“This isn’t a negotiation,” the blue spectral being countered.
“But in all the stories and movies, it seems like everyone gets three wishes?”
“Look, I don’t know what to tell you,” the genie sighed, “All those people got one wish from me. You know how your kind are. One guy says I granted one wish. The next guy decides he got two out of me. Suddenly, I’m supposed to be throwing out bundles of wishes like they are on sale.” Blue legs replaced the similarly hued smoke that was supporting their naked torso, and the genie took a seat on the park bench.
“So should I wish for your freedom or something like that?” the man asked.
“No, I told you. This isn’t Aladdin, and you’re not my master. I’m just feeling generous. I grant wishes like you take shits, and I just kind of pick randomly who I want to offer them to.” The genie stretched their hands above their head, yawning as they did. “I usually find someone in a park. Park people are my favorite people.”
The man looked around the crowded park they were chatting in.
“Can anyone see you other than me right now?”
“No,” the genie replied, “just you. Otherwise, people would start looking for me and trying to hunt me down and that’s annoying. I don’t wanna be invisible all the time. Speaking of which, there are no do-overs here. No customer support. And, you won’t ever see me again after today.”
The genie stood up from the bench and clapped him on the shoulder. “So what’ll it be?”
“God, I don’t even know. Do you have any recommendations?”
“I mean, money and power are usually contenders. But I’m not omnipotent. I can’t bend reality. I can’t cure cancer, though I’m working on it. I can’t make you president tomorrow since you’re not running and there isn’t an election tomorrow. Can’t bring anyone back from the dead. Won’t send anyone to the dead. Think of me more as a life hack. Need a few more bucks in the bank account. Boom! Need a new job? I can get you on a path. Stuff like that.”
“Wait. Are you a life coach, or are you a magical genie?” the man asked incredulously.
“Of course it’s magic! How else would you expect things to happen?”
“Ok, I think I’ve got it.”
“Finally! Go ahead, kid.” The genie flexed their fingers and rotated their head around their neck.
“You realize that I’m not a kid, right? I’m a twenty-six-year-old man.”
“You wanna guess how old I am?” They grinned, crossing their arms.
“Obviously, you must be older than you look,” the man conceded.
“Five thousand, eight hundred and forty-one years older than I look to be precise, but I appreciate the compliment.” The genie winked and smirked cheekily.
“Ok, so I’m a kid, I get it. But I think I’m ready for my wish.”
“I wish that every time I reach into my pocket, I will have exactly what I need.”
The genie’s smirk was quickly replaced with a thoughtful and slightly impressed look.
“Well, aren’t you a clever little guy. I don’t know if I can allow it because it’s like granting a wish every time you reach into your pocket.” The genie turned around and started pacing. The man, unsure if he should fight for his case, decided to think of another wish instead.
“It’s ok, I’ll just think of something else—“
The genie interrupted, “No, no! I actually think I like it. It’s doable which is the first hurdle, and frankly, I liked the phrasing. All right, it’s done.”
The man blinked, waiting for smoke to surround him with flashing lights and loud music. But instead, the genie just stared at him. Finally, the man asked, “What?”
“Well! Reach into your pocket!”
“That’s it? There’s no like bibbidi-bobbidi-boo?” he asked as his hand slipped into the right pocket. He looked down as his fingers closed around a small, circular device with a band connected to it. He brought it out of his pocket and saw a bright blue pedometer had appeared in his pocket.
“Ha. Ha. Ha. Very funny…” the man looked up and saw that the genie was no longer there. He looked around and couldn’t see the blue creature anywhere.
“It’s not even that much of a gut…” he said under his breath as he strapped the colorful device onto his wrist. He walked over to a man selling drinks so that he could cool off a bit from the hot summer day. He asked for a water bottle and pulled out his card. The vendor shook his head.
“Only cash, sorry,” he clarified.
“Oh,” the man said as he put his wallet away, “I only have my card…Wait. Would you say that I need cash?”
The vendor looked puzzled. “Yea, you need two dollars and fifty cents.”
He excitedly stuck his hand into his pocket and slowly pulled out two crisp dollar bills, not believing they were real until the vendor snatched the bills before holding out his hand saying, “Fifty cents?”
He reached back into his pocket and found two quarters which he quickly handed over. He walked by the fountain on his way back to the train, drinking the refreshing water he had purchased with money he had never seen before.
SIXTY-FIVE YEARS LATER
The man knew eventually this would happen. Doesn’t it happen to everyone? Sure, he had been able to delay it considerably with his healthy choices and pockets prepared for any occasion. But the body is not meant to last forever, and his certainly was not the exception.
Unless he could’ve been the exception? This idea brought back the ever-vivid memory of that warm summer afternoon sitting in a park when a bright blue genie nudged him, suddenly sitting next to him.
He doubted the genie would have granted immortality considering he barely gave him the wish he had received. And that wish had irrevocably changed his life. It took him a while to realize that what he wanted and what he needed were not always aligned. He had been embarrassed more than once to confidently put his hand into his pocket and pull out nothing but cloth. But in moments when it mattered, this simple act had greatly improved his life. Once, it even saved him.
On that day, he had stopped to fill up his car and grab a snack in the corner store. He was in the aisle when he tried to put his keys into his pocket, only to find that something was already there. He reached in and was dumbfounded when he felt cold metal brush his fingers as they pulled out a small pistol. Shocked, he looked around and only saw the clerk looking at their phone. He shoved the weapon back into his pocket, his face flushed with anxiety.
He had learned to shoot a gun as a teenager when his father had taken him to his grandfather’s ranch. But he had not touched one in decades, and he was so confused about why he suddenly needed it now.
But the robber came in, hood up and reflective sunglasses covering their eyes, their own gun extended in front of them. They scanned every aisle as the cashier put money into a sack and told him to get on the ground and give up his wallet. With newfound confidence, he refused and fired a shot at the robber’s foot. The robber collapsed on the ground, howling in pain as they grabbed their shin. He kicked the gun away from them and waited for the ambulance to arrive. The man was happy to discover the small pistol had disappeared just as mysteriously as it appeared
It took another decade for him to stop checking his pockets for weapons sporadically every day. Luckily, he had never needed one again.
But he wanted to check his pockets again today before dusk settled much lower outside his plain window. He feared he would never see the next dawn. His pants lay in a drawer across the room, and he was in no condition to walk, so he pushed the call button attached to his bed and the nurse walked into the hospital room.
“You need something, sweetie?” she asked. Her kind eyes contrasted with the sharp angular features of her face, her thin and lean body exuding warmth and comfort that seemed otherworldly.
“My pants, please. I think I left something in the pocket.”
She smiled and opened the drawer pulling out the outfit. She reached into the pockets before admitting, “I don’t think there’s anything in there.”
He grinned, “Sometimes it can be a little tricky.” He extended his hands, and she gently placed the clothes into them. He reached into the right pocket and felt his fingers wrap around a very small notebook. He pulled it out, and the nurse laughed with disbelief. “How did you find that? It wasn’t in there before.”
“It’s a secret compartment,” he smirked.
“Do you need a pen for the paper?”
“No, I think I’ve got one in here.” He reached again and pulled out a bright sapphire pen. The nurse chuckled and put the pants back into the drawer.
“Just call if you need anything else.” She began walking out when a coughing fit racked the man’s body. She stopped, waiting for a full breath to reach his lungs. When it did, she softened her voice and asked, “Are you sure there’s no one we can call?”
“No, thank you,” the man grimaced as he sat up straighter on the bed, wheeling the tray over his lap, “It’s just me. Nobody else seemed to fit in my pockets.”
The nurse let her mouth twitch into a sad half-smile before walking out of the room, closing the door behind her.
The man put the small notebook on the tray and began writing, the bright blue ink flowing readily out of the pen as it scratched the paper.
It all started when I decided to get off my fat ass and take a walk in the park.