Only One Wish

Lamp with a Genie?Arif placed the lamp back on the shelf in its designated spot, then reached for the one next to it. Five more to tend to tonight.

Only one wish. That was all he needed.

Things had not been the same since the big genie uprising. Prior to that time, genies had been perpetual servants, tending to household needs, living in confinement, and required to grant their masters three wishes. A few had been set free, and those still enslaved managed to join with them in a planned rebellion that threw the kingdoms into disarray. The Multi-Authority Genie International Committee (MAGIC), the group responsible for genie oversight and regulation, had been compelled to change the provisions of the genies’ lives.

Now the genies only had to grant their masters one wish. Because no one would ever use his single wish to grant a genie freedom, it was decided that after granting the wish, the genie would receive ten years of independence. Then he would return to his enslavement until he had a new master and, therefore, a new wish to grant.

Almost every genie then in captivity had already granted his master the required three wishes, so they were all eligible for those ten years of freedom. That would have been chaos, however; so when they put in the new rules, MAGIC determined that the genies’ free years were to be parceled out over the next decade on a staggered schedule.

The trade in genie containers took off, and Arif was a steady customer. Every extra hallalah he got went to his obsession. He bought lamps, bottles, kettles, and every type of enclosed household item. One by one, he added them to his shelves.

Some people sold their genie containers with the genie still inside, awaiting his turn at freedom. That made sense–the sellers could prove the authenticity of their claim, and the buyers would have household servants until the genie left for his ten years. But such containers were ridiculously expensive–a guaranteed wish!–and well beyond Arif’s means. Instead, he purchased containers that were alleged to be homes of genies already enjoying their decade of freedom.

Arif knew that most of the claims had to be false, and the containers he was buying would always be empty and worthless. But he hung onto the hope that at least one of the sellers had been honest, and he would one day have a genie and a wish.

One wish.

Even the wishes weren’t the same. True love and world peace had always been impossible wishes, but MAGIC had put in many more restrictions. Particularly, nothing was guaranteed to endure.

Masters could no longer ask for perpetual wealth, for example. They could get a lump sum (and there was a limit on the amount now), but they would have to spend prudently and invest soundly to make it last for their lifetimes. How many would be able to do that?

One could ask for a position of power, but the wisher had to maintain it, which likely meant giving bribes and favors to keep people loyal, and living with a constant fear of being disposed by those who weren’t.

It wasn’t enough, Arif realized, to have a wish. The wish had to be made carefully. As he went about his life, the matter of the wish lingered in his mind. He read widely so he could make a better decision.

Once the first ten years passed, Arif spent time every day caressing and opening each of his lamps and kettles and bottles, hoping that a genie would appear. It was in the thirteenth year after the uprising that his ritual produced results. He absentmindedly rubbed an old bottle of dried ink. There was a loud poof, an explosion of smoke, and a genie stood peering down at him, arms folded. Arif shouted, dropped the bottle, and staggered back.

Arif had pictured a grim, even hostile, entity. Instead, the genie smiled briefly at Arif, then took a slow look around, nodding his head. Finally, his gaze settled on Arif, and he spoke.

“Ah, this is the good life. I barely got the bottle tidied up after returning, and here you summon me already. I’ll grant you a wish, and then I’ll have another ten years of freedom. The uprising really changed our lives. So, Master, what is your wish?”

“I wish . . .,” Arif swallowed hard. Was he sure about this? He had spent so much time thinking about what his wish should be. He had found the answer in an old story from another culture, a story about a man named Jedidiah who made a request of another of great power. It was the only answer.

Only with this wish could he gain wealth, and not squander it through foolish spending or careless investing.

Only with this wish could he have power, and not have it so corrupt him that he needed to grant favors to curry loyalty, or live in constant fear of a rebellion against him.

Only with this wish could he be live with little conflict and be an influence for peace.

Only with this wish could he truly love, choosing always what was the very best for the other person.

“If you need a few days,” said the genie, “that’s fine. I can stay for a while. Just don’t take too long.”

“No, I know what I need.” Arif looked at the genie and said, very firmly, “I wish for great wisdom.”

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AUTHOR’S NOTES:

Read about Jedidiah’s request in II Chronicles 1:8-12.

Arif is an Arabic boy’s name meaning “knowing.”

Download a PDF file of this story by right-clicking here and selecting “Save target as.”

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