When three old men find a magic lamp, the genie grants each a wish. Each makes a wish based on how he lived his life, and each, in his own way, GETS what he wished for.
This is the first of a series. The characters differ from story to story, though. What ties the series together is the game "Wits and Wishes" that the djinn play. The object of the game is to outwit the human master and "bend" the wish for the amusement of the djinn.
The Djinn Game
By Ellie Dauber
*** The Beginning
Rob Brewster, Mark Kline, and Emil Walsh were old friends. It was true that they'd only met one afternoon in Garrison Park about a month or two before. When you're all in your seventies, you get to say things like that. All three men were retirees living in a Chicago suburb.
Still, they met there in the park every day, weather permitting, to talk and play a little three-handed bridge.
Only today, it was different.
"Hey, look what I bought," Mark said. He was carrying a large plastic bag from Dunham's, a pawnbroker near his apartment.
"What are you doing going into a place like Dunham's?" Emil asked. "You're only looking for trouble."
"I wouldn't normally," Mark said. "I was walking past on my way over here, and I just happened to look in the window. "I saw this thing in the window, and, what is it the kids say, 'it called to me.' So I bought it and brought it here with me."
"So what is the 'thing', already?" Emil asked.
"Yeah, you just sold houses," Rob said. "I'm the actor. I'm the one who gets to make a big production out of everything."
"Trust me, Rob," Emil said. "There's a _lot_ of acting in the real estate business."
"Says the mailman," Mark laughed. "But you still haven't told us what's in the damned bag."
Mark opened the bag. "Ta! Da!" He pulled out a metal rod about four feet long. There was a small box at one end and what looked like a ping pong paddle at the other.
"A metal detector," Rob said. "What the hell did you get that for?"
Mark shrugged. "Curiosity, I guess. I've seen folks using them down along the beach. This thing was only five bucks, so I decided to see what it was all about."
"For five bucks, are you even sure it works?" Emil asked.
"Pretty sure," Mark said. The guy at Durham's let me try it in the alley. I found a hammer he hid under a bunch of carpet."
"Now, there's a good test," Rob said sarcastically.
"All right, smartass," Mark said. "Let's take this thing down to the Lake and see if we find anything. Is that a real enough test for you?"
"What the hell," Emil said. "It's a nice day for a walk."
"You're the expert on that," Rob said.
Garrison Park fronted Lake Michigan, and the town fathers had spent a good bit of money putting in a beach for summer use. They walked for about two hours. The detector found a key ring with three keys and a child's wind-up toy dog. "Let's try over by the breaker there, Mark suggested.
After about a half hour, they were ready to give up and get a cup of tea - or something stronger, in Rob's case. Then the meter on the detector began to jump back and forth the length of the scale.
"What the hell is it?" Rob asked.
"I don't know," Emil said, "but it's right _here_!" He pressed the detector plate onto the sand to mark the spot.
"Dig, then," Mark said. The three men knelt in the sand and began to dig.
Emil was the one to find it. His fingers touched something large and metallic. He brushed sand away until he could get a grasp on it and pulled out "A lamp! A damned Arabian lamp."
"This is too damned cliched for any movie I was ever in," Rob said.
"When were you ever in an Arabian nights movie?" Mark said.
"Oh, Lord, don't go asking him that." Emil said. "Now he's going to pull out his clippings again."
"Well, since you asked," Rob said, ignoring his friend's remark. "I was the steward to the caliph in SON OF GENGHIS KHAN."
"I knew it," Mark said. "Maybe we should wish that you lose those scrap books of yours."
Rob scowled. "My scrapbooks! You dirty..." Then he realized that Mark was kidding him. "Okay, I guess I do dwell a bit much on my past."
"If there is a genie in there, maybe he can fix that." Emil rubbed the lamp three times. There was a low "thrumm" noise and the lamp began to vibrate. "Wha..." Emil panicked and dropped the lamp.
The "thrumm" grew louder. A thin trail of smoke came out. It grew thicker and thicker, then gradually took a human shape. The figure looked like an ordinary man - except for his lime-green skin color. He stepped forward and bowed. "I am Mustapha, Masters." He was about seven-feet tall with bushy black hair and a neatly trimmed beard. He wore a pair of gold colored pantaloons and - believe it or not - long slippers with toes that curled up and around.
"This can _not_ be real," Rob said.
"But it is, my Masters. As a djinn, I must grant three wishes to whomever frees me for a time from the Lamp. Since there are three of you, each will receive one wish. Have a care, Masters, for no wish may be taken back."
"Are there any limits on what you can or cannot do?" Rob asked.
"Do you wish to know this, Master?" Mustapha asked.
"No!" Mark said. "We are curious, but you don't have to tell us if you don't want to."
"Well played, Master," Mustapha said. "The mighty King Suilemann, who imprisoned the djinn in our Lamps commanded that we reveal these things to each new Master. I cannot kill, though I can cause death indirectly. I cannot create life, nor can I cause one person to love another. Love is a magic more powerful than my own."
"No limits beyond that, then," Emil said. "Okay, who starts?"
"Can't we think about it a little?" Mark asked.
"Take as much time as you wish," Mustapha said.
"And if we do ask for time, that will count as a wish," Emil said. "No, I think we'd better do it now."
"Mine's easy," Rob said. "I want to be a movie star, world famous, top of the list, and young and sexy enough to enjoy it; yeah, to spend my whole life in the movie business." Robert Brewster had never been higher than sixth billing. He was a dependable character actor, and the work was steady, but that was all. His fame could be measured by the fact that he was the answer to questions in three separate trivia games.
"I spent my life selling houses that I could never afford to live in," Mark said. "I'll take the youth, too. I want to live in one of those houses - and not as some servant. I want the house and whatever goes with it for my own."
"You two can have your wealth and fame." Emil "Being young again sounds great, but I...I never had any friends, any family. I was a mailman, about as invisible as a man can get. I'd like to go back to the beginning. I don't want anything fancy like you two. I just want to make a little bit of a difference with my life."
"And these are your wished, Master?" Muspha asked. The three men nodded. "Then so be it." He made an odd gesture with both hands, and all three men vanished.
* * * * *
*** Rob's Wish
Rob's eyes were closed. He felt...alive!...and full of more energy than he had in years. Still something seemed very wrong. He put his fingers to his eyes and began to rub; it was an old actor's trick.
Someone batted his hands away. "Stop that, Bobbi, you'll ruin your make-up."
Rob opened his eyes. He saw hands -- they couldn't be his. They were slender, feminine, with inch-long manicured nails covered in by a light pink polish. He looked past his hands, down to his chest.
No, _her_ chest. Rob saw what had to be at least 38-DD breasts straining at a pink halter top. This...this couldn't be happening.
Rob's head began to spin as new memories rushed in to push aside the old. The identity of Rob Brewster sank under the weight of a new one. The two merged, and all that was left was Bobbi Boobster, winner of the 1974 "Best New-Cummer" Award, and one of the country's leading porn stars.
* * * * *
Bobbi Boobster lasted in front of the camera until she was in her mid-forties and beyond the help of even the best plastic surgeons. Wrinkles can get hidden for a while, but a sagging butt and the effects of gravity on oversized silicon implants couldn't.
Bobbi hadn't invested her earnings very well. She wound up the owner of a small string of movie theaters, mostly of the sort that had showed her old films. She sold off all but one, and ended her days as owner, manager, and ticket seller.
Exactly as Rob had wished, a star in her youth and a lifelong career in the movie industry.
* * * * *
*** Mark's Wish
Mark felt unsteady on his feet. He looked around. He was in a bedroom somewhere. No, he recognized the place. It was the Halburton Mansion. He'd sold the place about ten years ago to Roy Jeffreys, the founder of Jeffreys Electronics.
"Are you all right, my dear?" Jeffreys was standing about ten feet away, hanging tuxedo pants over one of those wooden "valets." Mark stiffled a laugh at Jeffrey's skinny legs and at the man's waist cincher he wore to help hide a major beer belly. "I say again, 'are you all right?'"
Mark shook his head and felt hair swirl around his neck. He looked down to see a slender, extremely female body wearing only a thin cotton robe.
"Fine," Jeffreys said, "then let's get to it." He undid the waist cincher and began pulling at his shorts. They fell to the ground, revealing a rather small penis barely sticking out of a sparse patch of gray hair.
"No...I," Mark began. He began to back away.
"Come, come, Marci. You knew what you were getting when you married me. Half ownership of my fortune, this house, and all made me a lot more attractive than the average 62-year old, didn't it? Well, you've got to be with me, be my wife in _all_ things for 10 years, or that pre-nup you signed says you lose it all." He grinned and took his flaccid penis in his hand. "Now get over here and use that mouth of yours to get me started."
Mark's head spun. He felt like he was sinking, drowning. He felt himself fade away as the mass of new memories flowed into him. He -- she -- felt a false smile form on her face as Mark Kline was absorbed into the identity of Marci Jeffreys, 24-year old trophy wife and sexual slave to a man who knew that he was buying a live-in whore when he married her.
And she knew that he knew it. When she married him, it hadn't mattered, but...
* * * * *
Marci lived with Jeffreys for almost 9 years before he died of a heart attack. In that time, she discovered that he paid every servant in their house to watch her for any sign of infidelity. She inherited the house, but she had to fight his family for most of his fortune. She lost more often than she won.
A final provision of the will required her to live in the Halburton Mansion if she wanted to keep control of what she did win. The family and the servants kept watch. She was able to take the occasional lover, though. They were all paid, paid to praise her fading beauty until she was a laughing stock. Marci Jeffreys, the crone who kept boys a quarter her age to lie to her.
Mark had wanted a fine house. He lived in one, suffering the life that went with it.
* * * * *
*** Emil's Wish
Emil felt different, very different. His body seemed sluggish, as if he couldn't really control it. Something soft slipped into his mouth, and he instinctively began to suck. He tasted a sweet, warm liquid and realized the truth of what had happened. 'Back to the beginning,' he thought. 'That genie changed me into a baby.'
"There's our little girl," said a voice. Emil opened his eyes in shock. He, no, she saw a Black couple, the woman in a waitress uniform, the man in a workshirt with the words "Sanitation Department" embroidered on it. The woman was holding Emil as well as the baby's bottle that she was drinking from.
'A girl, and a Black one at that, what was that idiot genie thinking of.' It was her last thoughts as Emil Walsh before the new identity of Emma Johnson overwhelmed her.
Emma grew up to be an outgoing, if not overly attractive young girl. At 17, she moved out to live with a neighborhood boy, Jack Clark. Jack ran with a gang, but after Emma gave birth to his son, he married her and took a job at a garage in the neighborhood. Emma got a part-time job as a file clerk and helped out at the office of their small church, doing typing and filing for the pastor.
* * * * *
They held Emma's sixty-fifth birthday party at the church, Jack, as always, was at her side. Her four children were there with their own spouses and children. Jack, Jr., had taken over the garage when his father had retired. The garage was now one of four Junior owned, all with active teen apprenticeship programs. Kim, Emma's only daughter, was a nurse, who ran a neighborhood clinic with her doctor husband. Their son, Micah, flew up from Howard Law School for the occasion. Theo, the baby, was now Rev. Theo, the assistant pastor at Emma's church, which had become the largest Black church in the city.
Emma's other children were there, too: almost forty years of graduates of the "Chance" Scholarship program, she'd started at the church. Winners were expected to pay the program back, both by matching the scholarship money they received and by mentoring teens in the city. The program was fully endowed, much of it from its own graduates, and managed by a partner in one of the city's leading accountancy companies who was herself a recipient.
The party was catered by "Mama Jo's Kitchen," a catering business run by three single mothers who'd taken one of Emma's $100 micro-grants, an idea she got from an article about such a program in Africa. Emma's Girl Scout troop was the honor guard.
At 7 o'clock, they brought in the cake. Only one voice sang "Happy Birthday." Elysse Freeman had taken a break from singing second female lead in AIDA at the Met to visit the woman who put her there with a "Chance" Scholarship to Julliard. Elysse did her mentoring with the Greater Harlem Girl's Chorus, and she brought along two girls who were now going to the School of the Arts on Elysse's recommendation.
A small whiff of smoke lingered near a window, close enough to see what was happening, but far from the detectors in the ceiling. By the edict of Suliemann, a djinn was free to twist a selfish wish to its own ends, but a selfless wish could not be touched. Moreover, the djinn was required to observe the results of such a wish in the hopes that it might learn from the good works of the wisher.
"Wish granted, Master Emil" Mustapha whispered. "Wish very well granted, indeed."
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