"That's right," the genie tells me. "One problem that you would like to fix."
"So, what if not having a million dollars is my problem? Then you'll give me a million dollars like I asked?"
He turns toward me, regarding me and it's like I'm seeing into a mirror. Short, dark hair - except his has no grey in it, coffee brown eyes that swallow up the pupil. His olive skin seems to to reflect the light as if he shimmers so slight that it seems like your glasses have a spot on them wherever he stands but otherwise he looks just like a normal man. A normal man wearing a cream colored robe.
"That's not a problem."
"So you'll do it?" I ask.
"No. Not having a million dollars is not a problem. It has to be a real problem," he states in a manner that's clearly bored, uninterested.
"But I do need money. I work too hard."
"You don't look like you're working too hard right now," and it's the first time I've seen him smirk and it makes me think that he is toying with me like I used to place a stick in the middle of a line of ants.
"Yeah, well I was working until I found your lamp!" I felt the sweat dripping down the back of my arms from my armpits, the warehouse really felt like an oven on days like today.
He glances away, rifling though the items on the nearest shelf, curiousity overtaking him as he rips into a bag of pretzels.
"Hey, don't eat that! I've got to pack them up to ship them out!"
"Well, that sounds like a problem. Do you want me to fix it?"
"Yeah, I mean no! I want you to stop but that's not my wish." I grab the bag from him.
"Then I guess I don't have to stop." He rips the bag back from me and grabs another handful of pretzels, crunching so loudly I start to get irritated.
"You chew so loud! Good god, what are you eating? Glass?"
He chuckles, "I don't know what you call these things but they are quite good."
The heat from the warehouse and the strain of working all day felt heavy on me as I scowled at him eating up the product. "So what do you actually fix? Give me an example." I crossed my arms and leaned up against the boxes I had stacked on the dolly.
He began talking with his mouth full, pretzels spilling everywhere. "One man in Arabia needed a new camel because his had a broken leg, I gave him a new one. Another man in China said his wife talked too much, she lost her ability to speak. I fixed a man's roof, I gave a woman a baby, I fixed a fisherman's boat in Thailand." He waves his hand in a twirling motion to suggest the list continues.
"Gave a woman a baby?"
"Yes, she couldn't have kids and I gave her the baby she wanted."
"So you can make a baby but you can't make a million dollars appear? I mean, I'm not even being greedy, a million dollars is.."
He laughs again interrupting me, "I didn't make the baby; I gave her a baby," and he raises his eyebrows and looks at me in a way that suggests irritation.
"Gave it to her from where?"
"Some people have too many, so I just took one." He laughs again, plops another pretzel in his mouth and chews loudly, watching me as he chews, lips not even touching.
"You stole a baby!" I glance around because I shouted much too loud and by a glance at my watch I realize I have to get this last load onto the truck before it ships out.
He shrugs his shoulders. "Isn't there something to drink? I'm thirsty from all that time in the lamp, I love new taste experiences!"
"So, you don't grant wishes, you steal babies and you chew real annoying?"
He loses the smile. "Then make your decision and be rid of me." He continues muttering in a language that I cannot place but the body language speaks for itself- brows low to his eyes, mouth taut, shoulders turned away, the fist holding the pretzel bag with knuckles white.
"Uh. A problem, a problem..." What do I need?
"Jerry?" I hear my name being called by Mike my boss.
"Yeah," I call back and I can hear footsteps coming closer.
"Where the hell are those boxes you went to get? We're trying to load this up."
I move closer to the genie and whisper, "Can you get in your lamp? I don't want him to see you."
"Why?" he glares at me. "Are you afraid I'm going to fix his problem too? Selfish humans... always with their insistance on..."and he switches back to that language again.
"In the lamp!"
"What in the hell?" and Mike is staring straight at us, his big shiny head gleaming on us like a spotlight. "Who is this guy and why is eating all the product? Did you let him in here?"
The genie tilts the bag to shake the crumbles into his mouth and pretzels fall to the ground all around our feet.
"Mike, look, he's a genie and I found him in this lamp here," I grab the lamp and show it to Mike who is still furious at the mess and the fact that I'm not done with my work.
"I don't care who he is! We have to get this truck out and you're sitting here, eating with this louse."
"He solves problems, Mike."
"Then solve this problem right quick."
The swishing sound is immense as it rushes past my ears and causes my eyes to squint. Dust swirls around us with bits of pretzel hitting me in the face. The genie leans back to be taken up into what appears to be a dust devil with the air force so strong that I crouch down to the concrete, leaning back against the shelving, looking for something to grab so I don't get swept up. Mike has thrown himself face down on the ground covering his ears with his hands, pretzels bouncing off his bald head and then floating up into the air.
Sheilding my eyes I glance up to see the genie staring at me as he smirks punches a hole in the roof and lifts his arms up to direct the cyclone up through the fresh new skylight.
He winks at me and shouts down at us, "As you wish." The wind pressure increases, I jam my eyes close and then the wind stops. I look up to see the sun filtering down on the floor a few feet away from me and I glance up to the sky to see that the genie is gone.
Mike peeks up from the ground.
All the pretzels on the floor are gone, including the boxes I had just loaded on the dolly. The lamp is gone even though I never got to make a wish.
"You're fired," says a shaky Mike as he stands up unsteadily.
I look around and scratch my head as Mike walks away.
After gathering my things to leave the warehouse for good, I step outside to feel the sun baking off the asphalt. The sky, a clear blue gem, shows no sign of the genie and I can't believe my day. Just as I reach out to open my car door, an intense gush of wind ruffles my hair and swirls around my body just like from before.
The faintest sound floats out of the whirl almost like the genie's whisper, "Problem fixed," it sighs and then the wind whips westward.