Side Characters VIII
The Genie from the Genie and the Breadsticks.
This was a fun little piece, that got published in Cynic Online, I love the short story THE MONKEY’S CLAW and thought that a humorous twist on it would fit in with the theme of the book.
Brian was smiling as he threw the empty warming bag on to the passenger’s seat of his Sentra. He had only had one run during the first hour of his shift, but it was to 347 Orchard and she tipped him well, like usual. His smile disappeared when the empty warming bag landed on a full bag. He checked his delivery tickets and saw that he did have a second run, to Gleason’s antique shop downtown.
“I must be losing it,” Brain said to himself. “I’d think I’d have remembered packing up a second run.”
With his mind mostly focused on driving he retraced his steps packing up his car, but he only remembered packing the one bag. He put all those thoughts aside when he pulled up in front of the antique shop.
He looked down on the Delivery Slip to see how much the pizzas cost and saw that it was zeroed out. Brian was puzzled, when the cost was zeroed out it meant that the pizza was complimentary; usually to correct a mistake in the past. It wasn’t unheard of, but normally Bernie would make a big deal about it as it hurt food costs for the night. Brian wondered what the past mistake was that warranted a free pizza.
He looked over the old antique shop and was quite certain that he had never been there in his life. He was pretty sure it wasn’t his mistake that lead to the free pizza, but since he couldn’t remember loading it up he might have forgotten his previous delivery.
He took a deep breath and grabbed the warming bag, if it was his mistake that gave these people a free pizza then he would just have to man up to it.
Entering the shop he had quite a shock.
It wasn’t the very old man with the monocle behind the counter, holding a very old lamp that shocked him, or the man in the tattered clothes standing in front of the counter who seemed a little out of place in the specialty shop. What shocked him was the nine-foot tall purple skinned man dressed only in a loincloth.
“Did someone order a pizza?” Brian asked when he recovered.
“There you see,” the man in tattered clothes told the shopkeeper, “The genie has fulfilled your wish. Now if you could just pay me I’ll be on my way.”
“Hold on. I’m still not convinced.” The shopkeeper told him and addressed Brian, “Just set the pizzas on the counter.”
Brian pulled the two pizzas and side of breadsticks out of the warming bag and set them on the counter too stunned to speak.
“Oh Damn it,” the shopkeeper said after opening the first box. “This has green peppers, I hate peppers.”
“It’s our Deluxe, It comes with Pepperoni, Green Peppers, Onions, Mushrooms, and Sausage.” Brian automatically responded, “It looks like you got the special, so the other one should be a one topping and a side of breadsticks.”
The old man opened the second box, “One topping of Green Peppers. What kind of wish granting is this?”
“As I told you the genie will grant you three wishes, but not always in the way you want,” the man in tattered clothes said.
“Wait a second.” Brian had to speak up, “This guy is selling you a genie that can make anything you want come true, and you wished for a pizza?”
“I was hungry. I skipped breakfast this morning.” The shopkeeper defended himself as he grabbed a breadstick, “In fairness this gentleman gave me the warning about the wishes not always coming true the way you want and I couldn’t see how getting a pizza would harm anything.”
“Good thinking,” Brian said and turned the man in tattered clothes. “If you had the genie before, why are you selling it now?”
“I’m selling the lamp that the genie lives in,” the man replied. “I’m sure there is some law against selling an intelligent being.
“But to answer your question, my last wish was quite specific, I asked that my stock portfolio would rise to be worth $10 Million in a way that no one got hurt. I got a call from Bernie Madoff and he told me my investment was now worth $9.9 Million. So I transferred the rest of my money over to him.
“I quit my job and got ready to live the high life when the news broke that he was running a Ponzi scheme and the investors were out of luck. That was two years ago, now I need $20,000 to get my house out of foreclosure. A few bucks to get back on my feet wouldn’t hurt either.
“If I were unethical I wouldn’t mention the strange way the wishes were granted and ask a lot more, but that wouldn’t be fair to whoever bought the lamp.”
“You could ask the genie to give you the money to buy the lamp.” Brian suggested to the shopkeeper.
“I could,” The shopkeeper said between mouthfuls of breadsticks. “But who knows how the genie will grant that wish, he could kill my son so I get the insurance just like in the story, ‘The Monkey’s Claw’.”
“Well you could be more specific,” Brian suggested. “You could ask that someone comes in and buys an item in your shop for the amount of money he is asking.”
“Hum, I don’t see how that could hurt,” the shopkeeper said dipping his breadstick in Marinara sauce. “Genie, I wish someone who can afford it, without taking food off their table, would come in and buy something for $30,000.”
“Your wish is my command,” the purple skinned Genie replied. “A man is on his way down the block right now. And if your not gonna eat the pizza, do you mind if I have a slice? I haven’t eaten in nearly a year.”
“Knock yourself out,” the shopkeeper said.
As the Genie was eating a slice of the pizza a man with a briefcase entered the shop. He stopped mid-step when he saw the 9-foot tall, purple skinned Genie munching on a slice of pizza, shook his head and continued up to the counter.
“Hi Mr. Gleason, remember me, Fred Barnes,” the man said. “I was in here last week looking for some stuff for my boss’s office. He’s a banker and is flush with money from the bailout. Anyway you said you would have some new stuff in today.”
“Oh yeah, I had forgotten about that,” Mr. Gleason said. “I’ve got some new stuff in that box over there, look through it and see if there is anything you like.”
“That was kind of an odd introduction,” Brian said after Fred was out of earshot and looked over at the Genie. “Your doing?”
The Genie shrugged and went back to eating his pizza.
“My God, this is perfect,” Fred exclaimed. “How much do you want for this Spanish Conquistador Sword.”
“$30,000,” the shopkeeper told him flatly.
“It’s a deal,” Fred said and opened his briefcase taking out 300 hundred-dollar bills and handing them to Mr. Gleason. He was out the door hugging his prize before anyone could say anything.
“Oh damn,” Mr. Gleason said.
“What’s wrong?” Brian asked, “It looked like the Genie granted your wish perfectly that time.”
“That sword was on consignment.” The shopkeeper sighed, “I have to split the money 50/50 with the owner.”
“Sorry,” the man in tattered clothing said. “I know from first hand experience how tricky these wishes are. I know I asked you for $25,000 but if you could just give me $20,000 it would save my house and I’ll find something to live off.”
“No you were honest, and if the shoe were on the other foot I can only hope I’d be the same.” The shopkeeper counted out the money, “You earned your $25,000 and I hope it gets you back on your feet.
“Besides I’ve thought up a foolproof wish that will make me more than the $10,000 I’ve lost.” Mr. Gleason handed the man in tattered clothes $25,000 and stuffed the last of the bread sticks into his mouth.
“Genie,” he said with his mouthful. “I wish my shop gets featured in a human interest piece on the front page of the New York Times.”
“Your wish is my command,” the Genie said. “It is already the top story.”
The Genie finished the last of the pizza and disappeared into the lamp.
* * *
When Brian returned to the Pizza Joint he saw Bernie in the office reading the paper.
“Slow?” Brian asked.
“Yeah, but a customer dropped off the strangest paper,” Bernie said closing the newspaper. “It’s a special interest paper for poultry farmers, but its top story is about an antique shop downtown.”
Brian looked at the front page of the paper to see a picture Mr. Gleason’s antique shop. He looked at the name of the paper, “The New Yolk Times.”
“What’s so funny?” Bernie asked.
“Oh just thinking how my mother always told me not to talk with my mouth full,” he said.
Motivation – Like in THE MONKEY’S CLAW, the wishes granted by the Genie have to be an unexpected twist. Unlike that story an intelligent Genie is guiding the wishes. After a few thousand years of doing that the Genie would have to get a sense of humor, and become more playful than cruel. So the Genie is playful and likes Green Peppers on his Pizza.
Actions – He finds the most playful way to grant wishes.
Obstacles – He has to grant wishes in a way that will backfire, but he isn’t a jerk so he tries to limit the damage.
It does show a little of Brian’s character, he is willing to man up to any mistakes he has made. Oddly this basic human quality has become rare in this age. He also will stop to help another human being.