You’re a genie who’s just been emancipated from your restrictive lamp. You can give your three wishes to whomever you want. Who do you give your three wishes to, and why?
Genie Mabella’s Tale
So this is the thanks I get. You tell some people the truth and they toss you in the lake.
Of all the people who could have found me today, it had to be a teenage girl. Oh vexations!
I’m a genie, you see; I live in this fancy corked vase — have for several centuries now. You can believe I’ve seen lot of different types over the years and granted a lot of wishes, sensible and stupid, but whenever I see a teenage girl peering in at me I know my job’s going to be tough. If you’ve ever tried to please a teenage girl, you know what I mean.
Anyway, this rather plump girl comes plodding down the path not far from the shrub where I’d been left by my last liberator. I feel the thump, thump of her size ten clodhoppers — then I hear her stop. I gather she saw this squirrel dash up a tree, so she wanders into the bushes with her eyes on the squirrel and steps on my vase. People do that from time to time, then usually go on their way, not bothering to look inside.
Anyway, this girl picks up my bottle, lifts the cork and peers in at me. “Hey!” she shouts. “Are you a real genie? Wow, is this my lucky day or what? Outta there, you!”
So I waft out in my little cloud — my bit of fanfare, you know — and she asks if I have a name. Dumb question. “I’m Mabella,” I inform her.
That was considerate of her, actually. Most people just start with “Gimme.”
“And you can grant me all my wishes, Mabella?”
“Ha! In your dreams. Listen, let’s go over the ground rules right off. I can only grant you three wishes. Once those are gone, so am I.”
“That’s all? I can think of about twenty things already.”
“One, two, three, ciao. So I’d advice you to take your time. I’ve found that when people know they can have free stuff, they start babbling out whatever pops into their heads and later they wish they’d given the matter more thought.”
I could see the wheels of her mind turning. She almost seems to have some sense.
“I can believe that,” she says. “So how can I make the best use of my three wishes?”
“You’re in luck. Seeing the downside of some demands, I’ve gotten into Wish Couseling in recent years. I suggest you make a list of all the things you’d like to have, then from your list pick the three most important things — three things you can’t do for yourself. Maybe I can even help you decide. I’ve fulfilled a lot of requests and seen the results, so I can tell you what works in the long run and what doesn’t. Just don’t say the words “I WISH” until you’ve decided.”
“Okay.” She nods and pulls a scrap of paper out of her cargo pants pocket. Then she fishes around and finds a stubby pencil that looks like a chipmunk worked on it. (Hmm … She might wish to be cured of the habit of chewing on wood.)
She sits down on the grass and writes List of Wants: A size four body.
“Uh… Well,” I say, “I can give you that in five seconds. But remember: you’ll need to maintain it yourself. If you want to stay a size four, you’ll have to eat like a size-four person. Otherwise you’ll be size sixteen again before you know it.”
She sighs, scratches that out and writes: Mild case of anorexia.
“How about a lifetime membership at a local gym?” I suggest. She groans and rolls her eyes.
Then she writes: Fame; Singing talent like J-Lo.
Ah, yes, teenage girls. I knew this wasn’t going to be a picnic. If she knew how much work is involved in maintaining a singing career and dealing with obsessed fans, she might think twice. I won’t go there.
Then she writes: Hunky teen boyfriend.
“I can bring one of those along in a jiffy,” I told her, “but I can’t make him stay. You have to do that.”
“I do? How?”
“You have to be the kind of person he will want to spend time with.”
She sighs forlornly.
Although my former clients’ affairs are confidential, I decide to share one. “One day a sixty-year-old man found me. Right off he wished for a million dollars, a yacht and a young blond bombshell. So I delivered his goods. It took her about half an hour to assess the situation, get her hands on the million and be gone. The old man was so mad he threw me down a well — and it wasn’t my fault at all. I hope he’s at least enjoying his yacht. I put it up in Alaska where the harbor wasn’t so crowded.”
“That was pretty heartless of her.”
“Would you stay with a dirty old man whose only feeling for you was lust?”
“Gross! No, I sure wouldn’t.”
“And a teenage boy might feel the same, right? Or what do you want him for?”
“Ummm. Because everybody else has one. To hang out with. To impress my friends, I guess. You know.”
“If you just want him for an ornament, if you’re not prepared to be the kind of person he could love to be with — someone that actually cared about him — he may not want to hang around, either. Besides, you wouldn’t want your friends to admire him too much or they’d try to steal him.”
“True. But couldn’t you give me someone who’d never look at any of my friends?”
“Do you want a real human being or a cardboard cutout? I can’t manufacture flawless people; I only work with what’s here already.”
“This is getting so complicated,” she wailed.
Then she wrote on her list: One billion dollars.
I chuckle over that one. “These days it’s a billion. Inflation, I guess.”
I grin at her. “Back in 1934 I was liberated by a farmer hard-hit by the Depression and he requested the greatest amount he could think of right then: ten thousand dollars. So I handed it over in cold hard cash. He went out and bought his wife new furniture, his family all new clothes, and himself a new car. Made a few ‘loans’ to friends down on their luck. He’d intended to pay off his mortgage, too, but his money ran out before he got to that and he lost his farm.”
“Maybe he should have asked for rain?”
“That was his second wish: six inches on his wheat crop. So I obliged, but the land was so crusted most of it ran off. Still, he had about the greenest field in the area. The grasshoppers found it a refreshing change from tumbleweed and fence posts.
“Anyway, back to your billion. Yes, I could do that for you, but just remember that people have kidnapped and murdered for less. Better use some of it to hire a bodyguard. Here’s another heads up: you’ll have a ton of friends while the money lasts, but don’t count on them. Really, you’d be better off with $1000 and a financial planner. That way you’d learn to handle money on a small scale before hitting the big bucks.”
“Hmm… How come this always comes back to me doing stuff and learning stuff? Do I dare ask for instant popularity? Can you make my friends all love me?”
“Don’t waste a wish on that,” I tell her, “when you can do it so easily yourself. Just love all your friends and they’ll love you in return.”
She muses for a minute. “But my friends are all zeros. I don’t want to love them.”
“So why do you want a bunch of zeroes loving you?”
Suddenly she jumps up. “You know, Mabella, you sound just like my mom! She probably put you up to this.”
She grabs my bottle. “IN,” she orders. Then when I’m in she jams the cork into the hole, jogs to a nearby lake, and throws me in.
So here I am, floating on the waves and getting seasick. I sure hope the next person who finds me is a fisherman who only wants a new boat and the biggest fish in the lake. That I can do.
Teenage girls are just too temperamental. I sure don’t wish for another one.