[Paul/sushi 2nd place]
Here is Magic Wish Contest entry three.
THE SMALLEST WISH
The man turned slowly, gazing across the empty desert. Flowers bloomed there, and small creatures darted between the scraggly creosote bushes.
Behind him, in a tight and uncomfortable clump, stood a group of well-dressed men. The man thought of them as coworkers, though they would never regard themselves as such. None of them perceived the longing in his eyes.
At last the man stirred, and asked his companions to wait, while he walked ahead and stretched his legs a little.
He walked uphill, towards a jumble of reddish sandstone cliffs. A slight wind tossed his straight, brown hair. White dust soon coated his leather hiking boots, but he didnt really mind. Before long, there was no one else in sight.
Something clinked underfoot. Looking down, he saw a flash of bronze colored metal just sticking out from the rocky hillside. Hed inadvertently kicked it, exposing the tip of a smooth, sharply curved object.
Curious, he bent and tugged, and a small lamp came loose from the soil with a jerk. It looked like something from the fairy tales of his youth.
On a whim he rubbed it, and to his utter astonishment, a puff of smoke emerged, whirled, and coalesced into a genie.
The genie stood about seven feet tall, and wore all the necessary accouterments: turban, beard, deep tan, colorful robe, pointed slippers.
Hey, watch where youre going, okay? the genie said. A few more kicks like that and my lamp is gonna get seriously dented.
Sorry, the man replied. I didnt see you. I was looking up at these beautiful desert hills.
The genie sighed. I know, it always happens like this. Shall I call you Master?
The man decided to play along. He was quite familiar with Virtual Reality, and he figured this couldnt be much different.
Bill will do fine. This is a democracy around here, you know.
Then Bill it is. I know the situation, believe me. I havent been waiting in my lamp for all that long. So anyway, what is your wish?
My wish? As in singular? Dont I get three?
Look, its kinda complicated. The genie peered upwards. Moon phases, cosmic energy vortices; itd take too long to explain. Lets just say that Im having a bad day out here.
Okay, how about I wish for more wishes.
The genie glared, and the man smiled ruefully, hoping to deflect a difficult situation.
The genie grinned back. My friend, you have no idea how old that line is. And no, you cant. Its all in the rules.
You have rules?
In reply the genie reached into the tiny lamp, and somehow extracted a large, parchment scroll. It was covered with densely-written Arabic script.
See here? the genie said, pointing. And before you ask, no I cant bring about world peace, or convert you into another genie.
So the wish has to be more personal. Hmm . . .
As the man considered this he began to walk, the genie at his side. They reached the crest of the trail, and Las Vegas came into view, filling the wide valley beneath them.
The genie whistled. Looks like you mortals have really been busy down there! The place wasnt one tenth that size back in the seventies.
So its been, what, twenty years since youve been out of that lamp?
Yeah, and that lucky fella did get three full wishes. The genie squinted at the city. I see that he owns several of those impressive casinos down there. Im glad to know hes been careful with his money.
Good for him, the man commented.
And your wish? the genie prompted. Sorry, but you, ah, sort of interrupted something. His gaze drifted to the lamp.
The man smiled and shook his head. I wouldnt dream of keeping you from . . . I wont even ask what. You know what I want? A cabin. A little wooden cabin, like the old time prospectors had, up on that hill.
He pointed to a mountain that loomed above them, to the north. Make it so I have all the permits and stuff, and that people wont usually see the trail that goes to it, not unless they know where to look. I dont want lots of people wandering in. Put in a nice modern kitchen for my wife, and, oh, a level place out back, big enough land a helicopter.
The genie couldnt quite hide his surprise. Thats it? Youre sure?
The genie pronounced an incantation, waved his arms, and a cabin appeared in the distance. He handed the man a manila envelope. All your paperwork is in here. I had to learn to handle those bureaucracies when I ended up in this country, about a century ago.
Thanks, the man said sincerely.
And to you, the genie replied. No dithering. I like that in a man. He began to dissolve. Swirling, colorful mist poured into the lamp.
Then, just before he vanished entirely, the genies head popped back out. I gotta know, he said. Everybody else wishes for the big stuff. High stakes poker winnings, the big jackpots, maybe winning the Irish Sweepstakes. For you, this being 1999, the Megabucks jackpot or the Powerball lottery. What gives?
The man took a business card from his wallet and offered it.
A hand slipped out from the lamp and took it. Then, with a final wave, the genie vanished within. The lamp trembled, and somehow burrowed itself back into the desert soil.
Inside his palatial lamp, the genie read the card: BILL GATES, FOUNDER, MICROSOFT, INC.
The richest man in the world grinned and began his trek back down the hill.