By Max Bowen
Long ago, a man wandered the beach. He was a regular person, not rich, yet not poor. He had a regular life, not very exciting, yet there were times when it qualified as interesting. He was not extremely attractive, yet some women found him pleasant to look at. All in all, his life was plain and ordinary.
One day, while walking this same beach he had walked many times before, the man stumbled upon an old oil lamp. He picked it up, and, rubbing the grime it had accrued many days at sea, was astonished to see a genie spring forth. He was a powerfully-built creature, dressed in the finest silken robes of blue, red and purple, with a thin black beard and moustache, which gave one the impression he was a member of a royal family. He was bald, save for a black ponytail that extended down to his waste.
The man dropped to his knees, convinced he had seen the end of his days. But the genie merely laughed. "Rise, my son, rise. You have nothing to fear from me. For you have set me free, and as a reward, I will grant you three wishes."
The man slowly rose to his feet, not quite believing what he was hearing. "Three wishes?" he asked the genie, who nodded. "And can I ask for anything?" to which the genie nodded again.
The man paced back and forth frantically, trying to come up with good wishes and not waste this wondrous opportunity. "I'm not sure what to wish for," he said softly, for he feared such indecisiveness would insult the powerful demigod.
The genie laughed again. "You don't have to use them all at once, my son," he said.
The man brightened at this. "All right, I'll use one now, and come back when I think of the others. My first wish is for wealth."
The genie snapped his fingers, and before the man rose a pile of money several feet high. He laughed with joy and danced around the pile, which kept growing until it towered thirty feet above the man.
But things soon took a turn for the worse. A day after the man had deposited the money into several savings accounts, the FBI showed up. It seemed there had been a theft from the U.S. Mint, and several million dollars had been stolen, the same amount that had just been deposited in the man's many accounts. He claimed no knowledge of the theft, that his fortune had come from his late uncle Eric after his untimely demise a week ago. The investigators left, telling the man they would be looking into the matter.
As he shut the door, the genie appeared before him. "Well, how does it feel to be rich?" he asked, sipping from one of the man's beers.
"Rich?" the man asked. "You stole that money!"
The genie looked surprised. "Well where did you expect me to get it? Just wave my hands and make it out of thin air?"
"But I could go to jail!"
"That's hardly my problem, now is it? So, what would you like for your second wish?"
"My second wish? I need a way out of this," said the man, more to himself than to the genie, who was impatiently tapping his fingers against the wall. "That's it! Make me look like someone else, so I can get away with this money and start a new life. But not just anyone. I want to be handsome with a body that will drive women wild."
"As you wish," said the genie, clapping his hands together.
And so the man was transformed into a new, more handsome figure. He had wavy blond hair, and skin so tanned it looked like bronze. His body was solid, chiseled muscle, the kind professional athletes would pay anything to get. His brilliantly white teeth sparkled in the sun and his arresting blue eyes could entrance any female.
Unfortunately, this new paragon of humanity happened to look exactly like one of the most notorious drug dealers in Latin America, known as "El Guapo Diablo," for his unmatched good looks. However, the man did not know who he looked like, so he was understandably surprised when he was arrested after attempting to withdraw the money from his accounts, claiming he was his own brother.
Sitting in a jail cell, the man looked over to see the genie, decked out in a pinstripe prison uniform. The man, who was now facing multiple life sentences for drug trafficking, murder and extortion, made a grab for the genie, but his fingers met only empty air as the cunning trickster vanished only to reappear a moment later, this time humming a sad tune on a harmonica.
"A drug dealer!" the man shouted, although to anyone else he was screaming at nothing. "You turned me into a drug dealer. I might get the death penalty, and it's all because of you!"
The genie stopped playing his melancholy music and looked over at the man. "Maybe you should have been more specific," he said, as if the man was to blame for this predicament. "You said you wanted a body that would drive the women wild. This man happens to be the best looking of your species. So, how about that third wish?"
"Third wish? Third wish? I...I don't know what to do. My life is over. First the FBI thinks I stole millions of dollars from the U.S. Mint, and now this. And it's all your fault!" he said, pointing at the genie.
"My fault? My fault? I'm not the one who wished for money and didn't think there would be consequences. I'm a genie, not Rumple-freaking-stiltskin, for crying out loud! You mortals, always thinking a genie can just wave his hands and out of thin air comes their heart's desire. Sorry pal, but miracles don't come with no strings attached. Now how about you make your third wish so I can go home."
"My third wish? I just wish none of this had ever happened," the man said, his face, which looked like it had been carved by angles, in his soft, supple hands.
Suddenly he looked up, the full import of his words hitting him. He screamed and dove for the genie as the immortal wish-granter smiled and winked. In a flash, the man, the jail cell, and Earth itself vanished, leaving only empty space. As if it had never been there.