Continuing the story.
“For your first wish, remember: we need to state what you want, from where it will come, and to where it will be delivered, all in one clear sentence.”
It was about ten days later. Bob sat across the table from me and Amy, an acquaintance of mine. During those ten days I learned in fact Bob had two dogs, Lucy and Ethel, both labradors. Like most of them, Bob wanted the three wish package.
“Okay,” Bob replied.
“By the way, how is your public speaking skills? Do you have any experience presenting on a stage or performing in front of an audience?”
Before Bob could complete his sentence, I cut him off. “It doesn’t matter. I want you to meet Amy. She’s an acting coach, and she’ll help you rehearse the first Wish so you can recite it perfectly regardless of the circumstances.
“Wait, why would I need a coach?” Bob asked.
“When you rub the lamp to present your first Wish, the Genie will appear larger than life. He will present himself with a booming voice, tower over you and do anything he can to intimidate you. His goal is to make you stumble, to stutter, to make mistakes, so he can have any leeway he can find to spin the wish the way he wants to.
“They don’t have your best interest at heart.”
“You keep saying that,” Bob replied, “but why is that?”
It was the year of our Lord 1271, in a dusty little town called Qaqun, perhaps a day’s march from Jerusalem. At the base of the Cacho castle, a small encampment of Crusaders seeking to bring the light of The Lord to the lands of the infidels sat. One of the Franks originally sent by His Lord Louis the Ninth, may he rest in peace, and led by His Lord Edward, son of Henry the Third, eventual Hammer of the Scots and rightful representative Our Lord Jesus Christ, dug through the muck of the refuse mound just outside the castle walls.
He found a small brass oil lamp, which he thought may make a nice little souvenir to his wife and children, waiting thousands of miles away on a small farm north of Paris.
He shined the brass lamp with the sleeve of his dirty tunic, hoping to clear some of the manure off of it.
Nearby a deep booming voice sounded from the shadows, seemingly emanating from the lamp. “For setting me free, I shall grant you three wishes!”
I looked straight into Bob’s eyes. “I wish I really knew. But as far as I and my colleagues can figure, they hate us for the curse that imprisoned their race, and while they are forced to grant wishes, they really want to kill or torture the entire human race in the worst possible way.”
Leaning forward, I lowered my voice. “I personally think this is how World War I originally was started.”
Bob stared back in disbelief. “Next you’ll be telling me they also caused Hitler to rise to power.”
“Oh, no!” I laughed. “They don’t have a monopoly on evil, you know!”
I sat back in my chair. “The good news is that we have the wording of your first Wish ready. We’re still researching the second and third Wish, but that will take some time.”
“Why is this taking so long? After all you said it’d take a week, and it’s ten days later.”
“In the Wishing business,” I told Bob, “patience is the most important thing.”
“I wish for my children to be well taken care of when I am dead.” the Frank immediately spat out, overcome by the impressiveness of the sight before him. Demon or devil, he didn’t care. He’d seen too much death, destruction, starvation and disease on this journey to last him a lifetime, and all he cared about was his wife, two kids and his farm back home.
“Okay,” the dark figure said. “Your second?”
“For my wife to find happiness when I am gone.”
That elicited a chuckle from the demonic figure. “Done. And your third?”
“I’ve taken the liberty to write down the monetary wish on a piece of paper so you can practice it. You need to spend the next week rehearsing the Wish so you can speak it word perfectly, in a calm voice, regardless of the pyrotechnics your Genie displays.”
I slid a piece of paper across the paper to Bob.
Bob read it. “Why are we asking for two hundred pounds of platinum? I thought we’d ask for gold.”
“Well,” I replied, “it’s been our experience with the wide varieties of gold alloys, and the presence of things like plated gold objects and even iron pyrite, or fool’s gold, that just asking for ‘gold’ gives the genies too much wiggle room. Platinum costs just as much per ounce as gold, but it is not as commonly traded, so we have a higher level of confidence you won’t get a hundred pound brick of worthless fool’s gold showing up in your living room.”
“Really,” Bob asked, incredulously. “You have to be that precise?”
“We believe,” I replied, “that the genies are colluding, learning from each other, and figuring out new ways to get around the wording of various Wishes. Otherwise, you could just Google for a bunch of standard wishes and call it a day.”
“I wish to live long enough to see the Word of Jesus Christ fall across this land, and for the lands of Israel to be ruled forever by a Catholic King and the rightful representative of the Holy See.”
The demonic figure bellowed out deep laughter. “Done!” he cried, then disappeared in billowing smoke. The Frank dropped the small lamp to the ground, a sense of dread clutching his heart.
“So what do I do with two hundred pounds of platinum?”
“Don’t worry about that. I have people who can test the purity of the metal in case the genies find a new loophole our people didn’t think about, and at current exchange rates, that amount of metal should fetch around $4.4 million on the metals markets. Minus our 30% fee, and that will leave you with around three million.”
Bob contemplated that for a moment then asked the question I always hear everyone ask. “Why not wish for more?”
“The goal here is not to wish for the world, but to keep your wishes relatively modest. They should be large enough to be life changing for your family, but not so large as to cause a severe backlash by your genie. Further wishes can explore or push the boundaries–but I’d be careful wishing for anything grandiose. Those sorts of wishes have a way of backfiring.
“Besides,” I said, “with that sort of money and help from a financial advisor I can recommend, that should allow you to retire with some degree of comfort.”
The year of our Lord 1862. Nearly 600 years before the Frank had returned to France only to learn his wife had taken a lover–the neighboring farmer had fallen in love with her while he was away overseas. She was quite happy, he saw.
Just as he had accidentally wished.
He watched from afar as his children grew up, had children of their own, and died. After the passing of his older son, he made the journey to a little town of Cambridge, where he had heard some scholars from nearby Oxford had settled century before and opened up shop. At the time anyone with some money could sit on lectures given by these socratic professors, and fortunately the Frank had a love of learning.
It was a way to pass the time until the arrival of Armageddon, and the final trumpet call which the Frank believed would wipe away clean the curse of the Genie he encountered. The earth, he believed, was more than 5,000 years old–and on the first day of the 6,000th year, he had believed, the Four Horsemen would ride and wars would wipe the world clean.
And on that day he hoped to finally rest.
But that day failed to come over the centuries, and the Frank spent his time alternating between scrabbling for food in the dirt, and wandering the newly constructed lecture halls of the colleges of Cambridge, learning what he could. Over the years his hatred of the Genies grew and his faith fell, for what righteous God would condemn him to walk this earth, alone?
The final straw came with the publication that year by The Lord Kelvin of his theory that the earth was not 6,000 years hold, as the Frank once believed. It was at least 100 million years old, a calculation arrived by assuming the Earth started as a molten ball of lava. This was how long it would take the Earth to cool and for the fires of hell to recede below the surface.
And it was on that day, reading Lord Kelvin’s papers on the subject, that the Frank resolved to become a Barrister.
Not just a barrister. But a very special kind of barrister.
Bob replied, “Okay.”
“Remember,” I reminded Bob, “this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, one which you will never get again. If you decide to take all three wishes–and you don’t, by the way–then let’s take the time to do it right, so you don’t wind up losing your family or cursed to wander the earth.”
Amy turned to me. “Frank,” she asked, “when should we get started on his performance.”
“Well, that’s up to Bob,” I replied. “When do you think you can get started?”