Neville liked to spend his Saturdays rummaging through the special-offer-boxes outside bric-a-brac shops, which tells you something about his personality and everything about the number of girlfriends he currently had.
One day he spotted an old genie-lamp on sale for one Euro, bought it and brought it home, thinking it would go nicely on the shelf in his sitting-room between his Airfix Model Spitfire and his nineteenth-century chamber-pot.
He took it home and just before he put it on the shelf he rubbed it, just for a laugh. There’s not a human on earth who wouldn’t have.
To his amazement the lamp began to vibrate, then to rock violently, then from its spout it toothpasted a small female figure. She was beautiful, and very attractively dressed. To Neville she was almost perfect.
The girl looked at him and got to her feet. Then she looked back at the lamp, shuddered and said “Yuck, am I glad I won’t ever have to do that again. I feel like I’ve just been laid, and in case you’re thinking that’s a good thing let me tell you that I’m talking in the egg meaning of the phrase.”
Neville was about to speak when she put one finger to her lips to hush him. “I am Sharlana,” she said. “Before you ask, yes, I am a genie, and yes, you do have three wishes. But, and I cannot stress this forcefully enough, be careful what you wish for.”
Neville’s mouth opened again, and again she forestalled him.
“For example,” she continued, “you are probably quite astonished at what has just occurred. Please try to avoid saying ‘well, I’ll be damned’, ‘I’ll be a monkey’s uncle’ and especially ‘I’ll be darned’, because believe me you wouldn’t enjoy it.”
“I’ll try to remember that,” said Neville.
“ ‘Bugger me’ is also probably not a good idea,” said Sharlana.
Neville stared at her in awe. She was, as I’ve said, almost perfect. It was the ‘almost’ part that was the problem.
“You’re only three inches tall,” said Neville.
“Of course I am,” she said, pointing at the lamp. “How do you think I fitted in there? It’s a genie-lamp, it’s not the bloody Tardis.”
Neville stared at her beauty. “I just wish you were a bit taller,” he said, almost to himself.
She folded her arms, blinked, and instantly grew to five feet five inches tall. “That’s one,” she said.
“One what?” said Neville.
“One of your wishes,” said Sharlana. “You’ve two left.”
“That wasn’t a wish,” said Neville.
“Of course it was, dumb-ass.”
“I don’t want any cheek,” said Neville.
“I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that,” said the genie, “because you’re new at this. Believe me, you don’t want to spend the rest of your life with no cheeks. You wouldn’t be able to do chipmunk impressions, for one thing. Also you’d never be able to fart. Now, what would you like next?”
Neville thought for a minute. “I’d like to look like Brad Pitt,” he said.
“Who?” said the genie.
“Brad Pitt,” said Neville. “He’s an actor.”
“Never heard of him,” said the genie. “You‘d be surprised just how few celebrity-gossip magazines get delivered to a genie-lamp. I can make you look like the Wazoo of Yazoo, the Sultan of Sultana or the Raisin of Thedead.”
“What do they look like?” asked Neville.
“Bearded,” said Sharlana. “Swarthy. If this was a story you’d say they were stereotypes.”
“Forget it, so,” said Neville. He thought for a moment. “I know,” he said excitedly, “I wish I had a magic carpet!”
“Are you sure?” asked Sharlana “Remember, be careful what you wish for.”
“Go ahead,” said Neville firmly.
Sharlana folded her arms and blinked again. A small rug appeared, about a foot off the floor.
“Now, the thing they don’t tell you about magic carpets,” said Sharlana, “is that that you can’t use one if it’s windy because it blows up all around you like a sleeping-bag, and you can’t use it if it rains because you’ll get soaked and the carpet will smell like wet dog for weeks afterwards. Also, the word to get it to stop is “aryhootencollybuttlefillysallyscootanduff” and usually, if you have to stop suddenly, by the time you’ve said that you’ll have smacked your face off whatever you’re trying to avoid and got carpet-burns on your knees from skidding to the front.”
Neville looked despairingly at the hovering carpet. “I’m making a right mess of this, aren’t I?” he said bitterly.
He looked so crestfallen that she put her hand on his arm consolingly. “You’re not doing too bad,” she said. “You’ve got a companion that you don’t have to carry around in your pocket and a rug that you won’t have to lift when you want to sweep under it. You could have done much worse. One guy really blew it by singing ‘I wish I was an apple on a tree’ while he was in his bath.”
“That’s terrible,” said Neville. “What happened to him?”
“Oh, his genie felt sorry for him, so she reversed the spell,” said Sharlana.
“Well, that’s good,” said Neville.
“Yes, she turned him into a tree with an apple on it,” said Sharlana. “At least he got to live longer.”
Neville looked at her shyly. “I wish…” he began, then stopped. “I’d like, er… I hope…”. He thought for a second, then said “it would be nice if you’d go out with me.”
Sharlana glared, then sighed and began to fold her arms.
“Wait,” said Neville. “That was a statement, not a wish. I don’t want you to go out with me because you have to. It would be nice if you did it because you want to.”
“That’s really sweet,” said Sharlana.
“What do you think?” asked Neville. “You’ve been in there for so long. We could go for walks in cool fresh air, you could watch your first sunrises for a thousand years and on dry nights we could hover on our carpet outside pubs, scaring the crap out of drunks on their way home.”
Sharlana smiled. “Ok,” she said. “But what about your last wish?”
“I’m keeping it,” said Neville. “From what I know of relationships, there will always come a time when a man says or does something that he really wishes he hadn’t.”
The genie-lamp is from Wikimedia Commons, and is by Tracy Nunn)