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Spoofs & Satire

Photograph by Carlos Yashinon

Interview With the Genie

For man and djinn alike, a soft economy makes for a tight job market.

1. Explain how your previous work experience has shaped your career as a genie.

Candidate A: Oh geez, where do I begin? Um, OK, well, maybe you’ve heard of Cyrus the Great? I did his third brother’s bidding. Good guy. Then later, uh, I became the ultimate prize in the struggle between Al-Fazir the Giant and King Enoch of the Highlands, even though everyone said it was about control of the witchdust trade through the Yaggath Mountains. That taught me the valuable art of playing sides against each other. Not that I’d do that to you. I might let the other guy think I’m doing it to you, but not actually do it. Can I get some water?

Candidate B: Come on. I had a hand in the entire Abbasid dynasty and half the Mamelukes. I’ve been on two grail quests, one with survivors. Dabbled in prophecy. You want more? In the battle royale for ethereal supremacy, I came in third, and I would’ve placed higher if that one banshee hadn’t used an illegal curse. And if you’re talking day-to-day crap, sure, I’ve had my share of middle-class slobs who wished for an upturn in sales or a promotion to senior assistant vassal or whatever, but with no false modesty, I am a big-ticket player. If you can find anyone in Samarkand who doesn’t know me, I’ll eat my golden bracelets. With a knife and fork. Made of gold.

Candidate C: I tend to see all experience as work experience. The supply and demand thing, “wishing,” that’s only part of it. In this day and age, we ignore fiendish riddles and tormenting visions. Driving undeserving rulers mad, just being a chaotic force in general—that stuff gets obscured by “goals” and “product.” In King Solomon’s court, we learned the value of debate. What does it mean to be truly damned? How long do you take corporeal form before it becomes a crutch? That’s what I’m about.

2. You are under contract to your master for three wishes. Your master decides to use his/her last wish to wish for more wishes. How do you respond?

Candidate A: Oh man. That is a tough, tricky, wow. It’s funny, I had this very conversation with Satan a few weeks ago. You did get my letter of recommendation from Satan, right? Good, just checking. Great guy. Taught me so much. Um, right, more wishes, well, that’s when you have to kind of put your foot down. Break out the death portents and howls of torment, anything to get your master’s mind straight. Or you use shame. “Everybody’s going to know you can’t command a sandstorm on your own; you have to rely on your genie. Ooooh! Big man with his genie!” And so forth. It’s not sneaky, it’s just practical, you know?

I know you’re tied to this chronological reality, but it so doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Doom the world? Which world? Candidate B: Here’s the one thing the public knows about being a genie: You make…wishes…happen. Yeah, OK, there’s more to it—subtle gradations of the Necroid Plane and speaking the language of fire—but no one gives a flying wank. Now, I ask myself: How badly do I want to serve? If you want a reputation as a closer, you make it look like you shit wishes, pardon my French. It’s about optics. You can’t will an extra wish into being? You go out and make it happen with your two hands and your sweat. Your master wants his own personal flying dragon? You find a giant albatross, slap on some metallic paint, and saddle her up. Not big enough to ride? Get five albatrosses, stitch them together, and you got your master a dragon with five heads. ABGW. Always Be Granting Wishes.

Candidate C: “Master.” Who’s the master? Is the master not slave to his desires? Can’t we create synergy out of that? Get him to exchange something for another wish or two. For instance, make me a flesh offering. Or fetch me one of the nine gowns of Atargatis. Or try to amuse me with a tale of three blind beggars and a ruby cockatiel. At least keep negotiations open.

3. Your master makes a wish containing a technicality that will doom him/her/the world. How would you confront your master about this?

Candidate B: Is this even an issue? They call him master for a reason. He wants results. He says he wants all the money in the world? You ask, “In cash or gold bars?” He wants to challenge the demon Azazel to a sword fight? “Cutlass or scimitar, hoss?” Bottom line, he’s the man. Or she. Unless she wishes for a dick. Happens more often than you’d think.

Candidate C: I know you’re tied to this chronological reality, but it so doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Doom the world? Which world? There’s an unseen world that can’t be affected by man or djinn. That’s why we need to get rid of the old model. “Wishes” are just so industrial. You want a wish machine, get a monkey’s paw. Any genie worth his salt has to steer the master toward higher things. Here, I have a pamphlet.

Candidate A: Um, does causing the downfall of Rome count as dooming the world? Because I think the world more or less recovered. Eventually. You could argue both ways, but yeah, I wouldn’t hold that against, uh, whoever did it. I mean, the world was pretty bad already, right?

4. Is there anything you would like to ask us?

Candidate A: OK, how can I be sure you’re not someone whose body I possessed who’s out for revenge?

Candidate C: Are you married to the whole bottle or lamp concept? Because my last ergonomic assessment advised against constricting spaces. And it’s kind of déclassé to demand that these days.

Candidate B: Fuck that. I’ll work in a thimble, hoss. When can I start?


TMN Contributing Writer Michael Rottman lives like a lord in Toronto. His miscellany has appeared in print in The Fiddlehead, Grain, and Opium, and online at Yankee Pot Roast, Cracked, News Groper, and McSweeney’s. More by Michael Rottman