Tuesday, August 14, 2007

genie in the lamp

A vacation on the beach at Sandy Heel was a guaranteed winner. The site of a 1632 maritime accident, the beach was a regular host to all manner of historical relics and even valuables lost in the distant past. The first time Jane visited the beach was for her job, reporting on the disaster and the discovery of Spanish galleons local divers had salvaged after a big storm. She had fallen in love with the place at once, safely removed as it was from the resorts, and visited every year if she could.
This summer she was taking a break from the newsroom pressures with her friends Jolie and Jackie. As they were headed down to the beach one morning, arms filled with their beachgoing equipment, Jackie tripped over a brass object just poking out of the sand.
"Hey gals, come look at this," she said, and they gathered around to see an ancient brass oil lamp. Sand clung to its every surface, but although it was marked with streaks of white salt, the lamp remarkably was not corroded by the salt water.
"It looks like Alladin's lamp," Jackie said with a laugh. Then, taken with the joke, she added, "Let's rub it and see if a genie comes out and gives us wishes."

The trio burst into laughter, but once Jackie started rubbing the lamp and smoke began to rise from the mouth of the lamp, Jolie and Jane scrambled to get their hands on the lamp and rub it as vigorously as they could. As they watched, astonished, the smoked took shape and solidified, and became a young man in clothing that looked like it came from an aged copy of "Arabian Nights." Large gold rings dangled from his ears, a loose silk shirt was draped over his shoulders and arms, and he looked at them in amusement from atop a hooked nose and a neatly trimmed vandyke.

"Since three of you together rubbed my lamp," the genie said, "I will give you each one wish."

"Well," said Jolie, thinking of the complex polymer she had been working on for 3M, one that would have the proportional strength and flexibility of a spider's web. "I'd like to be really smart."

The genie nodded, and before the others' eyes, Jolie's hair darkened and she became a brunette. The light twinkled faded from her eyes, and was replaced at once by a somber, thoughtful look that soon birthed a gasp of realization as the elusive nature of the polymer became suddenly clear.

"And what is your wish, then?" the genie asked Jackie.

Jackie wasn't an investigative reporter like Jane, and she wasn't a research scientist like Jolie. A single mother, she had been unable to finish college, and had been supporting herself and her two children as the manager at a small electronics boutique. She would never admit it, but she had always been envious of the careers her friends had.
"I'd like to be even smarter than she is," she said, pointing a jealous finger at Jolie.

As her friends watched, Jackie's blue eyes went dark, and her hair turned dark brown. The ball rolled itself together around a pencil that appeared from nowhere, and glasses materialized on her face, which flowed forward until she looked every bit the mousy librarian. The transformation was shocking to seem but Jackie didn't mind; she was contemplating the Middle East crisis and applying her new smarts to discovering a meaningful diplomatic situation to bring peace to the region.

Jane looked at her friends. Until then, they had been devastatingly attractive women like her, able to get any man they wanted. They were still her friends, that hadn't changed, but she realized that she wasn't prepared to give up her youthful beauty to advance her career. For that matter, Jane already considered herself fairly intelligent, and to the genie, becoming more intelligent meant being less blonde. Would it work in reverse? What could it hurt to find out?
"I want to be even dumber than I am now," she said.

And so the genie changed her into a man.

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