“And I-uh-I will all-ways love yooo-ooo-oou!” I belt out, then pause to strike a pose as the thrilling, albeit low-quality notes continue bravely on through the overhead speaker.
“Sharon, report to customer service. Customer waiting,” rudely cuts off the rest of Whitney’s (muted) boisterous tones.
I frown, and try to remember what I was doing on this aisle, before grabbing a random shelf item to sing into. I appear to be in the Clearance section. I am still holding my makeshift microphone.
“What the -” I think to myself, looking more carefully at my hand. It seems to be a tube full of glittering solution. I thought it was Princess-themed body lotion for girls or something, but now I see impossible phenomena: swirls of color float sporadically inside the bottle like miniature Northern Lights.
“Wow,” I breathe, a bit mesmerized.
“Dab. Da babba!” My infant son demands, smacking at the bottle awkwardly with his wet hands and breaking my concentration.
I smile at him. “Sorry, bub. We’re going now.” I notice I’ve picked up the crazy parent tendency to talk to my child, even though I am certain he doesn’t know what I say. I shrug. Maybe, I hope he does. Maybe I’m really just telling myself.
Absently, I allow him to pull the sparkle tube into his hands and I push the cart down the aisle.
“Squeee!” He excitedly screams, shaking his new toy. He tries to eat it.
“Now, Sam,” I begin, about to lecture a ten-month-old on the dangers of foreign paint.
“May I help you?” A man asks. I look up and see an oddly-dressed store associate. He looks as though he took his blue uniform vest home and embellished it with tassels at the corners. In fact, dangling fringe seem to be his thing; since there are also tassels on his slippers and his hat, and he sports a goatee.
“Whatever,” I think to myself. “They are scrambling for employees right now.” I smile at the strange man. Aloud, I answer, “No, thanks.”
He bows. “I was speaking to the Young Master,” Odd Associate clarifies, gesturing toward my son. “I didn’t understand his request.”
“Huh?” I ask, my face showing confusion. Perhaps this associate wasn’t all there. I mentally plan an exit strategy.
“Ah,” Odd One says. “I forgot to introduce myself.” He straightens up, smooths down his clothes and announces, “I am Amijd, Genie of Akmand. I am here,” he bows again, “to grant your wishes.”
If my face showed some concern with the confusion at first, I am certain concern -or, more accurately, alarm- is all I express now. I begin backing towards the other end of the aisle.
Amijd looks surprised. “I did try,” he hastily adds. He reaches behind him and pulls out a squeegee. I stop, and stare at it, and him.
He sees the look, and explains, “Young Master asked for a ‘squeee!'” Amijd looks apologetic. Sam gets excited. “Squeeee!” Sam squeals again, dropping the effervescent container and reaching slobbery hands out for the window tool instead.
Amijd steps forward a bit in reflex of the falling bottle, but it lands harmlessly next to Sam in the cart basket. Amijd appears relieved, and he instead places the squeegee into Sam’s hands.
I look at the overly-friendly Middle-Eastern man, standing expectantly near us and smiling. I look at Sam, trying to eat the corners of a black plastic sponge. I look at the swirling colors of the dropped toy.
Still eyeing “The Genie of Akmand,” I carefully pick up the bottle and wipe it off on my jeans. Amijd, if possible, looks even happier. He bows to me. “What wish do you command?” He asks.
“Well,” I begin. If there is any truth to this wish thing, it seems worth it to try. I look around the store, at the merchandise in my cart, and at Sam. “Well, how about, ‘I wish to have all of my purchases paid for today?'”
Amijd’s face clouds in concentration, then he waves his hands and says, “Done!” He looks hopeful. I look down at my basket. Nothing seems to have changed.
“Um. Okay,” I say. I decide to go to the checkouts, in case something looks different there. I turn and walk that way. The genie follows, his slippers softly shuffling across the waxed titles.
We reach the checkout, not without some odd looks from other shoppers. The checker seems unimpressed, though I’m sure she’s seen some odd getups working here. She scans my items in a bored manner. “That’ll be $65.83,” she says, looking out the window.
I glare at Amijd, who changes his pleased look for concern. I pull out my credit card and slide it through the machine. “I even had to pay for that squeegee,” I tell myself.
“Have a good day,” Checker automatically intones, as she hands me my receipt and starts scanning the next person’s items.
I gather up my bags and start walking to the doors. Amijd skips right along.
Once outside, I stop. I look at him. “What the heck?” I ask. “I still had to pay for everything -even Sam’s ‘wish’ you gave him!”
The genie is surprised. “I granted that everything was paid for,” he defends. I think about that. He is technically right. I groan. I didn’t want this kind of wishing, the kind where you might get dropped in an ocean if you don’t specify where you want to be when given a long-lost treasure.
“That’s not what I expected,” I tell the smiling tassel man. He looks thoughtful for a bit, then says, “Ah. I will try harder. But,” he adds, “I may only grant you two more wishes.”
“Of course,” I think. I look down at Sam, who has successfully gnawed a strip of the sponge away from the plastic. I try to think. “Any wishing for more wishes?” I ask. Amijd shakes his head, his tassel swaying across its hat and his head.
I think some more, hard. “Okay.” I pause. “I wish for our car to be paid off, but not by me, my husband, or any relative.” I look at Amijd as he does his frowning and hand-waving. He looks up. “Done!” He announces.
Just then, a crossover SUV peals into the parking lot. I catch a glimpse of a blonde woman applying lipstick, with a cell phone clenched between her cheek and shoulder. Half of a second later, she misjudges her turn into the stall and smashes into the side of my car.
I stand there, aghast. “Amijd!” I yell. “Damid!” Sam repeats, giggling. I watch the woman get out, still holding her phone. She looks at what remains of my car, from different angles. She seems to be trying to find a position at which the damaged vehicle does not look completely smashed in.
I might suspect coincidence, if not for the affably pleased oddity standing near me, and the fact that Blondie seems to have no damage to her car. I check the parking lot for any other random maniacs, and cross with my cart to the accident scene.
The blonde woman is still walking about, her black heels clicking loudly on the asphalt. “Hey!” I say. She stops, and looks up at me. I can see that she didn’t finish her makeup job.
“Oh my! I am so sorry!” She says, her apology fighting to show through the botox in her face. “I don’t know what happened, dear!” She finally detaches the cell phone, and flips her hair over a shoulder.
“You call the police, honey,” she points at me. Somehow she has already extricated her insurance information. “They always take a while to get here, so I’ll just pop in the store and be right back for my statement,” she says as she hands me her card.
“Thanks, dear. Sorry again.” I watch her blonde hair and black shawl walk away to the echoing sounds of her shoes. The store doors close behind her.
“One more wish, Master,” I hear near my elbow. I look from the toll-free phone number of Blondie’s car insurance company to the expectant, goateed man. I’m considering calling the police for two reasons now.
I have the feeling Amijd won’t leave till I’ve spoken my last wish, though -as tempting as arrest sounds right now. So, I try to think of a harmless wish as I dial the number to report accidents.
I’m put on hold.
“Okay, Amijd,” I say, holding my own phone with my shoulder. “I wish to lose twenty pounds.” He mumbles and waves his hands as the operator finally comes on the line.
“Hello. Yes, I’d like to report an accident,” I say. I glance around, happily noticing that Amijd is gone. I look back at my car and say, “Yes, we’d like an officer. It’s at- wait! Where’s Sam?!”