Another writing prompt.
Another writing prompt for practice: “Genies exist. However, they are all evil wish genies who try and interpret wishes disastrously. You’re a lawyer at a Wise Wishing Firm, who helps their clients word their wishes as safely as possible.”
“First, remember that your wishes must be a single simple sentence. Additional clauses or run-on sentences give most genies a lot of wiggle room.”
I sized up my client. Mid 30’s. Married man. Two kids. House, mortgage, probably a dog. He seemed like a dog person to me.
He had a lot to lose.
It was my job to make sure that, if he decided to go through with his three wishes, that he didn’t wind up losing his house or kids or marriage. Or worse. I remember one time, a client of mine who walked out without taking my advise. The mental image of him being turned inside-out, blood everywhere, was just too much for me. I flinched.
My client apparently noticed.
“What is it?”
“Oh, nothing. I was just remembering a former client of mine. Are you sure you wish to go through with these wishes? You can always walk away.”
My client, let’s call him “Bob”, looked me straight in the eyes.
“I feel like this is an important opportunity, and I just don’t want to pass it up,” Bob said.
“Okay, I have a team of linguists professors who can help you with the phrasing of the Wish. As well as a crack team of word historians who can help trace the history of each word used in the Wish so we can make sure there are no historic interpretations that can be used against you.”
Bob shifted at the table. “Why do we have to do that?”
“Because the Genies don’t have your best interest at heart.” I leaned forward. “For example, suppose you wish for a nice family. Did you know that the word ‘nice’ once meant ‘silly’ or ‘foolish’? One guy, not a client of ours, wished for his family to be ‘nice’ and now spends all his time caring for his wife of 10 years and 3-year old son whose IQ are no higher than a cocker spaniel.”
Bob’s eyes widened.
“Or think of how other words have changed over time. Naughty used to mean the same thing as nothing, so wishing for your wife to be naughty in the bedroom, and boom! no more sex life. Hardly the thing to wish for, I’d say.”
“Okay,” Bob said, “so what else should I watch out for?”
“Related to word history are homophones; words that sound like other words. One guy I know of who ran a local collection of shops made the mistake of wishing to run a world-class bazaar. Now he’s bankrupt and is just too weird to look at.”
“So,” I asked Bob, “what sort of goals do you have with your wish?”
“Well,” Bob replied, “I guess I’d like to have a long life, more money, and more time to spend with my kids.”
“I have to stop you right there, because you really need to be careful when wishing for a long life.”
“Ever think of the consequences of outliving your wife? Or your kids? Or worse, outliving your grand kids? We all wish we could live a long life, but for the few folks I know who found themselves living for centuries, they all have become nearly suicidal out of boredom.
“Genies seem to take a perverse pleasure out of finding the ones who are least suited for immortality.”
Shaking his head, Bob asked, “Unsuited for immortality?”
“Sure,” I replied. “There are some of us who are genuinely curious about the world, who spend our time learning, reading, growing our minds; those are the best capable of coping with a life span of over two or three hundred years. Even confined to a wheel chair we would find pleasure in learning more about life.
“But some of us lack that basic curiosity. And for them, immortality becomes a burden rather quickly, as they age, become more frail, and watch their friends die off around them. Imagine being confined to a nursing home for a hundred years, with no friends, nothing to do, and not able to kill yourself.
“Those are the worst wishes. I’ve met a few. It’s really sad.”
“So what do you recommend,” Bob asked.
“I would make one of the wishes about money, so you can pay for my services. My standard contract is 30% of the net value of any monetary wish, and we require a monetary wish as part of the three wish package. If you don’t want a monetary wish, then we would need a standard deposit of $50,000, which we would bill against in order to do the research.”
“Wow, that’s a lot.”
“Yes, it is, but if you can suddenly have a million dollars in your bank account overnight without any strings attached, our standard fees are quite reasonable.
“The good news is that unless someone else picks up the lamp and rubs it, the wishes are yours, and you can wait as long as necessary in order to make them. So I would recommend you buy a safe, and put the lamp in there for safe keeping. Don’t wrap it in a rag or towel; that could accidentally rub the lamp and whomever was holding it would get the wishes. And give us a week to research your case so we can phrase the three sentences correctly.”
“Well, what if I just wished for a million dollars without any strings attached?”
“See, that’s why you need us,” I replied to Bob. “Because the phrase ‘strings attached’ would be interpreted literally, and you may find yourself with a million dollars in your house, and cops at your doorstep wondering how you robbed the local bank.
“No, give us a week, and let us sort out the wishes that meet your goals for you.”