The Wish List
Another in my short story writing series. I presented this one at Fearless Lab last night.
I had a different idea for the ending when I originally wrote the piece but I changed it for last night. I liked the original direction better so I changed the ending back to my original one. The theme for the show was leap year and that explains where the basic idea came from.
Anyway – if you like or don’t like, feedback is great. If you read the whole thing – thanks for reading!
Doug couldn’t sleep. It was 8:00 AM on February 29th and he only had to wait one more hour. He was not going to miss 9:00 AM.
He’d found the lamp at Carl’s Volvo and used magic shop. Tucked behind the magic card decks missing all their aces and elderly rabbits just hoping for one last chance to be pulled out of a hat, the lamp sat on a shelf with a price tag so dusty, he could barely read it.
“Hey Carl!” he called out to the proprietor who was putting a new air filter in his 1976 343, “why is this lamp only fifty cents?”
“Because of the Genie” Carl called back.
“Are you kidding me?”
“Nope! You want me to change the oil?”
“Yeah. But what’s wrong with the genie?”
“Rub the lamp and find out!”
“Do I have to pay you fifty cents?”
“No. He ain’t yours until you buy him and you ain’t gonna want to buy him.”
Carl was nuts. Fifty cents for a genie was a great deal. Way better than the magic rings he’d bought two weeks ago. They seemed pretty cool at first. They didn’t just connect to each other. They connected to chairs, light fixtures, his girlfriend, pretty much anything.
The only problem was they wouldn’t unconnect until they felt like it. He’s say the magic word and they’d just pretend they didn’t hear him. His girlfriend was none to pleased when she was handcuffed to the bed for six hours. He didn’t think magic rings could giggle but those rings definitely giggled.
Doug picked up the lamp and pulled his shirt sleeve over his hand. He rubbed the dust off the lamp and waited for the genie to appear.
After a few minutes, he rubbed the lamp again.
“Hey Carl! There’s no genie in this lamp!”
“Sure is! Take a look inside!”
Doug lifted the lid and peered into the lamp. A green face peered back at him and he couldn’t help but notice it looked rather cross.
“Piss off,” the genie told him, “It ain’t time yet.”
“Time for what?”
“Check back with me on February 29th,” the genie said testily. Then it grabbed the lid out of Doug’s hand and pulled it back into place with a loud crash.
“Hey Carl! It told me to come back on February 29th!”
“Yup! Only grants wishes once every four years. On February 29th. At 9:00 AM. Exactly.”
“What time zone?”
“What time zone we in?”
“Well that’s pretty arbitrary, isn’t it?”
“I don’t make the rules for genies. I just know nobody wants a genie who only works one minute every four years. You want that new timing belt?”
“Yeah. Why not? So this lamp is really fifty cents?”
“Yep! But you can have it for nothing! I got a big shipment of cups and balls coming in next week and I gotta make some room.”
And so Doug waited. He shouldn’t have bought the lamp in April. At least the next year was leap year.
The obsession with his genie consumed him. His boss nearly fired him for spending too much time staring at the calendar. His dog started using his magic rope to walk itself. His girlfriend left him for the magic rings.
He didn’t even want to sleep that night. He pulled so many rabbits out of the free magic hat Carl gave him after his fiftieth oil change, he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to find all of them when it came time to put them back.
Starting at 6:00 AM, he stared at the clock and watched the minutes slowly tick by. Aside from 74 seconds spent in the bathroom, he spent three hours watching that clock.
At 9:00 AM exactly, he grabbed the lamp and began to rub quickly. Let’s go, genie, he thought, we don’t have a lot of time!
The Genie appeared as a wisp of smoke coming from the tip of the lamp. Doug began to speak before the creature had fully materialized.
“Before I tell you my wish, I have a question.”
“You have one minute.”
“Yes, I know. How many wishes do I get?”
“As many as you like”
“AWESOME! But only for this one minute?”
“Yes, only for the one minute.”
“Ok, here’s my first wish.”
“Hang on – don’t you want to know my name?”
“Can it wait until after I make my wish?”
“You are extremely rude.”
“Fine. What’s your name?”
“Nice to meet you Bernard.”
“Nice to meet you too. What’s your name?”
“You have ten seconds, Doug.”
Doug had no time left and four years until he could make another wish. Every one of the wishes he’d been contemplating for the last three hours abandoned him. He had to think of something. Anything. He blurted out the first wish that came into his head.
“I WISH THAT EVERY DAY WAS FEBRUARY 29TH!”
Bernard stared at Doug quietly for a long time, his pea green skin seemed to be turning just a little bit red. Finally he was able to speak.
“You stupid son of a bitch.”
Doug pumped his fist into the air. It worked! “So I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Yeah,” Bernard sighed, “you’ll see me tomorrow. Just like you saw me yesterday. And the day before that. And you’ll just make the same wish again. We’ve been doing this for five years, Doug. And it’s getting pretty old.”
Bernard dissolved into a mist and slowly made his way back into the lamp. Maybe tomorrow they would remember before it was too late. But probably not.