By Wesley Stine
Arnold Hodges sat across the table from the young man with whom he was negotiating the sale of a country estate in West Sussex. At times like this, his usual custom was open a bottle of fine beer and pour two glasses, one for himself and one for his customer. But this time, when pulled the cork, he was greeted by a strange sight as a cloud of brownish smoke rose slowly from the bottle’s mouth.
It took a few minutes for the two men to make sense of what was happening. The smoke swirled about slowly, lethargically, but this was no inanimate haze: in due time it lazily morphed into a being with dim eyes, an intoxicated demeanor, and the unmistakable smell of alcohol. A genie, then, but this genie was clearly drunk.
Hodges didn’t have a hard time coming to grips with what was before him. A man of reason must believe what he sees, even if he didn’t expect it, even if it completely obliterates his old worldview.
The hazy being spoke in a dragging slur. “Sorry,” he said. “I drank up all the b-b-b-b-beeeeer. But to make it up to you guys, I’ll grant you each three wishes.”
Arnold took it all in stride, but his young customer, upon hearing the voice, fled from the house in terror. The genie turned to Arnold and said, “Look’s like he was in quite a hurry. Sorry to see him go. You can have his wishes.”
Six wishes! What a marvelous thought. Arnold had never wanted power in the usual sense, but wealth, love, and security were certainly on the table.
“First,” he said, “I wish for the world’s largest diamond.” And there it was, the size of an association football, crashing through the ceiling and shattering to pieces on the floor. “I didn’t want it all broken!” Arnold protested. “You asked for the world’s largest diamond,” the genie replied. “I gave you fifty-six. Quit complaining.”
With his second wish, Arnold turned his tabby cat Anne into a beautiful young woman whom he thought would become his wife. But instead she just berated him for his poor treatment of her, which had culminated in her spaying the previous week. “But I can change all this now!” Arnold shouted. “I can wish for you to be unsprayed! I’m the only one who can fix your problems!” But it was in vain; she was soon out the door. “That’s two down, four to go,” said the genie.
Love was frustrating, and any man should know that wealth and power don’t make it easier. Arnold turned his attention to more attainable things. Having always been passionate about secrecy, he next wished to become invisible, but that also made him blind – he chided himself for not expecting it, since if light didn’t stop in his eyes, he clearly wouldn’t be able to see. It took a fourth wish to return to usual.
Then the young man who had fled returned to the house, intent on claiming his three wishes. “Sorry,” the genie said, “I gave them away.” The young man, now full of rage, proved to be an excellent boxer, and it took a fifth wish for Arnold banish him for good.
He put the genie back in the bottle, figuring he’d save his final wish for another day. When Arnold drove his car toward London the next afternoon, intent on finding a market for his diamonds, he was waylaid by two gunmen intent on robbing him of the gems. Arnold soon recognized them: the young man he’d cheated out of three wishes, and the young woman who used to be his cat. He frantically opened the bottle and shook it, but no genie came out. Had he lived a little longer, he might have read the note that had fallen into his lap.
“Sorry about your last wish. I waited for three whole hours, and that’s a long time. Remember, I never said anything about being imprisoned in this bottle, I only came for the beer.”