Chapter 1: Al
“Man, you are so old,” had been Travis’ comment when Jace had told him he was going to the flea market to look for an old-fashioned oil lamp. But it was Travis who had complained that Jace kept the lights on too late at night reading his books. Jace had decided to be a considerate roommate and find another way to read at night. The clip on flash lights never quite worked for him, so an old fashioned oil lamp seemed like just the thing.
Of course, now that he was at the flea market with a bunch of 60 year-olds and octogenarians he was wondering if Travis had been right. Of course, there were others too, but he was certainly he the youngest.
He had already picked up a few old books – not that he needed more. He had found a guy who looked like he was in his late 30s or early 40s selling his old Magic cards, and he had bought several for what he considered a good deal. The guy’s wife had probably told him it was time to give it up.
What Jace had not found, however, was the lamp. He had done half a dozen laps of the market, searching and searching to no avail. Now several of the merchants were closing up shop, and it seemed like he would have to go back to the dorm empty handed.
But on his final go-around, a man, probably in his 70s, called to him, “What are you looking for? Maybe it’s your lucky day.”
Tired and ready to be done, Jace nearly passed right on by the man, but something told him to at least stop and talk. “Hi. I’m looking for a lamp, something to read by at night.”
The man grinned. “I’ve got just the thing.” He pulled out what looked like a very fragile oil lamp, “This what you had in mind?”
Jace was impressed the man actually had it, “Yeah” he said, started to get excited, “How much?”
The man laughed, “Oh, this is a special lamp.” There was a twinkle in his eye, “I’m not sure its for sale.”
Jace groaned. Maybe he should get a cheap bedside lamp from Walmart on the way back and call it done. His RAs would probably appreciate that it didn’t require an open flame, no matter how small. He was about to get rude with the man, but then the man continued, “But I’d give it to you for free, if you’re the right man for it.”
Jace was confused. That was an odd way to talk. But a free lamp would be cool. “Okay, so how do you know if I’m the right one for it?”
The man laughed. “Well, let me ask you a few questions. How old do you think I am?”
“Um, sixty-five?” Jace figured the man was at least seventy-five, but wanted to be polite.
The man laughed, “I’m a lot older than that, but thank you. Let me ask you another question: Do you believe in the spiritual realm?”
Jace had grown up in church, but was confident that this was not what the man was asking, “Um, what do you mean?”
The man paused, “Do you believe in magic?”
Jace laughed. “You sound like Disney. But uh, no, I guess not.”
The man smiled. “Sorry young man, I’m not sure you’re right for this lamp. But if you ever change your mind about magic, come back and find me. I’ll be here.”
Jace couldn’t believe he had let himself get suckered into this conversation, but tried not to let it show. “Well, thanks for talking anyway. What’s your name, by the way, in case I do change my mind?”
The man paused again, “You know, in the several years I have been here, you’re the first to actually ask my name. I’m Al.”
“Well, Al, nice to meet you,” Jace was about to turn and head on to Walmart.
“Wait a second. Maybe you could use this lamp after all,” Al said.
Jace turned back around and Al continued, “Like I said, it’s a special lamp. I’ve gotten all the use I can out of it, but maybe you can put it to good use.”
With that, the man handed the lamp to Jace. Jace said a simple “thank you” and turned around to head back to his car. When he turned his head again, Al was already packed up and gone.
Chapter 2: Introductions
Jace had the dorm to himself that weekend. Travis had gone to visit his girlfriend. So Jace thought it was a good time to try the lamp for the first time. He got the lamp all set up, turned off the lights and grabbed his book, and then lit the wick. It gave just enough light for him to see his page.
Soon the room started to fill with smoke. Jace wondered if he had done something wrong. But the lamp itself seemed to be fine and the smoke alarm didn’t go off.
Then to his amazement, the smoke seemed to gather in the middle of the room. And then it began to take shape. And then the smoke was gone and standing in front of him was a young girl, no older than he was.
“Um…” was all he could muster.
“Hi!” the girl said.
“Umm….” Jace replied.
“Not too talkative are you. It’s okay. Maybe you’re not too smart either,” she giggled.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jace asked.
The girl said, “You started up an old lamp, and now a strange person is standing in your room. What do you think I am?”
Jace finally realized what was going on, why Al had been so cryptic. “You’re a genie?”
“Yep!” the girl said, “Well, kinda.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m a genie in training.”
“Yeah. The first a thousand years of being a genie is training. Then you can actually do the whole three wishes thing pretty well. You can actually help those who need it, and be a trickster to those who only want three wishes for bad stuff.”
Jace was still in shock. “So, you can’t give me three wishes? And why do you look like a cute girl? I thought genies…” he couldn’t finish his thought.
“Oh I can look like whatever you want me to, but I thought this form would be the best choice.” Jace nodded as she continued, “And I can give you three wishes, with all the usual limitations about no wishing for more wishes and not being able force someone to love you. But let’s just say I haven’t worked out all the side effects yet.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you met Al, right? He was my last master. He wished for immortality as his third wish. He got it.”
Jace was impressed. “Okay, so what was the side effect?”
“He was thirty when he made that wish. He instantly became that old, and hasn’t aged a day since.”
“Oh.” Jace wished he could say something more eloquent, then laughed. Good thing this genie couldn’t hear his thoughts.
“It’s different with each person. I never know what the side effect might be.”
Jace asked, “What about like wishing for your freedom as the third wish?”
“Oh, please don’t do that! I love being a genie. You get to meet all sorts of people. Like I said, I can help those who need it, and trick those who don’t.”
“How do you know which I am?”
“That’s part of our training, figuring out how to tell all that.”
“Well, should I just call you Genie, or do you actually have a name?”
“Jean works just fine.”
“Don’t worry, no one else can see me. I can follow you around and see what you’re like, and when you’re ready you can make a wish. But remember to be specific, or it’ll come back to bite you.”
“You’re gonna follow me around all the time?”
“Of course. Don’t worry, you’ll have your privacy, I don’t peak into the bathroom or anything.”
Jean giggled, “You’re really surprised by all this aren’t you, Jace?”
“Yeah, I am.”
“Don’t worry. You’ll get the hang of it. It just takes a little time.”