Two and a Half Wishes

Photo copyright: JD Hancock under CreativeCommons license.

What if the genie didn’t give you three wishes? What if you only rubbed half-hearted at the battered old lamp? Or the genie was rare-affronted by the use of spit and polish?

A loud bang, flamboyant wisps, you start at the sudden presence of an oversized man with great pecs, dressed in weird balloon pyjama bottoms. Your most unattractive gape pops out of your collection.

“I grant you two and a half vishes.” Germanic accent, big square teeth, booming voice, unconvincing smile.

The two and a half wishes are what really leave you nonplussed — what can you do with half a wish? The pressure is on anyway. You are not, of course, permitted to wish for more wishes — even to make that last wish whole. That’s always in the fine print.

But what if the half wish isn’t necessarily the last wish? What if you don’t know which wish is the half wish until you done gone wished? Stress making. You shudder with the double weight of half a thing.

Wishes are burdens, we should know that by now. How many fairytales do you need to read before you get that into your thickened skull, made plastic by the lies you’ve heard and taken in? The promises of happiness? The will to find it at all costs, the not being happy until you find that happiness as was promised to you, from the beginning. This week’s special offer: is it here yet? Does it tick the boxes? Of course not. Back to the drawing board. You’re not happy yet.

Try not to be slow about it. You think. Just get in there and go with the flow, go with your gut, first thing that comes to mind. Oh but that never works out. Too late. You’ve already overthought it.

So let’s take things easy. Ponder it. Two and a half chances to get it right, but you don’t know the order, and you suspect it’s a trap. And likely it is. But you’re already caught in it.

Can you save the wishes for later? Dangerous. What if you’re groggy or drunk and one comes to mind (although why someone would wish sausages onto someone else’s nose you never could comprehend.) No sausage related wishes accepted here. Damn — did you really just consider wishing for sausages? Perhaps that should be the first wish — protection from your wishes. But phrasing is important. And thinking through phrasing is stressful — if you get the punctuation wrong, stress the wrong word … it could turn out awful.

If you make the wish silently in your head — does it count? If you don’t really mean it, will it still come through? If not, is that for better or for worse?

If you wish to be happy, to have that happiness now, what are the consequences? I mean happy at what price — and does the price matter. Happiness could mean surrendering to some kind of gormless oblivion, living a lie but never knowing it, drug induced bliss that lasts a moment or an eternity, but is only a semblance, a figment, and though it seems to endure, at the end of it — could you say: “I’m happy?”

So you need to find the source of happiness — which you already know isn’t riches, or the perfect prince, or a place, or a time, or two for one at Sainsbury’s — it’s something else. But if you knew what it was, this fountain of joy, always bubbling over and allowing gentle contentment and transcendent euphoria, if you knew what and where it was, then you wouldn’t need the wishes. Or would you?

The genie is waiting, tapping his fingers on his crossed naked arms, he looks pretty grumpy in those sky blue pyjamas. This does not inspire confidence.

“First vish?” He’s built like a brick shit house if a brick shit house could have that many teeth.

Clarity of mind? Oh no, that one could be lethal. Who knows what truth a clear mind might bring. Health? Life eternal? Unlikely — they too join the list of things definitely not to wish for, along with sausages.

Blue hair? Now where did that one come from? The realms of memory, of happier times, of frantic beach dancing with no responsibilities, shouting high and bright across strange rooms, running for the bus and laughing when you miss it and are left standing in the rain, work mates and dinner dates. Times which when you reflect were only partly happy and partly painful, and wholly gone, past times not to be revisited — there’s no going back, because getting from there to here was quite a journey. Would you miss the journey? Some of it.

Plenty of food? Another hazard — perhaps you’ll have plenty because there’s no one to share it. Would that be good or bad? Hmm. And what if the only food were over-stewed cabbages? Not even a sniff of a sausage.

Peace, a peaceful life — the same as the above. Not the cabbages, but the no one around to complain to about the cabbages or have a war with about the smell.

World peace! Due to the success of some terrible dictator, with all of us under his intolerant thumb, no one dares make a fuss or fight any more.

We all go gently … . Best not.

Best? To be the best that you can be?

What if that turns out to be the half wish? and you end up half as good — and maybe, just maybe, you’re already more than half as good as you can be. And what if it’s the whole wish but as good as you can be is really not that good, below expected levels of satisfaction, a bit shit really? That would be a downer.

“I’m vaiting.” He’s squinting at you, and there’s trouble in the expression.

“Oh, I wish you’d go away and take your wishes with you!”

“Half vish granted!” Smug bastard.

And as he disappears in the obligatory puff of smoke, “I’ll be back.”

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