Buddy couldn’t believe his luck. He thought the lamp was junk and hoped to con the pawnshop for a tenner, but in the process of polishing it up at his table, out rolled this genie dressed in white giving him three wishes. He wore one of those Mahatma Ghandi dhoti things and a turban, of course, but he also had big round glasses that made his eyes look bugged out, and he kept fiddling with a hearing aid, the old kind with the battery compartment behind the ear.
“For my first wish—”
“Hold on there, fellow.” The genie pulled his hearing aid out, adjusted it, and put it back in. “There we go. I’m Ali Babbit. Three wishes. Let’s hear ‘em.”
Buddy wanted to make this special. He wanted some kind of obscure knowledge that no one else in the world had.
“I wish to have all secrets of the Egyptian pyramids.”
“Hm. Well. Yes. Okay. You’re a bit of a strange one.” He waved his arms like a flamenco dancer. “I grant you all the crepes of the Egyptian beer maids.” A huge platter piled with crepes appeared on the table.
“That’s not what I said,” said Buddy.
“I didn’t wish for crepes. I wished for the secrets of the pyramids.”
“Egrets of the pier mitts? That makes no sense.”
“No.” Buddy pounded his fist on the table. “Secrets of the pyramids. The Egyptian pyr-a-mids.”
“Don’t pound at me, pal.” Ali pressed a button on his hearing aid. “Speak more clearly next time.”
“I sp… Just let me have my wish back.”
“Oh, no. Three’s the limit. No more.”
“But I didn’t wish for these.”
“Have you tried them?” Ali picked up a rolled crepe, blueberries oozing out one end, and took a bite. He spoke with his mouth full. “They’re really quite good.”
“It’s not my wish. I still have three.”
“I’m sorry, Buddy. The limit isn’t for you, it’s for me. I can’t grant more than three wishes at a time. That’s the rule.”
“Well that’s a drag.”
“Have you tasted the crepes?”
Buddy resigned himself to only getting two wishes, and decided to take care of creature comforts while he still could.
“Okay. For my second wish, I want my very own super model to keep for the rest of my life.”
He waved his arms again. “I grant you your very own Subaru model to keep for the rest of your life.”
A little green model of a Subaru Outback appeared on the table next to the crepes.
“Not again,” said Buddy. He yelled in hopes the half deaf genie would hear him. “I said I wanted a super model, not a Subaru model!”
“It’s a nice model.”
“I don’t want a model.”
“Why’d you ask for one?”
“I didn’t. I mean not that kind of model.”
“You don’t like it?”
Buddy sputtered. “It’s fine. It’s just not what I wished for.”
“Be more careful next time.”
Buddy thought long and hard, not just for what he wanted, but for a way to express it that could not be mistaken for something else. He’d always wanted a big palace to live in, entertain in, and to have a room for every day of the year. The word ‘palace’ seemed too risky. Ali might hear ‘big palace’ as ‘pick up alice’ or ‘brig polish’ or who knows what else?
He came upon ‘mansion.’ He repeated the syllables, playing with their pronunciation. ‘man-chun,’ ‘mang-jun,’ ‘man Zion’—none seemed likely. His biggest worry was Chuck Mangione appearing as his personal trumpet man, so he was very careful to formulate his request without anything that sounded close to ‘Chuck’ before ‘mansion.’
“I’ve got it,” Buddy said.
“Fire away,” said Ali.
“I’d like to live in a giant mansion.”
“A mansion. I wish I lived in a giant mansion.”
“I don’t understand,” said Ali.
“What’s not to understand? A mansion. A place to live. You know, like a big castle.”
“Ah!” He waved his arms. “Your wish is granted to live in a big a—”