“My business has gone bust, I’m going to lose everything I own, I might go to prison for fraud, and my wife has left me.” I told the little man I had just met. “Apart from that everything’s fine!”
The small man who had come up to talk to me didn’t smile. Indeed, he didn’t seem to have much of a sense of humour, but I was grateful for his company as I steadily got more and more drunk.
I had been sitting outside alone at a table in the pub’s beer garden, when suddenly in the sky above me there was a flash of light and the man had suddenly appeared beside me. He had landed on the ground on all fours, then he stood up and stretched himself, sitting down beside me at the table. He was dressed in a track suit, as if he’d been out jogging, and he was surrounded by a strange silvery light.
“Hello there. My name’s Gene. Gene Genie. I’ve been sent to talk to you, because we’ve heard you’re in trouble.”
“Who’s ‘We’?” I asked.
“I’m not supposed to talk about head office, they don’t like it. All that matter to you is that I am an officially empowered Genie, and I have the power to grant you one wish. It seems that after all the trouble you’ve had in life you could do with some good luck.”
“I could indeed. A week ago I was running my own successful home and office cleaning company. Unknown to me, my manager was ripping people off and stealing property in the homes and offices we worked in. He was arrested and as a result my company went bust and I lost everything. When my wife found out we were bankrupt, she left me, and if the police think that I’ve been aware of the criminality I could even be facing criminal charges myself. And so, Mr Genie,” I told my new friend, laughing at the absurdity of our conversation, “you’re right. I could certainly do with some luck for a change.”
“Right you are then,” Gene replied. “I’ll hang around waiting on your call. You’ve got until midnight tomorrow night to decide what one wish you want us to grant you. Don’t waste it now. Think about it carefully.”
“I don’t understand,” I told him, feeling drunk and wondering what kind of insane world I was entering. “You keep saying ‘We’.”
“I’m a genie,” Gene said. “There are a lot of us genies around, and we’re organised by a higher power.” He regarded me seriously, frowning with the effort of trying to explain. “You see it’s a fact that nothing that happens down here, ever goes unnoticed, up there.” He pointed up into the sky. “Every so often we see awful injustices going on and find that people who are basically nice kind folk like you have the most terrible bad luck through no fault of their own. So we are sent down to help them out of trouble. You’ve heard of the genie in the lamp, that granted three wishes? Well that’s just a legend, but it is based on that fact that us genies come and go all the time, granting people’s wishes wherever we can. The proviso is that we only ever get sent to help good, kind, unselfish people, so that guarantees our powers won’t be abused by greedy nasty types. The trouble is, in my organisation, we can only grant you the one wish, and we always advise people to think very carefully about what to wish for.”
He left soon afterwards and I wondered if I had been so drunk that I had completely imagined the silvery flash as he ran off, or indeed all of this crazy dream-like scenario.
Yet, in my hand was a piece of paper with a mobile phone number on it, and fresh in my ears was his entreaty to “Phone me as soon as you’ve decided, but I repeat, think very carefully about what you wish for, because we can only grant the one wish.”
The following morning I was so wrapped up in misery that I barely had time to think about my bizarre drunken experience. However, my interview with the police wasn’t quite as bad as I had feared, so it looked as if I wouldn’t be facing criminal charges. However my accountant had informed me that we had lost virtually all our contracts, and that the bank lending facility had been suspended, and he could see now way to avoid us declaring bankruptcy of the company.
Obviously the man I had met at the pub, ‘the ‘Genie’, was clearly some kind of nutcase, but for a moment I indulged in the pleasant fantasy that he really was some kind of omniscient being, who could help me. What would I wish for in a dream world, I wondered idly? For time to go backwards, so that I could have sorted out the companies problems before they became public? Impossible. To somehow acquire a huge amount of money, so that I could pay off all the debts and wind up the company with my savings intact? Umm, perhaps.
What a pity that the man I’d met had been a harmless crank. Why was I even thinking about the words of a crackpot?
That afternoon I had a stupid accident, falling downstairs. I’d cracked my head, blood was pouring everywhere, so I decided to go along to the hospital A and E department.
The wait was interminable, and now that I’d held a bloody towel to my forehead for an hour, I decided to give up and go home and hope for the best. As I was going down the corridor I met a woman beside the coffee machine. She was crying as her hands trembled while she fumbled with coins to put in the machine.
As I helped her she couldn’t contain her upset, and the words came pouring out as she wept. She was there with her husband, because their little girl had been struck down by some awful disease (I can’t remember the name of it) and was currently in the intensive car e ward.
She was in such a state, and her hands were shaking so much, that she didn’t object when I carried the cups of coffee for her and accompanied her in the lift.
The silence and darkness of the intensive care ward was intense, the nurses walking about seriously and quietly. I joined the lady and her husband, sitting at the foot of their child’s bed. The poor little girl appeared to be about three years old, and she lay there, tubes and pipes connected to her little body, while the parents held hands, looking on. The love and sadness and fear they projected was almost palpable. Tears came to my eyes.
“They tell us she’s got a chance,” the husband told me in a shaky voice. “The next couple of hours are crucial. They’re doing everything they can, all we can do is….” He broke down in tears, unable to continue what he was saying.
Without another word, I touched them both gently on the shoulder and left, nipping downstairs quickly, not wanting to intruded on their grief.
I dialled the number on my mobile and waited, hoping against hope he would answer, wondering if I really was going mad, but hoping against hope for a miracle.
“Is that Gene?” I asked when I got though.
“Yes. Is that Roger?”
“Yes. Look I’ve decided what to wish for. Does it have to be for me, or can it be for someone else?”
“Your wish is for anything you want, for anyone you like.”
After I told him, he said he’d put it through accounts immediately, and even though he couldn’t usually guarantee success, in this particular case, he assured me that my wish would come true right away.
When I went up the stairs, I passed a window. In the night sky I saw a star shining brightly there, just for a fraction of a second, as if it was pausing for some reason. And then it was gone.
When I arrived back at the intensive care unit I saw the nurses smiling as they spoke to the parents of the child, and the little girl herself awake and sitting up, her mum’s arm around her shoulders.
The husband embraced me warmly, overwhelmed by his emotion. “It’s strange,” he said, “but the moment I set eyes on you I had the feeling that things were going to be okay. Soon as I saw your face I knew you’d bring us luck.”
“No need to thank me,” I told him. “Just thank your lucky star.”
(image by Eric Perlin from Pixabay)