The Last Wish
Robert Allen Lupton
The difference between the devil and a djinn is a djinn is in a bottle and the devil is in the details. I learned the hard way. They’ll promise you anything to get what they want. You want three wishes, you got it. You can have riches beyond your dreams, the lover of your choice, fame, fortune, and a long life for the asking. Sign this document in blood. Rub the bottle until the djinn pops out.
Make your wishes and start your new life. It sounds easy, but it’s not. Too good to be true is too good to be true.
I never thought about things like that until one day when I found a clay seed pot in a midden, near an Anasazi Pueblo site outside Deming, New Mexico. A seed pot is an enclosed pot except for one small hole in the top barely large enough to allow one or two seeds to be shaken out at a time. After the harvest, the Anasazi stored the seeds for next year in seed pots and sealed the openings with beeswax to protect the seeds from mice and insects.
The pot was buried under layers of garbage, bones, and trash in a midden. The early Americans had a very simple way to dispose of trash – carry the trash to the nearest arroyo and throw it in. A midden is a pile of trash and an arroyo called is a ditch everywhere except in the southwestern United States.
The pot was a traditional seed pot, about seven inches in diameter, four inches tall and shaped like a flying saucer. The faded black and white designs were painted on the pot to magically protect the seeds.
I’d never found an intact pot because no self-respecting Anasazi would throw away a good pot. Most clay pots in museums have been pieced together from broken shards. I’d spent many a night gluing shards together.
I brushed dirt off the pot, wrapped it in bubble wrap, and put it in my rucksack. Two more hours of mucking through the midden produced some broken arrowheads, part of an atlatl, and the usual assortment of pottery shards.
I never spend over four hours at a site. If I didn’t mention earlier, I wasn’t actually an archeologist, more of a freelance entrepreneur. My name is Mick Smader and I made a good living finding unexplored archeological sites, retrieving artifacts, and selling them.
There are dozens, maybe hundreds of amateur archeologists who search the southwest for pueblo sites. They aren’t really archeologists either, they’re nothing more than thieves. They’ll destroy a site and plunder any valuables as quickly as possible. Their idea of a site dig is the equivalent of strip mining for coal.
There are hundreds of sites across the southwest. Most are on private land and haven’t been excavated. The landowner may have picked up some pottery shards or arrowheads, but that’s usually about it. When one of the thieves finds a site, he sneaks in and removes everything of value in a blitzkrieg dig. His goal is speed and he isn’t concerned about collateral damage.
My job is to clear sites before a thief finds them. I deliver the artifacts to a consortium of the pueblos. The red tape required for permission to excavate a site takes years. Once the pueblos file for a permit, the site location becomes public knowledge. The permit serves as a roadmap for thieves to use find and raid the site while the pueblo waits for permission. Before the permit process is completed, the sites are stripped of everything of value.
I go in without a permit, remove anything of value, and turn it over to the pueblo consortium, the descendants of the ancient Anasazi people. They pay me well and it’s the right thing to do.
I inspected the seed pot when I got home. It was magnificent. The size of the hole in the pot was consistent for maize seed storage and the wax seal was intact. The paintings were perfect and I didn’t want to damage them by washing the pot. Sometimes water takes off the paint.
I used a small brush to gently clean away dust and cobwebs, cleaning one small area at a time. The drawings weren’t the normal black and white zigzag designs typical for Anasazi pottery. There were three faces evenly spaced on the upper surface. The faces were frozen in terror. “That’s different,” I thought and reached for an eyeglass cleaning cloth. I gently rubbed the cloth back and forth across one of the faces.
The beeswax stopper popped out of the seed pot like a champagne cork and splatted against the ceiling where it stuck like a squashed bug. Purple smoke erupted from the hole and rolled across the table top and cascaded to the floor.
The smoke coalesced into an attractive woman dressed in animal skins. Her long black hair was braided and held in place by carved bone combs and pins. She stretched a moment and said, “Well, it took you long enough. I didn’t think you’d ever get around to rubbing the pot. Can’t you read?”
I was too shocked to respond. She walked around, bent forward at the waist to stretch her back, and said, “You can’t read. There is a message on the pot. Can you talk? Speak, say something.”
I said, “Hi.”
“Hi! What’s Hi? Is Hi your name? Don’t tell me. Let me think. I got it. Hi is an informal greeting of recognition between people used to acknowledge the presence of another person without communicating, admitting, or denying any level of intimacy. My people say, ‘I see you.”’
She never stood still, but moved around like she had awakened from a long sleep and her joints were stiff. “Oh, that feels good. I haven’t been able to stand up for so long.”
I kept my distance and asked, “Who are you and where did you come from?
“Do you not pay attention or are you stupid? The closest phrase in your language to my name is Desert Rose. You saw where I came from. I don’t know how long I was in this stupid pot. Your turn, who are you?”
“Call me Mick. This is a joke, right? Where’s the camera,” I asked and looked around for a hidden camera. “Who put you up to this, Pocahontas?”
I tapped a small mirror on the wall. “Come on, guys. I know this is a trick. Great costume on the lady. The purple smoke was awesome. Come out, come out, wherever you are.”
“I don’t know this Pocahontas. Is it a term of endearment or an insult? Clearly you think this is a joking of some kind, it’s not.”
“Then tell me who you are and what’s going on.”
“I will do that, Callmemick, but the story is long and I’m thirsty.”
“Mick, only Mick, please.” I filled a glass from the sink and asked, “Do you want ice in your water?”
“I don’t know ice and I don’t want water. Do you have beer? I haven’t had beer for a very long time.”
What could I do? When a lady wants a beer, a gentleman gets her a beer. I got two bottles from the fridge and handed her one. She inspected it suspiciously, placed it on the countertop, waved her hand, and the lid popped off. She pointed at my beer and flicked one finger and popped the lid off my bottle.
Holly crap, Buffalo Bob, I couldn’t believe it. She raised her bottle toward me and I mimicked her gesture and said, “Cheers.”
“Cheers,” she said. “I know this. Cheers means good health, live long, make many children, and happy hunting. This is good beer. It tastes different from the beer my people made. We used maize, hops, and yeast. What do you use?”
“Enough about beer,” I shouted. “I don’t mean to be rude, but tell me what the hell is going on.”
“I don’t usually explain myself to anyone, but I’ll try. The word for what I am doesn’t exist in your language, but some of your words come close. You could call me devil, genie, demon, or djinn. These words are all partially correct and all partially wrong. I was a born and raised as a slave during the war for Troy. When the city fell to Odysseus, I wasn’t killed, but held as a slave. One of my duties required me to serve food and wine to the victors. Wine, olive oil, and other supplies were stored near the tavern where I slaved. One evening I went to fetch more wine. I couldn’t see by the flickering candle light which amphorae contained wine and which ones contained olive oil. I used the hem of my toga to clean the dirt off one amphora. I rubbed three or four times, the seal ruptured, and a djinn formed outside the amphora.”
“I didn’t know what to wish for? During the siege, I’d learned there is no safety in being the ruler and people only truly possess that which they can protect. I didn’t want gold, jewels, or a kingdom. I wished for powers equal to his and to never have to fight another djinn.”
“You wish to be a djinn and safe from other djinns. So be it, I’ll send you to a place no other djinn knows about.”
“The djinn laughed and clapped his hands.”
“I was instantly standing on a grass plain with thousands of great hairy horned beasts charging me. I lifted myself and floated above the stampede. Once the beasts passed, I met the people who hunted them. These nomads survived by following the beasts across the land and hunting them. They had no wheels or horses and they used weapons and tools made from stone and wood. They didn’t build houses, temples, buildings, or arenas like the Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. They were a simple people with simple needs and simple wishes.”
“I lived among them for many years and they came to know me by many names. I was called the coyote goddess, Azeban, Kokopelli, Napi, Matchi Manitou, and many others. I changed my name whenever I changed tribes and I changed tribes many times.”
“Djinn is the most correct word to call me. I grant wishes. One wish, three wishes, or as many wishes as I choose. During the Anasazi time, I roamed this continent and traveled from tribe to tribe. I wanted nothing from those people except the energy and strength I received whenever I granted a wish.”
I finished my beer and went for another. She stopped me with a gesture. “You’ll never need to get another beer. The one you hold will never be empty.”
I picked up the bottle, it was about half full again. I took a big drink, but the bottle stayed half full. No matter how much I drank, it was always half full. I laughed because I knew I would never think of it as half empty. “Alright, let’s say I believe you’re a djinn and can grant wishes. Are you a good djinn or bad djinn?”
“Evil is in the minds and hearts of the beholder. Am I evil if I kill your enemy? You don’t think so, but your enemy’s widow would call me evil. Am I evil if I make the water flow fresh and clear to your campground? That depends on whether you are the one who receives the water or the one who plants in the parched soil of the ground from where I took the water? One tribe’s joy is another tribe’s woe. The same breath blows hot and cold.”
“I understand, but I read djinn do terrible things to people.”
“She took another drink, and smiled. There was no warmth in her smile. It was a smile that chilled my bones. “It’s not my fault if people do not make good wishes. I grant wishes and I choose the method of granting them. A poor wisher should blame himself. Am I to blame because someone doesn’t ask for what he truly wants?”
“I don’t understand.”
“You’ll find out soon enough. The making of wishes is not optional. I will grant some amount of wishes for you whether you want to make any wishes or not. You have no choice, but I caution you to wish with care. For example, if you wished for an endless water supply, I could rechannel a mountain stream to flow by your dwelling. I could stock it with fish and waterfowl. If I chose, I could unleash a raging torrent and destroy your houses and corrals. I could transport you into the sea and leave you to drown miles from shore. All these choices grant your wish. You have to wish for exactly what you want. I’m not evil because you wish stupidly.”
I brought chips and dip and put them on the counter. “Since you drink, I assume you eat. Help yourself. You said I have to make wishes. What if I refuse?”
She took a chip, dipped it in avocado dip, took a bite, and washed it down with forever beer. “You freed me from the pot, not that it matters one way or the other, and I will grant your wishes. You can make wishes intentionally or accidentally. If you do not make deliberate wishes, you’ll make wishes by mistake. You might cut your finger and say you wish you hadn’t done so. That comment allows me to take any steps I choose in order undo the cut to your finger.”
“What if I wish I hadn’t found you?”
“Doesn’t work that way. You can’t make wishes about me. You can’t make me disappear, you can’t transfer your wishing duties to someone else, and you can’t wish for me to leave you alone. You can’t make wishes about how many wishes you’ll get.”
“You have a lot of rules, Desert Rose. Okay, what I can wish for? This is just talk. It’s not a wish unless I say, ‘Desert Rose, this is a wish.”
“Is that a wish?”
“No, it isn’t. If I can have a forever beer, could I have a forever wallet, one that would always have money inside? Could I wish to own a professional football team or to be President of the United States?
“You can make those wishes, but I’ll have to learn what they mean in order to grant them. I don’t know money or football. My tribes didn’t have those things. Is a president like a king? The wishes I know bring water and game. I can make the flint stones break true to shape perfect arrowheads. Your pots will never leak and your fire will never go out. I can bring death to your enemies, strength to your children, and maidens to your bed. I can only grant wishes about things I understand.”
I decided to stop drinking forever beer. I was never good around women when I drank too much. Being drunk around a woman with virtually omnipotent powers seemed like a bad idea. I thought about what she said and then put on a video about the history of Chaco Canyon, an Anasazi settlement in New Mexico. I hoped the video would help her understand how long she had been inside the seed pot.
She watched the video in silence. She ate and drank continuously. I guess I had forever avocado dip and chips now.
After watching the video she accused me of being a wizard and toying with her for my own amusement. We finally realized she had a lot to learn about the world today. She believed that at least a thousand years had passed since she was sealed in the pot and decided to postpone my wishes until she learned about the world of today.
She picked up a magazine and paged through it. She pointed to an open page and asked, “Is this the way women dress?”
“Well, some of them do,” I answered. I thumbed through the magazine and found a full page ad for a female lawyer drama on television. I pointed to the lead actress. “This is what many women wear. Women dress differently for work, exercise, formal events, and dinner. There are hundreds of clothing combinations that change depending on what a woman is doing.”
“How interesting. We only had one piece of clothing. I like the idea of different ways to dress.” She spun around and was clothed in a little black dress compete with heels, purse, and jewelry. Her hair was in a pageboy. The pearl earrings were magnificent. So was she.
Rose said, “I need to understand more things. Teach me about the things in your dwelling. I want to watch the television machine and learn more about your culture.”
“Let’s start in the kitchen, the cooking room. But, answer one more question for me, first. With all of your powers, how did you end up trapped inside a seed pot?”
“It’s an old story, lust, pride, and treachery. Remember, I wasn’t always a djinn. I told you I get energy from the people who make wishes, but I don’t just look at people as a source of energy, I love people- especially men. Especially strong attractive men. The medicine man for the Insala Pueblo was a very strong and very attractive man. I enjoyed granting his wishes, I also enjoyed his bed. He was wed to the chief’s daughter and he didn’t want her or her father know of our mating. Over time he became frightened of my powers and resolved to rid himself of me.”
“One night as we snuggled in his sleeping furs, we heard footsteps at his dwelling door and heard his wife say what in your language would be, ‘Honey, I’m home.’”
“Hide,” he whispered. “Hide, hide quickly.” He pointed to an empty seed pot on the floor nearby. “In there, you can hide in there.”
“I turned into mist and flowed into the seed pot. My lover sealed the pot behind me and the next thing I knew I was drinking beer with you. Now, tell me about the tall white box that holds the beer.”
During the next few days she learned about everything in the house and garage. She loved the refrigerator, the house where winter lives. She was fascinated by light switches and would turn them on and off every time she passed by. Battery powered tools were magic to her. She believed each tool imprisoned a tiny djinn. I couldn’t make her understand how hot and cold water came from the same faucet or how heating and air conditioning came from the same vents. Cell phones were, well, cell phones were beyond magical.
Rose never slept and she watched hours of television every night. She loved the history channels, home shopping networks, and soap operas. After a night of binge watching a medical drama, she wanted to be a doctor. Unfortunately, she had a tendency to cheer for the serial killers on the murder /mystery shows.
She changed her clothing constantly. She spun endless ensembles from thin air and adopted the garb of whatever show she was watching. She would sometimes change clothing three of four times an hour. She dressed like a nurse, a cowgirl, a dancer, an athlete, a barmaid, a teacher, and a British dowager. One minute she was a rock star and the next minute she was a flapper. She even adopted mannerisms and speech patterns to match her outfits.
Her joy at discovering each new fact and invention was a pleasure to watch. She would watch a clock for hours and applaud when the alarm sounded on schedule. One morning she ground four pounds of coffee just to marvel at the coffee grinder.
The happiness and amazement she found in the things I take for granted were offset by my brooding knowledge of what she was and what she had to do. She was a djinn. She gained energy from the granting of wishes and tricking the wisher. She was no more evil than a spider trapping a fly. Sooner or later, she would require the sustenance I would have to provide.
After a month, she announced she wanted to travel the country. My mandatory wish making would be delayed until she had seen everything she wanted to see. She explained her courteous treatment of me was only to ensure our time together was pleasant. A good rancher feeds his cattle well. I wasn’t to assume I was pardoned or exempted from the implied djinn / human contract. When the time came, I’d make the obligatory wishes and she would grant them however she determined. I wouldn’t receive any special favors.
“We don’t need to pack anything, I’ll provide whatever we need. I could make one of your airplanes, but I want to travel in a motorized vehicle. I want to see this country, visit, explore, and learn from other people whenever I choose.”
I told her my Jeep was in the garage, but it might need some work before it was ready for a cross country road trip.
“We don’t need your car,” she said. “I have learned from the television that your country loves trucks. A new supercharged diesel truck with the big engine is in front of your dwelling. It has power everything. It has extended cab, extended bed, and tires made by the large pillow man. I made it red. Will that work?”
I walked to the driveway and around the truck. I said it would work. She waved her hand and I heard the locks on my house close and the locks on the truck open. She nodded and we were both dressed in khaki shorts, polo shirts, ankle socks and running shoes. She wore a sun visor and I had a baseball hat, both adorned with the San Francisco Giant’s logo. I asked about the logos.
“I like giants,” she said. “You drive. I’ll learn to drive by watching you. Besides, I want to look at the countryside. Take me to Las Vegas. I want to see Las Vegas.”
I drove and thought about my situation. I was a tour guide. My payment was my life. As long as Rose was interested in new things to see and still entertained by what she learned about the world every day, my day of reckoning was postponed. I knew I couldn’t keep her entertained forever, but I was going to try.
She learned quickly and with great enthusiasm. She was like a five year old at her own birthday party. I expected her to applaud each new experience. It made me happy to see her so happy.
We took Interstate 40 from New Mexico to Kingman, Arizona. We stopped at the Meteor Crater, the Painted Desert and the Grand Canyon. She didn’t have much interest in natural wonders. She laughed and said, “Saw these years ago. I helped the Havasupai tribe settle in the bottom of the canyon.”
She did make me stop so she could see the statues of dinosaurs perched on hills along the Arizona highways. She was especially excited by the ones the service station operators had welded from old oil cans and painted bright green. We stopped in Winslow, Arizona so that she could stand on a corner and wave at people.
She loved the radio, especially golden oldies. Her biggest disappointment about radio was she couldn’t talk back to the people. She wanted radios to work like cell phones.
I explained that there were two-way radios that worked like she wanted. We bought a CB radio in Kingman. She talked to the truckers all the way to Hoover Dam. Her call sign was “Apache Devil”. She said she was confused about the term, smoky. I explained smoky meant a highway patrolman, a small sausage, a bear, or an atmospheric condition, but I made her confusion worse. She believed a word should mean one thing and only one thing. I can’t say I disagreed.
We spent most of a day at Hoover Dam. She learned that over one hundred people had died during the dam construction, even though contrary to legend, none were actually buried in the dam. “It would have cause earthquakes, rock slides, floods, and who knows what else if I’d dammed up this river. I’d have been exhausted for a month. If someone had wished this work on me, I would’ve damn sure buried him in the dam.”
It normally takes forever to drive from the dam to Vegas. Traffic is heavy and there are countless traffic lights. I explained traffic lights when Rose complained about the endless stops we made. She laughed and told me the lights won’t be a problem. They weren’t, we never saw another red light all the way to the Vegas Strip.
She wanted to stay at Cleopatra’s Palace, but there was no room at the inn. She clapped her hands and told me to ask the desk clerk to check again. I’d never been there before but, the clerk looked and said, “I’m sorry, Mr. Smader, I missed your reservation. I see you’re a Pharaoh Club member with a Ramses level rating. We have you in the Royal Barge Suite. We need an hour to stock it with the food and drink you require. Please have lunch in Club Marc Anthony while we prepare your room. Everything is complementary, as always.”
After lunch, we wandered the Strip. Like a child in a candy store, she went in every shop. We ate a late dinner in Club Marc Anthony and went to our suite. There was a buffet of fresh fruits, cheeses, breads, and meats waiting in the room. Great champagne, too. We drank a bottle and she watched the instructional video about casino games.
“These games are more complicated than casting finger bones or ‘find the pinon nut’, but the principles are the same. I can play these games. We will casino tomorrow.”
To my amazement, she kissed me good night. She went to her bed and I took a bath. The tub was as big and comfortable as a spa. I washed my hair and ducked my head under the water to rinse away the shampoo. When I opened my eyes, Rose climbed into the tub with me.
“I’m not sleepy,” she said and took me by the shoulders and kissed me again. It was a real kiss. I decided I wasn’t sleepy either.
Somethings haven’t changed in the thousand years since she was trapped in the pot. I believe she was as happy about that as I was.
Rose conjured up new clothes for us the next day. Over brunch, she pointed out that last night’s activities didn’t change our relationship. There wouldn’t be any special treatment, after all, her last boyfriend trapped her in a seed pot. The time for me to make a wish would come sooner or later.
She filled her plate three times from the brunch buffet and drank four different kinds of juice and three mimosas. “These eggs are amazing. I can’t believe ham, pork, sausage, and bacon come from the same animal. I love bacon, it’s the best. Juice, there are so many juices. I love this place.”
A casino can be overwhelming, even when you know what to expect. The strobe effect from thousands of multi-colored lights flashing at random and the noise from thousands of slot machines assault the mind. The bustle of people hurrying in all directions is bedlam personified. The fog of cigarette smoke and constant murmur of countless voices droning just below the threshold of understanding complete the intentional sensory overload. This dissonance helps the player forget reality waits outside the casino doors. There are no clocks and no windows. The illusion creates an adult friendly and timeless fairyland. Rose, like most people, stood in awe mesmerized by the visual and auditory cacophony.
After a moment she said, “The dice. I want to throw the dice. I understand the dice game. When I throw seven dots or eleven dots, I win.”
We bought a thousand dollars in black chips at the ten thousand dollar maximum craps table. When the dice came to Rose, she put the entire thousand dollars on the pass line and promptly threw a seven. She let the money ride three times and her fifth bet was sixteen thousand dollars. She said to let it ride and the croupier called the pit boss, who approved the bet. He let it ride four more times, but he changed the dice after every throw. She was over a quarter million dollars ahead. The pit boss took the dice away from her and insisted the casino would regrettably have to enforce the table limit.
Rose smiled, left a ten thousand dollar bet on the table, and took the dice back. She said, “Fours.” She threw two straight fours. She called fives and threw back to back fives. She repeated the process with sixes and eights. The pit boss called security after she predicted and produced nines. We were strongly invited to leave the casino. They refused to cash out her winnings when she couldn’t produce any identification.
After consulting with the front desk the floor manager said, “We’ll credit her winnings to your account, Mr. Smader. You can get in touch with management to collect her winnings later, we’ve already checked you out of your room. It won’t be necessary for you to stay here or play here again.” They aggressively escorted us to the door.
Rose stopped in the casino entrance, pumped her right arm, and shouted, “Showtime”. The flashing lights and ringing bells from thousands of slot machines paying simultaneous jackpots could be heard above the traffic and street noise. We laughed all the way to the truck. I could hear the cheers and celebrations of the winners as we drove away.
We went to California next. I suggested Death Valley. She said no and mentioned a tribe who’d once lived there had refused her water when she was passing through. That was a very bad decision.
In California, we behaved like the ultimate honeymooning tourists. We toured amusement parks, wineries, zoos, and oceanic parks. She loved the beauty of old college campuses and adored the houses and cities. San Simeon and San Francisco were her favorites. In San Francisco, we spent an entire day driving back and forth across the bridges. Even though our nights were filled with love and affection, she reminded me every day that this was temporary.
I was at a loss. I was in love with her. I loved her sense of wonder, her thirst for knowledge and her complete lack of guile. I loved her, but I was afraid of her. Actually, I was terrified of her. I remembered a fable from my childhood about grabbing a tiger by the tail. I hated being afraid, but I couldn’t let go.
She treated me like I was the most important person in the world. I never needed to wish for anything because she gave me everything. I was on a merry-go-round and I couldn’t get off, but the time would come when I had to make a wish. I knew there wasn’t a brass ring waiting for me.
The world had changed so much since her Anasazi lover trapped her in the pot and she was fascinated with the creations of mankind. The concepts of reading, writing, and printing amazed her. Our alphabet was far superior to the crude pictographs and rock carvings she was familiar with. She marveled at buildings, bridges, roads, railroads, statues, monuments, and towers. I could tell she felt out of place in our time. In a world where mankind could create anything, build anything, and go anywhere there was no reason for djinns to exist.
She wanted to see the Smithsonian Museums and so we drove toward Washington D.C. It was a long trip, because we stopped in almost every town. Eventually, she became bored with churches, schools, and football stadiums. Once she’d seen a hundred steeples, she thought they all looked the same. She once spent half a day in a car dealership in Topeka because she loved their television commercials. I remember it was Topeka because that’s where I first detected a hint of sadness or regret in her voice when she made her daily “all good things come to an end” speech. I wasn’t really sure if the wistful tone in her voice was really there or just my imagination. Maybe, I heard it because I wanted to hear it.
I haven’t made a big deal about her fascination with cell phones, tablets, and computers. I always drove because she sat in the passenger seat with her feet folded beneath her and immersed herself in online learning for hours. She remembered everything. Some of information that she gleaned from the internet resulted in unplanned side trips. We visited Dorothy’s House in Kansas and the arch in Saint Louis. She was upset to learn the good witch and the bad witch weren’t real.
She agreed to stop controlling the score in sporting events. I told her that liking the Giants was great, but the Giants couldn’t make a miracle comeback every game. Even though she liked devils and didn’t like religious icons, she finally agreed it wasn’t acceptable for the Blue Devils to go undefeated and for the Saints to always lose.
We spent a month in the Smithsonian Museums. Space flight astounded her. She didn’t believe the moonwalks were true. After inspecting Lunar Module Number Two, which was never used, at the Air and Space Museum, she excused herself saying, “I have to check on something right now.”
She reappeared in ten minutes and said, “The flag is there and there are two machines like this on the moon. I saw footprints.”
Dinner that night was restrained. She said, “I’m convinced there is no place in this world for djinns, devils, genies, or any sort of magic. Mankind has imagined, designed, and built amazing things that even the greatest of djinns could never have conceived. People control everything except the weather and I have no doubt your scientists will figure that out someday. My powers are only parlor tricks. I won’t spend eternity granting wishes for love, youth, and money. I have no purpose, so today is our last day. You’ve been a beloved companion, but this must come to an end. Think well and wish carefully in the morning.”
I didn’t sleep at all that night. She didn’t either. I worried about what to wish for and she spent the night reading about Australia. It’s difficult finding something safe to wish for when the wish can be granted in such a way as to hurt or kill you. I couldn’t think of a single safe wish.
If I wished my hand didn’t hurt, Rose could remove my hand or kill me. My hand wouldn’t hurt because I was dead. Wish Granted. I could wish for money and the money could be delivered in such a way as to suffocate me under its weight. It could be stolen money and I’d end up in jail. If I wanted to be a king, she could turn me into a king the day before a revolution. I would be king, but only for a day, and I didn’t want a personal relationship with a guillotine.
I considered a simple wish, I wish I didn’t have to shave. That could cost me my head. I could make it more specific, I wish whiskers didn’t grow on my face. Again, I could be dead or maybe she might make feathers grow on my face. I worried all night. I never thought of a good wish because I could always think of a hundred ways every wish could backfire. I promised myself I wasn’t going to whine, complain, or beg in the morning, she’d been honest and I knew what to expect.
I ate a heavy breakfast like a condemned man at his last meal. She poured more coffee from the room service carafe and said, “Mick, as I said last night, I marvel at the wonders and accomplishments of your world. I understand djinns have no place in it and have decided this time must be over. You have only one wish. You must wish and you must wish now.”
I spite of my promise to myself about not whining, I whined, “I’m afraid. I’m not ready, I need more time and I don’t know what to wish for. Can you tell me what to wish for?”
“No, I can’t. It’s against my rules and you’ve had months to think about this. I watch you think about it every day. The time has come. Wish now.”
I’d already broken my promise not to whine and it was easy to break my promise not to beg. “I’m afraid. I’ve listened to your stories about how you’ve tricked everyone who made a wish. I love you, but your nature terrifies me. I could do this if I wasn’t afraid, but I’m so afraid. I wish I wasn’t afraid of you.”
She smiled and said, “As you command. I will make it so. You will no longer be afraid of me.”
“That wasn’t my wish. That was a slip of the tongue, it’s not a wish unless I say, ‘Desert Rose, this is a wish.’ Remember, we agreed.”
“You made that statement, but I did not agree to any such rule. My silence does mean I consent to be bound by your statement. You have wished and your wish will be granted.”
“Wait,” I said. “I’ve made slips of the tongue before. I ‘ve used the word, wish, many times and you never chose to grant a wish based one of my inadvertent slips.”
“I’m the djinn. I decide when and how I grant wishes. You will not delay me with further debate.” She clapped her hands and we were sitting at a kitchen table in a house instead of in a hotel room. There was a newspaper with today’s date, The Saint Louis Daily Press. There was a bowl of oatmeal on the table and I was dressed in a tattered grey sweatshirt and blue jeans. She was dressed the same way.
“I like my oatmeal with brown sugar. It gives it a creamier taste,” she said. “Is your oatmeal hot enough?”
Before I answered, I took careful inventory. I had all my fingers and toes. All my body parts felt normal. I could hear and see, I opened my mouth and tried to speak, “Uhhh, uhhh.”
She answered me in the same voice she’d used the day she came out of the seed pot.
“What is uhhh, uhhh? I don’t know uhhh, uhhh.”
I found my voice. “What have you done? Where are we?”
You see the paper and you aren’t stupid, we’re in Saint Louis. I picked Saint Louis because it is in the middle of this land and the Giants play games with the red bird team here every summer. As to what I’ve done, look on your left hand.”
There was a wedding band on my left hand. She smiled and held up her left hand. She had a matching wedding ring. She laughed and said, “It’s not that bad, is it? I made us married and gave us this nice house in Saint Louis. I’ve read many stories where people live happily ever after. I thought we would try happy.”
I turned my hand over and felt the ring. “What if we don’t live happily ever after? What happens to me?”
“My dear, we have to. Your wish was that you need not be afraid of me. I decide how I grant wishes and there were many ways I could have granted your wish. It was my choice to trick you and force you to live out your miserable life as my husband. I will grant no more wishes. I have surrendered my powers and we will live out normal lives together. This pleases you?”
I responded by kissing her. She took my hand and led me on a tour of our home. It took longer to inspect the master bedroom than any other room. We finished the home inspection with a glass of wine on the back porch.
“You really gave up your powers? Can you get them back? How are we going to live?”
“Yes, my powers are gone and I can’t get them back. It’s not like there’s djinn union or anything to enforce rules, but I really can’t recover them. Magic doesn’t work like that. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.”
She turned on her computer and called me over to look at the screen. First, she showed me my Lifebook page. It said I was the tenured chair of archeology at Lewis and Clark University. I was an acknowledged expert on ancient southwestern cultures.
Rose opened her Lifebook page. She was a best-selling romance novelist. She set her stories in prehistoric times. Most of her books took place in America at least a thousand years before Eric the Red made landfall. Her heroine, Fawn Meadows, was a strong willed woman who refused to be tied to one man or one tribe. Fawn wandered pre-Columbus America saving lives, solving mysteries, and being the voice of progress and justice. She also fell in love two or three times in each book. Her most popular novel was “Tribe of the Wolf Den”.
“We should go to bed, now. You teach an eight o’clock class on Hopi symbolism and Wednesday is the deadline for the first draft of my new Fawn novel. I need to write another ten thousand words before I send the draft to my editor.”
Married and living happily ever after, I needed more time to process this. We went to bed and I couldn’t sleep. I dressed the next morning and headed to campus. I was surprised I knew the way to campus and the lecture hall. I knew the material and gave the lecture without any problem. I had no trouble finding my office. It was as if I had been doing these things forever.
Within the month, we were completely immersed in our new lives. We paid our bills, bought our groceries, and kept our medical appointments. We sat with friends in the faculty section and cheered for the Lewis and Clark Explorers at football and basketball games. Rose signed the occasional autograph. She always seemed surprised and pleased when she was asked.
Rose told me she was pregnant the year after she wish granted us to Saint Louis. We had a perfect baby girl and named her, Sierra. We briefly considered, Fawn Meadows Smader, but good sense intervened. She was a charmingly normal baby girl. Sierra walked at nine months and ‘mama’ was her first word. I read that she should be toilet trained in a few months, thank goodness.
Our daughter usually slept through the nights so I was surprised to hear shrieks and laughter from her room after midnight one evening. Rose shoved me out of bed and said, “Your turn.”
I put on my robe and padded down the hall to her room and went inside. I dodged a teddy bear that flew past my head. By the dim glow from the night light I could see Sierra standing in the middle of her room. She waved her arms like an orchestra conductor and dozens of her toys flew in circles around the room. She made them dip and rise. She made them go faster and slower. It was a mad carousel of flying stuffed animals. Bears, ponies, unicorns and three fingered mice swirled and danced about. Sierra shrieked and squealed happily as she directed them in her chosen orbits.
“Daddy, Daddy,” she said when she noticed me. “Watch me, Daddy, I can make them fly.”