March, 2023 story


You want to hear a story to kill time while we wait?  Might as well.  We got nothing else to do.  

Okay. The story starts with a man walking on a beach, late in the afternoon an hour before sunset.  Where was the beach?  It really doesn’t matter as far as the rest of the story goes.  What was the man doing there?  Maybe he was getting in some exercise to build up his appetite for dinner or maybe he was just looking for shells or pretty beach glass or maybe he just wanted to set his mind at ease—I don’t know; he was just there.  What was his name?  I guess we could call him John if you like.  

So John—happy now?—was walking along the water’s edge, but not in the water, scuffing up sand as he went, when he spied a long barnacle incrusted green glass bottle, newly washed ashore.  How did he know it had just washed up?  Because it was still wet.  Oh. 

That’s been in the water a long time John thought as he stooped to picked it up, planning to pitch into a beach recycling container.  Huh, he observed, it’s still stoppered in spite of all the time it’s been in the sea, and with a bright gold stopper at that.  Could it really be gold, he wondered?  Why did he wonder that?  

Well he thought that it might be gold because gold doesn’t corrode in salt water.  So to go on with the story, Jim—Wait, wasn’t his name John?—oh yeah, thanks—John gave the stopper a little tug, but it was really stuck.  He didn’t want to break the bottle so he worked very carefully, giving the stopper little tugs and twists until finally he felt it start to turn and then it came loose and he held it in the palm of his left hand.  It’s pretty heavy—I bet it’s really gold he thought excitedly.  

John was so focused on the stopper that he didn’t see a gray mist rising from the bottle and beginning to form a shape in the air above him.  He was so startled when he finally did notice it that he almost dropped the bottle.  Instead he quickly set the bottle down in the sand and retreated ten feet away.  The mist solidified into a human shape, dressed in a flowing white robe like you see Arabs wear..  A genie?  And dressed in a robe?  The genie in ‘Aladdin’ didn’t wear a robe.  Yes, it was a genie and I realize that in “Aladdin,” the genie is dressed very differently but that’s just how Disney thought genies should look,  The one in this story  had a different tailor.  Humph.

You know what come next in these genie stories.  After stretching—after all it had been bottled up for many hundreds of years—the genie smiled at John..  Why had it been bottled up?  Was it a bad genie?  No, I don’t know why it had been bottled up.  It’s just part of the story.  Anyway, the genie bowed low, then smiled at John and said in a deep bass voice, “You have my eternal gratitude for freeing me from cruel confinement.  By the rules of genie-hood, I am allowed to grant you three wishes as a sincere token of my thanks.  There are only two stipulations.  First, all wishes granted are irrevocable.  Second, all wishes will be fulfilled literally.  And third, one of the wishes cannot be to force me back into the bottle or any other container.”  Wait, you said two stipulations earlier.  Did I say two stipulations?  Sorry, my mistake, I meant to say three.

Consider your choices carefully,” continued the genie, “For example you cannot simply wish for ‘untold wealth.’  You need to state an actual figure and in a specific currency or some other valuable commodity such as gold or rubies.  And after I have granted all your wishes, I will return to you and you must say, ‘Now I free you.’”

Did you go to genie law school? John asked while thinking, this is a really weird dream. Wonder if  I’ll remember it when I wake up.

As if it could read his mind, the genie said, “This is not a dream.  Any wish you make will have real results or consequences.  So take your time to decide because this is really happening.”

Now John was an idealist and so he sat down in the sand and began to think about what he could wish for, if indeed this was real, that would do the most good for the most people. 

Finally he said, “My first wish is for all of mankind, all humans in the world, from this day forward, to never again make war or any other conflict against each other.”

“I shall grant your wish,” said the genie.  “And I admire your idealism, but wishing for a ton of gold would be easier for me to fulfill..”

“My second wish,” said John, ignoring the genie’s comment, “Is that mankind stop polluting the planet so that the warming of our planet will be reversed.”

“That too I can grant,” said the genie.

“And my third wish is that the first two wishes shall be completed during my lifetime which will be the usual human one of seventy to one hundred years.”

“That too shall be granted,” said the genie.  “You also must have gone to law school.”

“When will you start?” asked John.

“Immediately,” said the genie.  “But it may take some time at first.  Just go about your life and say nothing to anyone about this.  I will appear before you when your first two wishes are completed.”

John put the gold stopper into a shorts pocket and dropped the bottle into a recycling bin on his way home.  Kind of a nothing start to your story.  Where’s the action?   Wait, I’ll get there.

John waited impatiently thinking that some event would soon appear in the news,  But there was nothing for a month.  

The first news report on CNN was that a severe pneumonic illness had appeared in the Australian  Outback, apparently with a 100% mortality rate.  But then it spread with such rapidity that there was no time to even characterize the causative agent because medical personal and laboratory workers who were exposed to it immediately died.  The swirling global wind currents carried the agent—be it viral or bacterial—everywhere, even to the most remote islands and Polar regions.  Within two months, earth had been de-peopled with the sole exception of John.  WTF! Where the hell did that come from?

You wanted action so here it is.  Huh!  Wait, there’s more.  With the people gone, factories stopped, there were no more cars, the burning of fossil fuels ended, there was no more plastic pollution.  And levels of carbon dioxide and methane began to fall and the atmosphere began to clear.  Of course there were a few nuclear plants that melted down, but in the long view, those accidents too would heal.

As John wandered in a daze as the sole human survivor, a lone Adam with no Eve, the genie appeared before him again.  “Your three wishes have been delivered, and now you must release me.”

“But I didn’t want them to be granted like this,” John wailed, falling to his knees.  “Please.  Can’t I take them back?”

“I told you they would be irrevocable,” said the genie.

“But by killing everybody?”

“You know the history of mankind.  There was always war happening somewhere on the planet.  This was the only way to insure that man would never again make war against himself, which is what your wish stated.  And without man, the pollution stopped.  I have faithfully carried out your wishes.  Now you must release me.”

“Go, just go.  You’ve done enough.  You are free, but please kill me too before you go.”

“Sorry, you were allowed just three wishes,” and with that the genie disappeared into a wisp of smoke.  And that’s it?  That’s it?  Everybody dead?  What a shitty ending. 

“You wanted a happier ending than peace on earth?”