie spoke: “Are you deaf?”, he asked gently. Joe could only shake his head slightly. The genie extended his hand and Joe took it, rising to his feet.
Joe gathered his wits. His voice shaky, he asked, “You, you’re a genie?”
The genie nodded. “Yes. I came from the lamp.” Joe could only say “oh”.
It took several more moments, but Joe’s mind started working again. “Tell me,” he said, “how many wishes would you grant me. I mean, as I am in possession of the lamp.”
The genie held up a finger and said “one”.
Joe wanted to protest, but realized that it’d be futile. So he agreed with a nod. Still, he was becoming curious. As well, he had to think about his wish. So he started to make small talk.
“Lovely day, isn’t it?”
The genie was not amused.
Joe tried a different tack. “How old are you?”
“What is the year?”
“It is two thousand and fourteen.”
The genie thought for a moment. “I am two thousand and thirty seven years old.”
The genie put his hands on his hips again and glowered at Joe. Then his visage softened. “You find that hard to believe?”
“Well, yes.” Joe had a thought. “You don’t look a day over thirty five.”
The genie’s vanity was obviously touched. “You’d say I wear my age well?”, he asked as a light smile flitted across his lips.
Joe continued, “You seem smart as well.”
“How so?” The genie mused. “You hardly know me.”
“Well,” said Joe, “you sound American. For a two thousand year old guy, you should be speaking Aramaic or Greek or something.”
The genie threw back his head and laughed. A loud and hearty sound. At last he said. “I have been in America for a very long time.”
The genie eyed Joe curiously. “You are prolonging this encounter, no?”
Joe grimaced. “Caught red-handed.”
The genie laughed again. “Ah yes, one of your American idioms.” His laugh drifted off to a chuckle. “I never tire of them, especially your, how do you call it? Slang?” He said that last while shaking his head with a smile. “Well, I have been here for only a few thousand years. I can wait a few more minutes to grant one wish.”
“I’m curious,” said Joe, “about how you got here.”
The genie nodded and asked, “May we sit?” Joe extended his hand in a downward motion, inviting the genie to do as he was doing, crossing his legs and sitting on the sand.
The genie related to Joe how he came to America over a hundred years ago in the baggage of an archaeologist who did not know of the old legend of the genie in the lamp. He signed it into the care of the curator and never asked after it. “It was a boring time in my life,” mused the genie, “but I learned much while sitting on the shelf in one of the offices.
“One day, not long ago, I decided I had to leave.”
Joe offered his curiosity. “How?”
“Glad you asked,” said the genie, a wistful smile playing across his lips. “I merely caused the lamp to lose its luster. Then one day, a cleaning man had noticed the dullness of the lamp’s body. He began polishing it and I had to come forth.” He looked conspiratorially at Joe and winked. “It is no secret that a genie cannot resist being summoned.”
He raised his hand at what would be Joe’s next question. “No, I did not grant him a wish. I picked up the lamp and put my finger to my lips and said ‘shh’. Of course he was too shocked to respond.” The genie smiled again. “But I did leave him with something wonderful. I gave him good health and a happy and long life. Then I left in a puff of smoke.”
“And here I am.”
Joe was incredulous. “Here you are! Are you saying that you came to me?”
The genie nodded slightly. “Well, I cannot long stay out of the lamp and when I reappeared here on this beach, I was promptly sucked back into the lamp and it fell into a depression that was covered over by sand washed up by a large wave. For the past forty years.”
Joe realized it was dumb luck that he tripped over the lamp, that a wave even uncovered it in the first place. Time must be running out. He had to make up his mind quickly about that wish.
“But I’m curious, he said. “How did you bide the time waiting for someone like me to come along?”
“Well,” said the genie, “I merely granted myself the wish for satellite TV. I learned even much more about your culture.” He paused a bit. “You know what I like most about television?”
Joe shook his head.
“The science and history documentaries. They can be very fascinating. I find the shows about superstition to be the best.”
“I am a very old man. As you know, over two thousand years old. So some of the old ways stay with me. But, being from the Bronze Age, and living in these modern times, I can say that I have overcome most or all of those primitive beliefs.”
Joe ordered another drink. This time it was on the house. He ordered pretzels as a stalling tactic, knowing his audience was literally on the edge of their seats. Finally, one of the bar patrons spoke up. “Joe! Did he grant your wish?”
Others chimed in. “Yeah, Joe. What was your wish?”
C’mon, Joe, don’t leave us hangin’.”
He bit into a pretzel and chewed slowly. He cleared his throat and took a sip of his drink.
Joe was at last ready for his wish. He stood up and indicated so to the genie who also rose.
“By the way,” said the genie, what day is it?”
“Why, it’s Friday.”
“Good, good. Friday is a good day for a wish. Do you know the date?”
“Yeah, it’s the thirteenth,” said Joe, puzzled.
“Oh snap!” With that, the genie disappeared and so did the lamp.