Authors: E. M. Lilly
“I made my wish,” Emily stated stubbornly, her delicate chin jutting out slightly.
“Hmm. Are you sure it is necessary for you to make monthly payments?”
“Yes, I am quite sure of that.”
The genie smiled as if at a private joke. “I see,” he said. “This is a test to see if even a modest wish can be turned into a disaster. Very well. As you have wished.”
If Jack had actually granted her wish, Emily couldn’t tell for nothing had changed. There was no puff of smoke, no flash of lightning, no thunderclap, absolutely nothing peculiar to indicate that the genie had done something out of the ordinary such as granting her wish. Emily didn’t know exactly what would happen when she made her wish, but she found this all too anticlimactic. For the next four minutes Jack lounged on his invisible chaise, scratching Winston’s stomach and appearing to brood over being asked to grant such an insignificant wish, while Emily stood tense, waiting for something. Four minutes later that something happened when her cell phone rang. The call was from a Mr. Theodore Anderson, who had heard through an acquaintance who had met Emily’s mother during a recent trip to Des Moines that Emily was living in Queens but working as an editor in Manhattan. It turned out Mr. Anderson was a professor at New York University and had been offered the opportunity of a lifetime to spend a year teaching and doing research in Venice, and he was looking for someone to house-sit a condo he owned on Wooster Street in the Village, which was less than three blocks from Washington Square. “It’s a modest condo,” he told her. “But it’s also very quiet and safe. I could probably rent it out for a year with little trouble, but I have an extensive book collection and other rare artifacts, and would rather find someone reliable who I can work out an arrangement with than have to pack everything up and put it in storage. How does that sound?”
Emily told him it sounded wonderful, and they arranged to meet within the hour. When she got off the phone, Jack gave her a disgusted look. “It’s your wish,” he said. “And you can’t blame me for how little you’re getting.”
“It’s what I need,” Emily said. “And it’s a dream location for me. From that address I can walk to work.”
“Well, that’s just wonderful then,” Jack said, barely hiding his sarcasm. “Do you need me now for any further wishes?”
Emily shook her head.
“Of course not. You need to see how this test works out first.” The genie looked genuinely dejected with the humble nature of Emily’s first wish, almost as if granting such a modest wish was embarrassing for him. He gave a tired sigh and asked her if she needed anything further from him at that moment.
“No, I don’t believe so.”
Winston was still resting contentedly on Jack as the genie hovered in the air the same as if he’d been lying on a chaise longue. “Are you going to want to keep Winston any longer?” he asked with a tired sigh.
Emily shook her head. She would’ve liked to have kept Winston longer, but she didn’t feel it would be right to deprive the genie of his dog any longer than she had.
“Very well, Miss Mignon. In that case please feel free to summon me whenever you’d like me to be of service again.” He hesitated before adding, “I would strongly suggest that you find a better hiding place for the lamp. Renting a safe deposit box would be a most prudent thing for you to do, but in the meantime at least consider putting it back where you originally found it.”
A cloud of smoke exploded in front of Emily, and when it cleared both Jack and Winston were gone. Emily took Jack up on his advice and put the lamp back in the secret compartment within the antique chest, and then hid the chest under a pile of clothing. If a burglar broke in and found a pure silver lamp, it would be the first item taken. The risk of a burglar stealing an antique wooden chest that weighed at least thirty pounds would be much less.
When Emily left her bedroom, she found that Sally had returned and was sitting next to Mitch on the sofa. Sally smiled warmly on seeing her and asked how the fat little guy, Winston, was doing. Emily hesitated before telling her roommate that she was going to be leaving soon so that she could bring Winston back to his owner. She had to say that since Mitch had seen her bring Winston into her room.
“That’s a shame. I really enjoyed having that adorable little guy around.”
Emily nodded and smiled bitterly to herself as she looked at Mitch and thought about how she could’ve had him turned into a pig, or a slug, or anything else. Jack was right. A slug would’ve been appropriate for Mitch. She found herself detesting him more than ever as she watched the way he sat pretending to be absorbed with what was on TV, all the while sweating over whether she would tell Sally about the nasty and insulting stunt he had pulled. Turning him into a slug would’ve also been the best thing Emily could’ve done for Sally; her friend deserved so much better! But it wasn’t her place to decide this for Sally, or to convince her how rotten the guy was.
Emily went to the kitchen, spent a minute acting as if she was searching for something inside the refrigerator, then went back to her room. Once the door was closed behind her, she summoned Jack. When he appeared, he raised an eyebrow, curious.
“Miss Mignon, have you thought of another wish so soon?” he asked. “Or perhaps you would like to change your first wish into something more substantial and worthy of a genie?”
Emily shook her head. “I need to borrow Winston for a few more minutes,” she said, and then she explained her reason. The genie’s lips tightened as if he had swallowed something bitter.
“It would be so much easier if you’d simply wish for me to turn him into a bug of some sort. You wouldn’t even need to squash him. You could open a window and let him fly out.”
“I’m not going to do that,” Emily said.
“Very well,” Jack said with no effort to hide his disappointment. A second later Winston reappeared with Jack instantaneously disappearing. Emily kneeled down and gave Winston one last hug. “Sorry to have to disturb you like this,” she said. Winston didn’t seem to mind as he panted happily and licked her face, nor several minutes later when Emily led him out of her room and Sally made a big fuss over him. Mitch had left the living room, probably so he could hide out in Sally’s room until Winston was gone.
What a coward
, Emily thought. Her guess was confirmed when Winston started growling and baring his fangs as he got within a few feet of Sally’s closed bedroom door, and he tried to bull his way toward it.
“Why do you suppose he’s acting like that?” Sally asked, concerned.
Emily swallowed back what she wanted to say—that Winston must be smelling a rodent of some sort, and instead muttered something innocuous and pulled the dog away and out of the apartment. When they were heading down the staircase and no one was in sight, Winston disappeared as she had arranged with Jack. She rolled the empty leash up, put it in her pocketbook, and continued on out so she could meet Theodore Anderson at his condo.
Emily was very pleased with the condo on Wooster Street. If Jack had worked a hidden problem into her wish, she couldn’t figure out what it could be. The building was an attractive stone structure that had been fully modernized inside. Wooster Street turned out to be unusual for Manhattan in that it was made up of old bricks instead of pavement, which acted to discourage car traffic—at least to discourage traffic from cars that didn’t want to damage their wheels or alignment. It still would’ve been a quiet apartment even if Wooster carried normal Manhattan traffic since the condo was set back into the building.
The apartment itself was large and with more amenities than Emily would’ve expected. The furnishings, while maybe more for a single man than a young woman, still had a comfortable and homey feel. The kitchen was modern and more than four times the size of the kitchen that she shared with Sally, and the bathroom was bigger than her current bedroom and had a sunken tub and a small built in sauna.
The room that she fell in love with was the den. It had a men’s club feel to it with its dark mahogany woods, a plush brownish leather recliner and a working stone fireplace. There was no TV set or stereo in this room, only book cases filled with books and small antique stone carvings. But that was fine. It was a room for unplugging yourself from the modern world, and it would be a perfect place for reading manuscripts.
Emily found herself liking the owner, Theodore Anderson, as much as she liked the condo. He was in his fifties, and had this very lively and spry quality to him. A man with a warm smile and a twinkle in his eyes. Emily felt comfortable with him from the moment he met her at the door. As he gave her a tour of his condo, his fox terrier, Astor, followed them, and he told Emily how he was a professor of European History and that this opportunity to spend a year in Venice came completely out of the blue.
“This is like a dream,” he told her. “I could barely believe it when the call came, and when I was talking later with my friend, Nancy, she mentioned how she had met your mother and how you might be a good person to housesit for me, and so I got your phone number and gave you a call. And here you are.”
By this time they had ended up in the kitchen, and he was making the two of them cappuccinos. While they drank their cappuccinos, they worked out an arrangement in which Emily would pay per month the same amount she was currently paying in rent. Emily hesitated briefly before bringing up the subject of having a dog into the condo. She explained how a friend of hers had an English Bulldog that she might need to take care of from time to time. Professor Anderson had his fox terrier in his lap at this point, and told her that he was bringing Astor to Italy with him, and that her having a dog in his condo was fine with him. They shook hands then, agreeing to their deal.
Sally was understanding that night about Emily moving out the way she was.
“It hasn’t been right the way I foisted Mitch on you.” Sally’s smile became wracked with regret. “I’m sorry, Em. I should’ve handled this better. I’ve been a real louse.”
Emily kept it brief telling Sally that she understood how things happened the way they did, and that she’d always value their friendship. She avoided saying anything about Mitch.
Saturday was three days away, and it went by fast with Mitch keeping his distance from her. She had a teary goodbye with Sally, but as she left the apartment for the last time all she felt was relief that she’d never have to deal with Mitch again. Sally was going to sell her furniture for her, so she didn’t bring much with her to her new home—just six boxes filled with clothing and other odds and ends, and of course, her antique chest with her genie’s lamp hidden inside of it. Minutes after settling into her new address, she heard Jack’s voice from within the antique chest. It was badly muffled, but as she dug the lamp from the secret compartment, she could hear him more clearly. He had a favor to ask of her, but he needed her to summon him first. She did, and Jack appeared within a burst of blue smoke, a distressed look tugging at his features. He apologized for the intrusion.
“It’s Winston,” he said. “The poor guy has been miserable since I’ve gotten him back from you.” The genie’s discomfort appeared palpable as he hovered in front of Emily.
“Would you like me to take him for a few days?” she asked.
“It will need to be more than that,” Jack said. He smiled weakly at Emily. “I was afraid this might happen if Winston was given enough of a taste of your world, but it’s more than that. He has formed a strong attachment to you, Miss Mignon. I know this is an imposition, but I hate seeing him pining away for you.” He paused for a moment, then added, “It’s been hard waiting for you to move here to make this request.”
“I’d be happy to take him,” she said. “I grew quite attached to him myself in the short time I was with him.”
The smile Jack was trying to force weakened even more. Emily felt a heaviness welling up in her chest as she understood how much this was going to affect Jack since Winston was really the only companionship he had.
“Don’t feel sad for me, Miss Mignon, please,” he said, his smile nearly breaking her heart. “I’ve had so many dogs and other animals over the centuries, only to lose them to death. That won’t be the case this time. In a way, it is a joyful feeling knowing how happy he’ll be with you.”
Emily nodded and fought hard to keep from tearing up. “You can visit him whenever you want,” she said.
“I can’t,” he said. “I need to be summoned by you.”
“Then I’ll summon you often. Every day. I promise,” she said.
“You don’t need to make any promises to me,” he said, somewhat stiffly. “I am in your service, after all.”
Emily made a face at that. “I’ll be summoning you every day. You can count on it.”
“Very well, Miss Mignon, that is your prerogative.”
There was a flash of smoke, and Winston lay on the floor before Emily. He appeared to be moping and his expression was one of misery, but as he sniffed and then looked up at Emily, that changed as he let out an excited yelp and pushed himself quickly to his feet. He nearly tripped as he raced over to Emily. Jack watched this solemnly before asking Emily to take good care of him.
“He’s a good soul,” the genie said, and then he once more disappeared in a burst of blue smoke.
Emily kept her word. It turned out Mr. Pish had a soft spot for English Bulldogs, or at least for Winston, so she was allowed to bring him to work with her, and he behaved well enough not to bring any attention to himself. In the evening whenever Emily was alone in the condo she’d summon the genie so that he could spend time with Winston. They wouldn’t say much other than Jack asking whether she was ready to make another wish or how she was finding her new home, but that was okay as she was increasingly finding herself more comfortable with him, and actually enjoying having him around. She would spend her evenings in the den reading manuscripts for work while Winston would either lay contentedly by her feet, or jump on Jack as he hovered in the air as if he were reclining on a sofa. Jack seemed particularly fond of the den, often browsing Professor Anderson’s extensive book collection, and occasionally commenting on the antique artifacts scattered around the room.