A Short Story. About Genies and the Police

I had been rubbing for hours. Just rubbing, rubbing, rubbing away. I’d like to claim it was some higher purpose that let me to rub so furiously, but if I’m really honest it was mostly just boredom. But my rubbing paid off. After about four and a half hours, the lamp I’d been going at puffed up a huge amount of smoke.
The smoke was cloying, and choking. It blinded me. But as my eyes adjusted, I saw before me a giant man, all in blue. He was wearing a silly little hat, and definitely looked a little portly. His blue skin didn’t really help hide his jowls, but it gave him an otherworldly air – as if he didn’t really understand regular human beings, or care. His legs weren’t even there – they trailed away into smoke and he just floated in the air.
“Ho there,” said the man, as the smoke dissipated. His voice reminded me of Robin Williams, for a reason that escapes me to this day. “My name is Genie, and I am here to grant wishes. You have released me from my prison. I am eternally grateful, and we genies are here to serve and protect the gentle citizens of this realm. We believe in the right of all citizens to exercise their freedom to wish.”
It was a bit bureaucratic, I thought, but I put it out of my mind at the prospect of wishes. The feeling that whoever named this genie was rather unimaginative proved much harder to shake.
“How many wishes do I receive?” I asked.
“Two wishes, sir!” He replied.
“TWO?” I was a bit weirded out. “One wish makes sense, I guess, and three’s a bit more traditional. But why two?”
“Look, mate. The person who’s writing this bit only needs two wishes to make his point, so that’s all you’re bloody getting. How many wishes did you have an hour ago?” I conceded the point.
I thought for a bit about what I’d wish for. There were so many things wrong with the world. Conflict in Afghanistan, in Palestine or in Syria; the abusive culture of rape in Western society, resulting in horrific oppression of women on our own doorstep; BT. All in all, I decided I’d go for where I could do the most good.
“In that case,” I said, “I would like to wish for world peace and goodwill for all.”
“WHOA, WHOA, WHOA!” The genie screamed at me, crossing his hands wildly in front of him in the internationally-recognised gesture for Slow the fuck down, mate. “You can’t open your mouth and just wish for stuff. There are procedures to follow, processes to stick to. Forms to fill out. First you need to submit a formal request of your intent to make a wish. Then the wish-granting council will assess your request, perhaps make some changes to the parameters and get back to you. If all goes to plan you can have your wish granted on the agreed date.”
Right. Well, my initial worries about the genie’s bureaucracy were well-founded. But what could I do? I couldn’t get a wish granted without the genies, so I guess I had to play by their rules. I told the genie I understood, and inquired as to how long I should expect to wait, before going on my merry way.
Several servings of goulash later, I found myself one more dealing with the genie.
“Do you have an answer for me?” I asked.
“I do, sir, and it’s great news. Your wish application for world peace has been granted. There have been some changes, though. Firstly, the wish as you wrote it will involve considerable disruption to people’s day, so we’re going to have to scale back the scope of the wish to a static wish.”
“Okay”, I said, “what’s a static wish?”
“A static wish is one which is confined to a single specific location,” said the genie. “What that means is that we can guarantee peace only in Sloane Square between 12pm and 4pm on the 18th. So outside of there we can’t guarantee that there won’t be violence or trouble.”
“That’s it? Are you kidding me? That’s not going to solve anything or fix anything! That’s just as good as not wishing for world peace at all.” I was incensed. What was the point of this so-called right to wish if the wishes I made were rendered completely toothless?
“Look, mate,” said the genie, “You’re the one who wanted world peace, not me. And I’m telling you that world peace will cause people to get in to work late. And we can’t be having that. It’s just too disruptive. If you don’t like, don’t wish for stuff.”
Okay then, I thought, I’ll just have to swallow this pill. My plans had been foiled a bit – it wasn’t quite what I was hoping for, but it was something at least. But, maybe I could do something more if I had some power to change things. If I had the power to actually make a difference, I might not need wishes to help make the world become a better place.
“For my second wish, Genie, I should like to become Prime Minister.”
“No?” I asked. “Just a flat no to that one?”
“Absolutely. We don’t allow any wishes within 100m of political figures. It’s for security reasons. There’s absolutely no negotiating on that.”
I was utterly shocked. How can wishes actually change the world if they’re not allowed, in any way, to interact with politicians or the politics of the day?
“Look, Genie, why won’t you grant my wishes? I thought you said when we first got together that you supported my right to wish!”
“I do,” said the genie. “Look, if I had my way, I’d let you wish for whatever you like, wherever you like. But we’ve got to make sure that we don’t let undesirables run roughshod over other people’s rights. There are people out there who just want to get to work in the morning and we’ve got to protect them too.
“Besides, we’ve let plenty of people wish for things over the last few years, it happens all the time. Don’t say that we don’t let people wish for things – we absolutely do. But you can’t just wish for anything and expect us to grant it.”
This was getting stressful. I was finding it harder and harder to deal with this infuriating creature. Either I had a right to wish, or I didn’t – surely there can’t be such massive caveats as this on something that’s considered a universal right.
“Well then,” I asked with a sigh, just wanting this ordeal to be over, “what can I wish for?”
“Right,” said the genie, looking forward to showing how helpful he can be, “we’ve granted loads of wishes to people. Just a few weeks ago, a bloke called Tommy asked if he could throw missiles at foreigners, and we were more than happy to grant that one. He also wanted anyone who didn’t look like him to leave the country, and we’re trying to work out a way to grant that one too.”
“Wait, what?” I was flabbergasted. “You’re happy to grant those wishes, but world peace is just too disruptive? Those things sound pretty disruptive too.” The genie got angry at that.
“HOW DARE YOU STIFLE TOMMY’S FREEDOM TO WISH?” he thundered, “That man may not be very palatable to you, but he has as much a right to wish for stuff as you do.”
“He’s got more right, apparently.” I countered.
Then he hit me with his truncheon, shrunk me down to the size of a borrower, and put me in a kettle.

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Filed under Policing, Politics

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