Authors: E. M. Lilly
“You are my master, Miss Mignon,” the genie said stiffly. “You can command me in any manner that you’d like.”
“This wouldn’t be the type of thing I’d want to force on you or anyone else. He is your dog after all, and I certainly don’t want to take what is rightfully yours.”
“Very well,” the genie said, his voice warming, “I’d be happy for you to be able to enjoy Winston’s company. I will leave you for now. And Miss Mignon, when you wish for me to return, you do not have to rub the lamp. All you need to do is summon me.”
And with that the genie vaporized into a thick cloud of smoke and disappeared back into the lamp.
Emily sat on her bed while Winston lay panting contently with his head resting on her lap. Emily’s mind was buzzing with too many thoughts and questions for her to do much else than to gently stroke Winston behind his ear and along his cheek. Occasionally her gaze would fix on the lamp, which she had since placed on a small desk on the opposite side of the small bedroom. She now fully accepted that this was real. That the genie was going to be granting wishes to her, and that her life was going to change dramatically. She also thought about that warning engraved on the bottom of the lamp.
Do Not Trust Him
. She thought about how the last owner of the lamp must have had that engraved, and had to have been someone from London in the year 1890, and how that person went through great pains to hide the lamp by placing it within the false bottom of that chest. Of course, if this person really wanted to hide that lamp for good, he or she could’ve buried it. And why provide the hint about what was being hidden by painting those elaborate scenes from the Arabian Nights on the outside of the chest? Was it simply a peculiar sense of humor that had the last owner do that, or was there another reason?
After an hour of sitting quietly with Winston, Emily got off the bed and moved to her desk so that she could make a list of questions for the genie. She was filled with nervous energy and excitement and had to do something. Letting out a groan, Winston jumped off the bed and waddled over to Emily so he could plop down by her feet. Emily was glad to have Winston’s company that night. She had always liked dogs and found this one particularly endearing, and after the events from earlier that night she did not want to be alone in her room. Although she realized that wouldn’t have been the case even if Winston wasn’t with her, for although he was out of sight, the genie was still in the room with her nestled deep inside his lamp.
Emily filled up three pages of handwritten questions for the genie. She read over what she had put together, and was happy with it, but before she left her desk she thought of several more questions and added those to her list. She hesitated for a moment on what to do with these papers for she didn’t trust Mitch not to snoop in her room when she wasn’t there, and she folded them in half and tucked them away under a pile of other papers in her desk drawer. The idea of seeing the genie again this quickly to ask him those questions seemed impossible to her. She needed time before she would summon him again. She needed a place to hide her lamp, and was going to put it on the bottom of her underwear drawer, but the thought of the genie knowing that made her blush, and instead she found a place in her closet where she could hide the lamp between two folded sweaters.
She sat on the floor and Winston padded over to her and plopped onto her lap, then rolled over so he could lick her face. She was quickly becoming attached to this fat little guy.
“You’re starved for attention, aren’t you, boy?” she asked, and the dog let out a grunt in response. She doubted that a genie would spend any time cuddling with a dog, and she wondered again why he would’ve had Winston in the first place, and how a dog could possibly live out its life inside a lamp. It made her wonder whether Winston really was a dog or some sort of supernatural being like the genie. After all, the engraving on the lamp warned her not to trust this genie, so he could have lied to her about what Winston really was. Winston let out another grunt and craned his neck so he could once again lick her face, and she decided to assume until it was proven otherwise that Winston was what he appeared to be—an overstuffed English Bulldog with a sweet personality.
It was two days later before Emily summoned the genie again. Early on she felt somewhat guilty about taking Winston from the genie, but once she saw how much the dog enjoyed the real world, any guilt she had been feeling quickly dissipated. That first morning she made bacon and eggs for both of them, and Winston was as happy as a pig in mud gobbling up his portion. She wondered if that was the first real food the dog had had, but that didn’t seem possible given how fat he was. But then again, how much exercise could a dog possibly get living in a genie’s lamp? Winston seemed so happy eating his share that Emily gave him half of hers. While they were finishing up, Mitch stumbled out of Sally’s bedroom looking badly hung-over, and when he noticed Winston he stopped in his tracks.
“What’s that filthy animal doing in here?” he demanded.
Winston ignored him. Emily was going to do the same, but she felt a hotness flushing her cheeks over him commenting about Winston in such a way. “Excuse me,” she said. “Did you start paying rent here and forget to tell me?”
Mitch stood seething as he glared first at Emily, then back at Winston, all the while his mouth pushing into an angry circle. Then he turned and stalked back into Sally’s room. Emily smiled thinly as she heard him complaining to Sally about Winston’s presence in the apartment. A minute later Sally came out of her room. Her face had a craggy look about it, as if she were still half asleep. It was only six in the morning, and Mitch had probably woken her up to do his complaining.
Something happened when Sally saw Winston. The tension that had existed between her and Emily seemed to melt away. She got on one knee so she could rigorously rub Winston cheeks with both hands.
“Who’s this handsome guy?”
Mitch was near beside himself watching Sally’s reaction. “He’s drooling all over the floor, for Chrissakes,” he said. Then after sniffing several times, he added, “I think I’m allergic to him.”
Sally ignored him to continue to rub Winston’s cheeks while telling him what a handsome guy he is. She turned to Emily and told her how adorable she found the little guy. Mitch cut in, complaining how he was already feeling the effects of allergies from the dog.
“I’m sure you’ll be fine,” Sally said.
Emily ignored Mitch and told her roommate that she was going to be pet sitting Winston for a couple of days. “Someone at work had an emergency she had to deal with.”
“I’m serious,” Mitch said. “I think that damn dog is making my throat close up.”
“Maybe you should stay at your own place then until Emily’s through pet sitting this little charmer,” Sally said without bothering to look at Mitch.
Emily could’ve kissed her roommate for backing her up. She also caught this look in Mitch’s eye and understood that he had given up his apartment already and had been living rent-free off of them. Mitch looked like he wanted to argue more about the issue, but he had just enough sense to turn and head back into Sally’s bedroom.
Emily called in sick that day, which was her first sick day since taking her assistant editorial job. It didn’t matter whether she called in sick or not, Mr. Pish was going to be expecting her reports by the end of the week regardless. But the thought of sitting in her cubicle that day was impossible, not after a genie had fallen into her lap, and certainly not with her needing to take care of Winston. Sally almost took the day off from work to spend it with Emily and Winston, but she had a presentation she had to give. Still, it felt almost as if the last six months had been erased, that Mitch didn’t exist and that they were best friends again. Emily could’ve asked the genie for a leash and collar—she was sure he would’ve provided one without using up one of her wishes, but she didn’t feel up to seeing him yet, so she found a nearby pet store. When she took Winston outside, the poor thing seemed stunned at first by the real world, but after a few minutes he came out of his stupor and acted like any other dog. Emily took him to Central Park, and the first dogs he encountered left him bewildered, but after a while he was fine, and he couldn’t get enough of all the attention he was getting from children and other passersby who wanted to pet him. By midday he conked out on her, too exhausted to walk, and Emily ended up sitting on the grass with him while he snoozed away. She didn’t mind. It gave her more time to think about the genie and what her three wishes were going to be.
That evening, Mitch stayed hidden in Sally’s room while Emily, Sally and Winston lay on the sofa and watched TV. It was nice for Emily, sort of like the pre-Mitch days, except with the added benefit of a fat and adorable bundle of fur. She tried not to think about how Winston wasn’t going to be hers much longer, and how radically her life was going to be changing. Later that night she still didn’t feel up to summoning the genie, and so she didn’t.
The next day was more of the same, except that Mitch stayed out of her way that morning. When she called in sick for a second day in a row, Mr. Pish called her back to tell her that it didn’t look good for her to be doing that. She had to bite her tongue to keep from telling him that it didn’t matter how it looked, that with one wish she could be owning the publishing company and that he could be working for her. But instead she simply told him that she’d get her reports in on time regardless of how sick she was feeling.
“I certainly hope so,” he told her coldly. “And I certainly hope this isn’t some sort of childish response to my rejecting that book you were so fond of.”
“No, Mr. Pish, it has nothing to do with that. With the way I’m feeling right now I’d be useless at work.”
Mr. Pish didn’t sound particularly happy with that response, but he didn’t push it.
As with the other day, Emily took Winston to Central Park, but this time she brought her laptop with her, and after the dog conked out and lay sleeping on the grass she sat next to him and researched genies as thoroughly as she could. While genie mythology in literature and film didn’t necessarily have anything to do with the real thing that she had hidden away in her bedroom she thought it would be best to educate herself as much as she could. According to what she read, genies could be tricky and mischievous, and would often distort their master’s wishes, which was pretty much her general idea of genies before doing any research. She also found references that described them as potentially evil and demonic. The one thing in common with everything she read was that they were spirits and a very separate kind of being from humans. She tried to put that in context with what she had witnessed with her genie, and it didn’t seem to quite fit. He appeared very human to her. Of course, it could’ve been only a façade that he created. He’d already demonstrated to her once that he was easily able to alter his appearance.
By the time Emily returned back to her apartment she was still torn about whether to engage the genie in granting her three wishes or to not risk dealing with potentially dark forces that she didn’t understand. On the one hand it would be an adventure that few others would ever be able to experience. Emily had also been allowing herself to fantasize about what one of her wishes could be, and it was something she dearly wanted. But could she risk whether this genie was a good spirit or something mischievous, or even potentially evil? It didn’t seem possible to her that any sort of evil being could’ve raised such a gentle and pleasant dog as Winston, but the idea of tempting fate still frightened her.
Emily might very well have never summoned the genie again, but what cinched the deal for her was Mitch. He must’ve been brooding ever since Sally took Emily’s side regarding Winston, and that evening he was lying in wait for her, sitting alone in the living room so he could watch for when she came in. Emily knew it was too early for Sally to be home, and while she saw Mitch out of her peripheral vision, she ignored him, as did Winston. When Mitch whistled at her as if she were a dog, Emily and Winston both instinctively turned their heads to face him.
Mitch leered at her with an ugly, contemptuous look, and tossed to her what turned out to be a jar of peanut butter. Emily caught it and stared at it, confused. Winston also tilted his head at the jar, a look of befuddlement wrinkling his face.
“That’s so you can spread it between your legs and let that ugly mutt of yours go to town,” Mitch said.
At first Emily couldn’t believe that he had said what he did to her, and then she was simply too stunned to respond. Winston, though, had no problem responding. While he might’ve been barking up a storm when he was in the genie’s lamp, he hadn’t made a peep since entering the real world. That changed then. Winston lunged at Mitch while growling fiercely from deep within his throat, and he would’ve gotten to him if Emily hadn’t been holding a tight grip on the leash. Alarm flashed in Mitch’s face, but also something very cruel. Emily made sure to keep Winston restrained. She didn’t trust what Mitch would do to the dog if he was given the chance to claim he was only defending himself from an attack. Her face turned bright red as Mitch’s obscene gesture fully registered.
“Let’s go,” she told Winston as she tugged hard on his leash. “You don’t want to bite him. All that bile would make you sick.”
Only the fear of her letting go of the leash kept Mitch from making any further nasty comments. It was a struggle, but Emily was able to pull Winston into her bedroom. After locking the door, Emily stood for a long moment breathing hard and seeing red. That was how mad she was. She was actually seeing red! A wet tongue began licking her hand, and Emily bent down and hugged Winston tightly while he licked her face. After a while the redness in her vision faded and she began breathing more normally again. She stood up and dried her face with her shirt sleeve, and with a mix of resolve and anger summoned the genie.