w00t! I got a great idea for a story over dinner today and I just finished it. Definitely different than the stories posted so far, but I had fun writing it. It made me laugh, and if your own story makes you laugh, that's a good sign. (On second thought, it should be a tragic story, but somehow it isn't.)
Old things look nice, feel comfortable, and are great conversation pieces.
That was the antique shop’s catchphrase. It was written in marker on a lined paper and taped up behind the window. It represented the only advertisement that Alden had invested in. He used the reasoning that the quality of his items would basically speak for themselves. (“Your inventory is more important than anything else!” his father would say, were he alive again) It was an aged philosophy that clashed with the oversaturated media and rampant consumerism of those times, but it fit well with an owner of an antique shop, naturally.
It was on a Saturday afternoon that the shipment came. Alden was at his home, organizing his book collection, reading through some of them, organizing some more, all while enjoying a good cup of tea. In this way, work and leisure became one; often Alden would pluck out a particularly old book and remember to bring it the shop come Monday.
So he did. It was a blue cloth-bound book entitled: “Of Genies and Their Trickery”.
“What a strange book.” thought Alden.
At the same time, there was a knock on the front door, which prompted Alden to run to it with the book still wedged between his long thin fingers.
A UPS man greeted him, or would have, if he hadn’t forced a signature sheet into Alden’s face and then hurriedly withdrew as if he wasn’t paid by the hour. Alden hauled in the brown box, and it took him a long time to rip open the tape and uncover the Styrofoam-covered contents.
He gasped. “This item is … priceless”
It occurred to him that he didn’t know who had sent him this gift.
It was a golden lamp. Something about it conjured up memories of centuries past, Arabian merchants, and European nobility. Deeply embroidered around the lid where the oil was poured, were symbols that only enhanced the feel of this particular antique. Lovely thing, it was. Alden reached a hand to pick it up, and the moment he touched the cool metal surface, there was a blast of wind and a blast of smoke
“Who?” coughed a disembodied voice. The smoke solidified into a torso and a tapering tail of translucent glitter.
“Who releases me from my 1000 year slumber? To whom shall I call ‘master’ and grant my powers? Who?”
Alden’s mouth was opening and closing like that of a dying fish.
“Three wishes, master, three wishes I grant thee!” said the booming voice.
At this familiar Genie offer, Alden finally eased up, though he was still quite shocked, naturally.
“You’ll give me three wishes?”
“Mmm hmm, three. And please, for the love of Sinbad, do not pull the old ‘I wish for a million wishes’ trick. I’m fed up with it. I believe they made a rule against it too.”
Alden nodded. He was a practical man, but above all, the shopkeeper believed himself a man of opportunity.
“I wish for—“
“Eh eh eh eh.” the Genie interrupted. “Hold your horses, or whatever form of locomotion you prefer. We haven’t even been introduced yet. It’s not polite to jump right into the wishes without even knowing your name.” The Genie’s smile was of crooked teeth, several of them rotten.
“Oh. Alden’s my name.” He hesitated. “Do you have a name?”
“Don’t be absurd. Of course I do, but you do look like you’re in a rush, so let’s move quickly. First wish?”
“I wish that I had one thousand dollars.”
The Genie snapped his fingers. “Done. Next wish?”
“But nothing happened!”
“Did you expect a wad of cash to fall from the sky? I’m not a show-off. You’ll find it in your bank account.”
Alden thought for a moment. “I wish I had one of those Ford Model T’s from 1926. Just like in those old movies.”
“Just like in those movies. Heh heh heh.” The Genie cackled before snapping his fingers.
“Last wish? Better make it good.”
This one has to count, thought Alden, I better do something about my shop. “I wish--” the Genie smiled again. “--my shop will have a great inventory for generations to come, and that the visitors will always be amazed by the collection.”
The Genie’s smile crooked its way into a frown, equally as terrifying. “That’s two wishes, good sir. Don’t try that sneaky compound sentence stuff on me.”
“Oh fine. I wish that visitors will be amazed by the great collection in my shop for generations to come!” Alden thought himself very clever. The Genie shook his head again.
“Define ‘generations’.” he said.
“Why? It just means a long time.” He later clarified: “A very long time.”
“Hmm. How many visitors. One? Two?”
“Hardly! I want there to be hundreds, hundreds of visitors. That would be very good business. So, can you make the wish come true now?”
“Yes.” The Genie’s smile returned, wider than ever. “Mmm hmm. It’s been nice serving you, Master Alden.” He snapped his fingers, and disappeared in a fit of rolling laughter.
Monday came, and Alden hopped outside to try out the Model T that he had wished for. It was beautifully recreated by the Genie, complete with the signature spoked tires and jutting headlights. “Priceless.” Alden muttered, feeling his way along the curves and accessories of this car fantasy come true.
He opened the door, stepped inside the velvet interior, and gripped the steering wheel. He was giddy with childish anticipation, until he noticed that there were no pedals. The gas pedal and the brake were both missing. Furthermore, the floor of the car was plywood. A number of typical things were missing, like a speedometer, and everything felt too shoddy and fake.
Alden threw open the door, and ran out. He thrust open the hood (which swung open far too easily.) and came close to fainting. There on a black box—there was nothing else where there should have been an engine—written in spray paint was: “Prop for ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ : Warner Bros. Inc.”
It was one of Alden’s favorite movies, and he had a useless prop. It had probably been stripped of its parts by changing hands, before it eventually became an empty car shell.
Alden cursed the Genie, and stomped back to the garage, only to find that his own car was missing.
“This can’t do at all.” He shouted at the Genie. “Give me back my car!”
His voice echoed in the neighborhood, but no Genie appeared.
Cursing vehemently, Alden began walking to the bank for money to buy a new car.
“1,000 dollars?” asked Alden in a voice that definitely wasn’t joy.
“No. You mean that there’s been 1000 dollars added to the old amount.”
“It’s just 1000.”
Alden shoved a hand through his thin brown hair. “15 grand doesn’t just disappear. I had 16,000 and just recently it should have been 17,000, but since that is obviously not the case, you understand my problem!” and as he excitedly said those last words, spittle flew out of his mouth and onto the employee.
She wiped her cheek with her right sleeve. Rachel was her name, and she was not usually an angry person.
“Either solve that problem by yourself, or not. For all I care, you can go to hell.”
Alden shivered. A memory of his wish flashed through his mind. He wished that he had 1000 dollars, and it became true. The Genie was disgustingly good at semantics.
In a shaky, sad voice, Alden said goodbye. Rachel wondered whether she should have been more tolerant to the fellow, but she was having a bad enough day without crazed idiots shouting in her face.
The shop is going to open late today, thought Alden. He was walking from the bank to the antique shop, a distance of four miles, along the noisy traffic. He thought about hitching a ride, but he refused the danger of embarrassment. He was an adult, and grown men such as he would walk the distance, without complaint.
Approaching the comfortable familiarity of the corner antique shop, Alden noticed that the sign was being taken down by two workers. One had a cigarette, and the other had a tattoo, so Alden drew the conclusion that they weren’t very pleasant people.
“Stop!” He yelled and ran to them. They stared at him with white eyes contrasting against dark skin.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
The older of the two replied in broken English, “Take down. New owner.”
“What? I am the owner! I think you have the wrong store, and the wrong person. This is my store.”
“No wrong. This right store. New owner. Sorry.”
And they went on dismantling the sign.
Alden noticed a much more reasonably dressed person writing on a clipboard on the side of the store.
“Hey. Please tell me what’s going on. I’m the owner of this store and…”
The man looked over his sunglasses, straightened his collar, and finished writing. Then, he set the clipboard on the hood of his car.
“I know that.”
“Well, you’re the old owner? Sorry. The check for the new supply shipment and the rent bounced. Wasn’t enough money in the account, and this company has been eyeing this lot for months now. One slip up, and--” he made a slitting motion across his throat.
“Well isn’t there any way I can refund some of the stuff and pay the rent?”
“Don’t know. Too late now, the deal’s already done. This place and the salon near it are being turned into a town museum. The inventory of the antique shop’s been acquired too, so I suppose they’ve got a good start.”
“You don’t think that…” Alden’s face grew red at the injustice that was being done.
“… that somebody can just waltz right in here and take over my shop?”
“All the paperwork’s final.”
“And there’s no way I can get an extension to raise enough money? This has got to be illegal.”
“There’s nothing I can do.”
“But, a museum? This is my stuff. Most of it is from my home. You can’t just--”
“They say it’ll be preserved better in a museum. People will enjoy it for generations to come. It really is a great collection buddy, and we’re thankful for your help in contributing, but it’s out of your hands now.”
He inserted the clipboard in a briefcase and went into his car. It was a nice car.
“Genius. You are a genius, not a Genie. You are a genius.”
“I know.” Rotten teeth and crooked teeth arranged themselves into a smile.
Two floating figures high in the clouds were watching a vision through a mist, which was spraying out of one Genie’s finger.
“Hey Bob, look. This poor chap’s smashing his shop’s windows. Hah. They’re trying to stop him. He looks pretty mad.”
“Yeah. I’ll bet.” Replied Bob the Genie proudly.
“Aww, can you hear him? He’s spitting out expletives at you. Genie? You never told him your name?”
“You know how lawyers can be once they have a name to work off of.”
“True. True. Man, first the car, then the money, and now this. Genius.”
“This guy was such an amateur wish-maker. 1000 dollars? I’ve created more in my sleep. I’m just glad to be out of that dusty old lamp.” said Bob the Genie.
“Yeah? It sure looked a lot comfier than mine. Blasted copper. Stuff gets in your mouth after a while.”
“And gold’s not as great as humans think. Shiny? Yeah. Comfy? No.”
Bob the Genie stifled a laugh, which turned out as a snort.
“Look! He’s trying to run away with an armful of his stuff. Oh. OH!”
In the misty image, the two workers had caught up to Alden and one had tackled him, sending various items bouncing into the road and under the traffic.
Bob’s friend patted him on the back, switched off the mist screen, and proclaimed loudly.
And they both laughed their way through the skies.