By Marilyn S. Mauer
The genie nodded solemnly. His muscular arms crossed in front of an oiled chest barely contained in a gold trimmed red vest. The rest of his outfit was mostly in character: black satin fringed sash, wicked looking scimitar at his side, and harem pants. Only his boots spoiled the effect. He wore Doc Martens. It was the boots that made me think this must be a hoax put together by some jerk from my study group.
I wondered how they had gotten a hold of the ornate old bottle I was turning into a lamp base. The bottle seemed empty, even after I pried out the crumbling cork. As I swept that mess off the table, the bottle fell to the floor and mist began spewing out of the neck. Then—poof! A seven-foot genie practically overflowed the kitchenette of my studio apartment. When he stepped towards me, the floor shuddered and dishes rattled on the shelves. He had to be a linebacker from the UW football team. At least, I hoped so.
“What’s the catch,” I asked, trying not to sound nervous.
“Catch?” The genie frowned.
I didn’t look up at him. Instead, I busily squared up the pages of the incomplete trust drafting assignment that sat on the corner of the table.
“I mean, what do you want in return? Nothing is ever free.”
“You need only wish. I am cursed to obey you.”
I stood up and stepped back into the living room, so I could see the genie’s face without craning my neck. “So, you’re just the agent of the cursing party, then? Where’s the person who cursed you?”
The genie stomped towards me. He bumped the table, knocking my papers to the floor. Shuffling backwards, I tripped and fell onto my daybed. Looming over me, the genie narrowed his eyes and spat. “The diseased dog of a wizard who bound me to this bottle has long since turned to bile and ashes. The curse survives until the oceans are dry as the desert and the sun is as cold as the moon.”
This guy was a great actor or else he was really angry. I scooted as far away as I could. “That’s pretty grim,” I said. The genie straightened up and crossed the room in four steps to stare out the window. I wondered when he was last outdoors.
I crawled off the daybed and gathered up my papers. They rustled in my shaking hands. So much for not appearing nervous.
“How long have you been trapped?”
The genie kept his back to me when he answered. “I was ensnared during the Second Caliphate.”
A quick smartphone search pegged that at 1300 years ago.
“And you’ve made this offer how many times?”
The genie looked over his shoulder at me and smiled slyly. “Do you wish me to tell you?””
I smiled back. “Not a wish, just a question. Tell me or don’t.” I waved the papers at him. “You can go now. I have to finish this.”
“I cannot depart until I have fulfilled your wishes.” He was facing me now.
I set the papers down. “So you just follow me around until I use the wishes? You know that makes you a stalker, right?” I crossed the kitchenette and opened the fridge. I pulled out a beer for myself and offered one to the genie, who shook his head.
“Do you obey my intent, or if I wish for world peace, will you wipe out humanity and call it good?”
“I must—” the genie started.
“How do I even know you’re good for three wishes? Do you have references?” I swallowed a slug of beer.
I interrupted again, “What do you do between wishes?”
The genie opened his mouth, then waited…
“And what’s the deal with the Doc Martens?”
The genie raised his hands in surrender. “Are you some kind of imp? No one asks this many questions. They ask, ‘Can I use my third wish to ask for more wishes?’ They do not ask if I am honest or wonder about my boots.”
“Law student,” I said, gesturing at the casebooks piled on the coffee table.
The genie chuckled, then he sat down carefully in the only available spot, a beer-stained loveseat opposite the daybed.
“I must honor your words, without regard for intent.” He shrugged apologetically. “The owner of these boots wished to meet Kurt Cobain. I found the Cobain person in the afterlife and dispatched the man to join him. It seemed a shame to waste the shoes.” He looked at me. “No human has ever benefited from their wishes. No one ever will,” he said, before dropping his gaze to the threadbare carpet.
He looked genuinely stricken. I felt sorry for him. Oh crud. I believed him! I sank shakily onto the bar stool. Could I help him somehow? My hand brushed the papers on the table, and an idea tickled my brain.
The genie continued. “I seldom have to wait long between wishes. Humans are not careful what they wish for. Had I the time,” he said, “I would study mathematics and the stars, but that is not to be.”
I drummed my fingers on my incomplete trust instrument. “What if I were prevented from wishing?”
“That has never happened.”
“Law student,” I reminded him. Grinning, I asked one last question. “Have you ever heard of the Rule Against Perpetuities?”
I got a B on the trust drafting assignment. Nevertheless, the Trust was duly executed and deposited with a Trustee. My right to exercise the remaining two intangible, but priceless wishes comprise the corpus of an irrevocable lifetime trust, to which I have no access. The other wish? The genie was admitted to the UW to study physics. I see him around the campus from time to time. He still wears Doc Martens.