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After the Caper

by

The light clicked on, startling him badly. He whirled. There she stood, framed in the glow from the hallway. She looked tired. “Okay. Where’d you put it?”

“Put what?” he said, rather lamely.

“You know what,” she said. “Jupiter. Great big planet, big red dot. Where’d you put it?”

“Honestly, Min, I don’t know what you’re-”

“Oh, yes, you do,” she shot back, and now she sounded angry rather than tired. “I checked, okay? I’ve got friends at NASA who’ll still speak to me. They’re flipping out because they lost a freakin’ planet. One of them told me they picked up some sort of funny radiation. You don’t think I know what that means? I helped you build the Shrink-O-Mater, genius. I know it runs on terseron particles.”

“So someone stole Jupiter,” he said defensively. “Why do you assume it’s me? Plenty of supervillains out there. The Red Mushroom, Crudmuffin, the Rogue Jaywalker-”

She rolled her eyes. “Oh, please. Like that guy could steal a planet. Anyway, none of them have a fully functional Shrink-O-Mater, which, funny thing, isn’t in the vault downstairs. I checked, I said.”

He knew the game was up. “Fine,” he said. “Yeah. I stole Jupiter. Shrunk it, stashed it.”

“Where exactly?”

His eyes flickered towards the crib. She looked that way too. Then she looked back at him. “What…” she said slowly. “What did you put in that diaper?”

“Well…”

“Tell me you didn’t put the King of Planets in our baby’s diaper.”

He shrugged. “There’s plenty of room in there. We just went up a size in Pampers, remember?”

“But…” she asked plaintively. “Why? The hell, why?”

“Seemed like a good place for it?”

There was a long silence. “Okay,” she said. “You’re going to put Jupiter back. Now, before the Great Red Spot becomes the Great Brown Spot. You’re going to put the Shrink-O-Mater back downstairs. And in the morning, you and I are going to have a talk.”

“Yes, dear,” he said, reaching for the diaper. Next time, he decided, he would swipe Saturn. Min liked rings, he knew. She’d swiped more than a few in her day. And Saturn, he decided, would be a perfect “I’m sorry I stole a planet” present.

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Wishes

by

“I wish for the Seven Seas, please.”

The request was straightforward, spoken clearly. So many people made their wishes in a burst of excitement or wild desires, and often came to grief due to improperly enunciated syllables. Hassan had gotten no end of fun out of the poor man who wished for an unending celebration and accidentally dropped the “R”.  Despite the well-enunciated nature of this request, however, Hassan still felt the need to clarify.

“You wish to see the Seven Seas, you mean? I could arrange a tour…”

“Oh, no,” she said. “I want them. The actual Seven Seas. Mediterranean, Caspian, Red, Adriatic, the whole bit. I want them all.”

Hassan blinked. “Ah. You do know that the Seven Seas are…well….big. It’s a great deal of water.”

“I’m aware,” she said coolly. “I assume that you can include some sort of magic pitcher or box or some such thing that can contain the Seven Seas inside until I want them. It should be implied as part of the successful granting of the wish.”

“You’ve studied,” Hassan sighed.  He always had less fun when the wish-casters knew what they were about. “Very well. You’ll have them in an appropriately magical container.”

“Fine,” she said. “Can you get the lights for me?”

“The what?”

“I want the Northern Lights too. Or southern. I don’t care which. I want the sky lights.”

Hassan looked perplexed. “That’s actually two wishes, you know. Wouldn’t you rather wait a bit until you’ve had the first one?”

“No,” she said. “I want them now. I’ll let you know about the third one. Incidentally, where are you on the killing-people thing? I’ve heard some genies don’t.”

“Oh, I will,” Hassan said. “I have no problem with that. Who do you want done?”

“Death,” Merope said.

Hassan burst out laughing.

Merope. it turned out, wasn’t joking at all.

Note: this story follows on from Bad Ideas

Bad Ideas

by

“I’m sorry, you did what?”

“I chained up you know who.”

“I’m sorry, Sis, you’ll have to be more specific. There’s way too many people with unspeakable names nowadays. There’s this Dryad I know, real stuck up, and she’s going on and on about how no one can say her name now because it’s too magical and mysterious and I’m like, girl, it’s not all that and a box of ambrosia, Iknow what her real name is-”

“Thanatos, okay? I chained up Thanatos.”

“….”

“Yeah. That’s why I got to roll this rock.”

“Well. That was stupid.”

“Thanks for the encouragement, ‘rope.”

“Well, what did you think? The guy’s Death, Sis. You can’t just go picking on Death.:”

“Well, I did. Thus the rock.”

“So, what, you have to roll the rock to the top of this hill?”

“That’s what they told me.”

“Doesn’t sound too bad.”

“Yeah. I got a bad feeling though.”

“Okay, look, I’ll help. It’s just a stupid rock, how hard can it be?”

“Thanks, ‘rope.””

“Just promise me you won’t do anything else stupid like picking on You Know Who, okay?”

“Yeah, yeah, I promise. You don’t got any of that ambrosia around, do you?”

“Sorry, but it’s not on the menu. Elektra took the last of it.”

“Oh. Ah, well. It’s just I wanted a snack. Rolling this rock and all…”

“I’ll check with Elektra. Maybe there’s some left.”

“Thanks again, ‘rope. You’re the best.”

“You too, Sis. You too.”

Checking It Twice

by

Seven?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Including wrath?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Wrath and sloth?”

“Super mad, too lazy to fuss about it. So he went to gluttony, then lust….”

“Oy.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, he’s off the nice list.”

“Already scratched, Mr. Claus. How long till you let him on again?”

“Years, Jingles. Years.”

Rejection

by

Charles didn’t understand. He had thought everything was going swimmingly.

He had been writing Stacey for four months. Their emails had ranged from political (she voted regularly, he abstained on principle) to witty (they both loved puns) to cultural (they both hated Game of Thrones).  They had even spoken by phone on several occasions. As Charles reckoned things, they had a decent relationship.

Then she came to town. It was a church thing; she was coming with her youth group. Saturday morning they all went out to Denny’s for breakfast. Charles tagged along.

He misread the signs. He had hoped to sit beside her, or even across from her, but somehow ( wasn’t quite sure how) he ended up two tables down. During breakfast she didn’t look at him much. Then, afterwards, she contrived to get to the cashier and pay for herself before Charles could. Still, he missed the implications. It wasn’t until they had made it outside and the rest of the group had separated, and Charles asked what she wanted to do next, that she lowered the boom.

“Look, Charles…” she said.

Charles’ stomach clenched. Now he was getting a hint.

“I like you,” she said. “A lot. We’re friends. But…I don’t see this as anything more.”

“Oh,” Charles said. “Okay.”

He hadn’t actually been planning to have the define-the-relationship talk for some time yet. He had hoped, though. “Do you think…” he ventured. “Maybe in the future?”

“No,” she said, rather decidedly. “I’m sorry. But we’re going to have to settle for bronze. Friends, I mean. Not going steady, not on-and-off again. Just friends.”

“Fine,” Charles said. “Email you later?”

“Sure,” she said.

He did try. But her reply email didn’t come until the next day. When he emailed again, she never replied. He tried once more, a month later. Nothing.

He never did quite understand why.

Wishing

by

Murphy hadn’t intended to see clients today. It was Wednesday, and he always set aside Wednesdays for catching up on paperwork. His in-box overflowed with motions, proposed court orders, and various and sundry requests for legal aid. He never actually managed to catch up on all of it, but at least on Wednesdays, he could make a dent in the pile.

However, on this Wednesday, he had a drop-in. She had done this quite literally. One moment Murphy was laboring over his computer banging out a particularly knotty motion; the next instance, she had plopped down in a shower of sparks on his desk.  Papers went skidding everywhere, along with “Hi,” she said. “I need your help.”

“Just once,” Murphy said, “I wish you people would use the door.”

She ignored the comment. “Sal told me you’re the best. I got a problem. You can help, right?”

Murphy sighed. He would’ve liked to say no, but he wasn’t nearly that successful a lawyer. And they usually paid well. “What’s the trouble?”

She was still on the desk. “Okay, so there’s this kid, yeah? I mean, he’s a teenager. Not really a kid. Anyway. He makes a wish on some star. I don’t even know what star it is. Probably Betelgeuse or some stupid thing like that. I get assigned, I check it out, and the kid wants a girlfriend.”

Murphy waited. He knew the rules as much as she did. Some wish-casters were very specific about their limitations. His paralegal, Daphne, had a side business, and she was quite adamant about staying out of love affairs.  She didn’t do dead people either. “As a genie, I can be choosy,” she had told him. “And dead people are just, ew.”

But star-wishes were something else. Murphy assumed there was more to the story. There was, of course. “So I try,” the fairy said. “I set him up. I set him up ten times.

“And?” Murphy asked, although he had a guess at the problem.

“Nothing,” she said in disgust. “Not one worked. Something always went wrong on the dates. Two never even showed. Five laughed in his face. Nine pulled the “I have an emergency work call” trick. The last one? A zombie. I was desperate. She ended up ditching him for a mer-guy. I can’t even set this guy up with zombies!”

“So you want out of the wish,” Murphy said.

“I can’t keep setting this guy up forever, right?” she pleaded. “Isn’t there some loophole? I did my best, so let’s call it? I can’t work miracles, you know!”

“There’s not a loophole in the traditional sense,” Murphy said. “Once you accept the wish, you stay with it until it’s granted. That’s the deal. But…”

“But?” she said eagerly.

Murphy had hoped to hold off on this for a while. But clearly he had no alternative. He rummaged in his desk drawer and produced a small silver lighter. “Get him near someone, and flick this twice,” he said. “It’s an Illusion-maker. She’ll think he’s the second coming of Channing Tatum or whoever.”

She looked skeptical. “Yeah, but for how long?”

“You said he wanted a girlfriend,” Murphy said. “Did he wish for a permanent one? Anti-break-up provision, and so on?”

She smiled. “Nope. Exact words were, “I want a girlfriend. ” I think he’s got prom.”

“Prom’s next month, isn’t it? It’ll last till then.”

“Awesome,” she said, snatching the lighter. “You’re the best!”

There was a flash of golden light. She had vanished from atop his desk, along with the lighter. In her place was the usual sack of gold.

Murphy hated gold. He had told the fairies again and again: pre-paid debit cards were the way to go. Now he was going to have to spend a long afternoon arguing with the bank about fairy-human exchange rates. Still, at least they paid well.

Attack of the Wardrobe

by

Celeste never meant for any of it to happen.

She had purchased the wardrobe entirely on a whim. She did that sort of thing a lot; her small house was chock-a-block with various yard sale finds, random pieces of furniture, books she might one day possibly read, and paintings she didn’t understand but found lovely. Her bank account suffered mightily on account of her constant whimsical purchases, but she managed to get by.

The wardrobe she had purchased because it reminded her of a story she had read as a child. Celeste was sadly disappointed to find that there was no magical land hiding behind the wardrobe, but even so, she consoled herself by the fact that it was quite roomy, and had plenty of space for her ugly Christmas sweater collection. So she stuck it in her upstairs room and forgot about it.

This was a mistake.

One wet Tuesday, she had invited three of her friends over for a binge-watching of an HBO series they were all fond of. They were into the second episode when suddenly Celeste heard a distant bump from the upstairs room. She ignored it at first. Then the bump came again, louder, and this time the others heard it too.

“From ghosties and ghoulies and long-leggedy beasties…” her friend Miranda quoted, giggling. Miranda was very well read and liked to quote lines.

Celeste rolled her eyes. “So go see what it is, why don’tcha?”

Miranda giggled again. “It’s probably that stupid wardrobe. Maybe someone from Narnia got in!”

“Only one way to find out,” Celeste said, and now she was laughing a little as well.

Miranda started for the staircase. “Fine, I will. Send someone if I’m not back in five!” she called, before disappearing up the staircase into the second floor.

They had paused the show to wait for Miranda. Several minutes passed. There was another bump.

“Miranda?” Celeste called. She wasn’t really concerned. Not yet. Miranda was probably having a little fun up there. She was hiding. That was it. Celeste had stopped laughing, though.

“Jerkface,” Rhonda muttered. Rhonda was the bluntest member of the group, and had a distinct lack of filter. “You know what? This is boring. I’m going after her.”

She marched up the staircase before anyone could stop her. Now it was only Celeste and Shelby alone in the living room.

They waited. Shelby was the quiet one of the bunch; she hesitated to venture her opinion even when directly asked. She wasn’t about to call attention to the increasingly distressing fact that neither Rhonda nor Miranda had returned.

Bump. 

Maybe,” Celeste ventured, “we should both go. Together. See what’s happening.”

A short pause followed.

Bump. 

“I’d rather not,” Shelby whispered.

They waited several more minutes. There were no sounds from upstairs.

“They’re playing a game,” Celeste said, trying to sound reassuring. “They both decided to play hide and seek and they want us to find them.”

“Or it’s something else,” said Shelby.

Quite suddenly the lights went out.

Bump. 

“Shelby?”

Silence.

“Shel?”

More silence.

Bump. 

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