This story available on May 8, 2021
Joey the Genie
Joey was a little boy genie, but he wanted to be a real boy. Life in the old lamp seemed dull compared to life in the world outside. Boys and girls went to school and learned interesting things. They played wonderful games, with such fun toys. Genies didn’t have playthings. They just practiced magic and granted wishes when somebody rubbed the lamp and let them out.
One day Joey set out to learn how he could become a real boy. On the inside, those old lamps are a lot bigger. A whole world lies within, and all kinds of creatures live there. Somebody was bound to know how he could become a boy.
First, he dropped in at the Deo house. It didn’t smell very good inside, but what do you expect when you have a bunch of hairy Deos living together in one place? And he’d come at a bad time. The Deos had run out of food, and Deos are big eaters.
“Hi Deos,” said Joey. “Tell me something if you know. How can a genie boy like me become a real boy in the world outside?”
“Food, Joey,” answered their leader, the biggest and hairiest Deo. “We want food and a lot of it! Wish us some food and we’ll tell you.”
Joey used a wish from his nearly endless supply. Pouf! The Deo’s favorite food appeared—a huge vat of peanut butter. Smiling, Joey expected to get his answer. But promises are easily forgotten. The Deos squealed in delight and ran to the peanut butter, stuck their snouts in it, and snarfed it up like anteaters! They knocked poor Joey around like a bowling pin. He fell. but managed to keep from getting stepped on. Deos are big as cows, and if one steps on you, it really hurts. Joey crawled outside and quickly put some distance between himself and the Deo house. He feared they’d make him stay and use all his wishes for more food. They’d eat all the time and not do any work. That wasn’t good for anyone.
Joey came to the area the Shout Noses occupied. They were having a honking contest with their huge noses. The one who could honk longest and loudest would be the winner. Clapping his hands over his ears, Joey asked them if they knew how he could become a boy. Between honks, they said a few words, but he couldn’t understand them for the noise. At last he heard enough to realize they wanted him to grant them wishes for bigger, louder noses! But that didn’t seem right. A person should win a contest through effort, not because of a wish.
Sadly, he walked on.
Next, the boy genie visited the enchanted chickenyard, home of the Stooge Hens. Feathers covered them all over except their heads, which had hair. In front, bangs hung down to their eyebrows. Reminded Joey of the character Moe in the old Three Stooges comedy films people watched on their televisions.
“Stooge Hens, I need some advice,” said Joey. “Instead of a boy genie, I want to be a real boy in the world of people. Do you have any idea how I can do that?”
The Stooge Hens clucked as they pecked up morsels off the ground. Between clucks, they said they’d advise him if he’d wish them a batch of luscious corn kernels. He pulled another wish out of his hat. Pouf! There lay a pile of the juiciest yellow corn kernels anyone had ever seen. Joey himself was tempted to take a bite. He repeated his question, but the greedy Stooge Hens leaped into the air and flapped their wings. Feathers flew as they batted Joey left and right. They started eating the corn so fast he was afraid they’d choke. Between clucking and swallowing, they muttered, but he couldn’t make out a word they said. Finally, he gave up and walked on down the road.
Maybe somewhere he’d find the help he needed.
Joey reached the valley where the Shave Tails lived. They had spotted fur but long tails without any hair. They looked upset.
“Hi, Joey,” the leader said, wiping away tears.
“What’s wrong?” asked Joey. He couldn’t imagine such beautiful creatures being sad enough to cry.
“Everyone makes fun of us because of our hairless tails,” said the creature. “You’d think they’d notice our pretty fur, but they never do.”
No one should make fun of someone because of how they look. Joey made them a wish, but not for fur on their tails.
He wished for everyone to see their true beauty and character, not judge them by one small part of their bodies.
Joey walked on. Some distance away, he realized he’d forgotten to ask the Shave Tails for advice on how to become a boy. But it was too late to turn back.
Joey had never been so far from home before, and he was a little afraid. Coming to a big forest, he saw a sign: Am-Can-Tu Territory. Keep out! Trespassers Will Be Murphed! He didn’t know what that meant, but surely they wouldn’t mind if a little genie boy visited. He walked on through the deep woods. Suddenly tall, broad-shouldered Am-Can-Tu warriors surrounded him! Trembling, Joey asked for help to become a boy. They laughed and grabbed him, and he found out what murphing was. Like tickling, but with toes instead of fingers. And the Am-Can-Tu have a lot of toes!
They murphed poor Joey up one side and down the other. He laughed until he cried before they let him go and gave him a shove back the way he’d come.
Big, strong creatures shouldn’t be mean to smaller, weaker ones, Joey reflected, but he took a long detour around Am-Can-Tu land. He couldn’t stand another murphing!
In the distance, Joey saw a big, old house with dark curtains over the windows, the home of Secret Agent Bab Powder. If anyone could help him, surely a secret agent could!
Joey knocked on the door. A hollow echo sounded from within. The door opened with a spooky creak, and a gloved hand reached out and jerked him inside.
Under the light of an old-timey oil lamp, he found himself staring up at Secret Agent Bab Powder! Tall and lean, the agent wore a black trench coat, dark glasses, and a black hat pulled down almost to his eyebrows.
“Joey the genie boy,” the agent whispered, “have you seen any spies? Gotta watch out for them, you know. They’re everywhere!”
He took a pair of binoculars out of his coat pocket, leaned out the door, and looked left and right. Pulling back inside, he shut the door, and triple-locked it.
He squinted at Joey. “You’re not a spy, are you?”
Joey declared that he certainly was not, but the agent replied, “That’s what they all say.”
He frisked Joey and dragged him down a long hallway to a little room, set him on a stool, and focused a spotlight on him. He gave Joey a lie detector test and asked him all kinds of questions before believing the boy genie was not a spy after all.
“Mr. Powder,” gasped Joey, glad to be out from under suspicion, “you know how to solve mysteries. Can you tell me how to become a real boy instead of a genie?”
Bab Powder muttered about observations, mutations, and other words Joey didn’t understand. He weighed the boy genie on a scale and measured him. He felt Joey’s head and nodded. He smeared ink on Joey’s hands and took his fingerprints. He snipped some of Joey’s hair and gazed at it under a microscope. Mumbling to himself, he jotted some words in a spiral notebook. He laid the notebook aside and stared at Joey.
Taking the boy genie by the arm, Bab Powder led him out of the room, down the hallway, and out the front door. The agent turned to go back inside.
Relieved to get out of the big scary building, Joey asked again, “Mr. Powder, did you find out how I can become a boy instead of a genie?”
“Sorry, Joey,” said the secret agent. “I don’t have a clue!”
Joey stood there, dumbfounded. The agent had questioned him, studied him, and learned all about him but hadn’t helped him. Disappointed, Joey walked on.
Joey came to the jungle where Linka Lou the mischievous monkey lived. She liked to play tricks, but she might know how he could become a boy. Joey followed a trail between trees so high and thick they almost blotted out the sun. He gulped as he heard lions roar in the distance. Wondering how he could find the monkey, he yelled her name. Splat! A tangerine smacked him in the back of the head. It burst and juice trickled down his collar. He whirled around, and there stood Linka Lou, giggling. She had pink fur.
“Linka, do you know how I can become a real boy instead of a genie?” asked Joey, rubbing his tender head.
“Sure Joey,” said the monkey. “Just do like I do, and you’ll turn into one in no time!”
Linka Lou jumped up and down. Joey did, too. The monkey stood on her head. Joey stood on his. Linka did cartwheels. So did Joey, although it made him dizzy. The monkey did several backflips, spun around and around, dropped to all fours and crawled in a circle, then crawled backward, somersaulted a dozen times, flopped down on her tummy and slithered like a snake, rolled over, leaped up, clapped her hands above her head, clicked her heels together, and yelled, “I DID IT!”
Joey did the same things and yelled, “I DID IT!”
Gasping for breath, he asked, “Linka, I did everything you said. Why didn’t I become a boy?”
She laughed. “You didn’t believe all that, did you, Joey? I really made a monkey out of you!”
Joey felt like crying. “That’s not fair, Linka. I really want to be a boy, and I can’t get anyone to help me.”
Linka Lou must’ve felt guilty, as much as a joker could. She said she was sorry and patted Joey on the shoulder. She gave him a banana to snack on and showed him the way out of the jungle.
As he walked into the open, the monkey called from the treetops, “Go see Heck-an-Dinah the All-Wise. She knows everything!”
Heck-an-Dinah lived on top of the highest peak in genie land, where she studied the secrets of the universe. Joey guessed she was his last chance.
Joey trudged the last few steps to the top of the mountain. For part of the way, a friendly mountain goat let him ride on its back. He wished it a patch of fine grass to munch on. Doing good deeds for other creatures should be its own reward, he thought.
Heck-An-Dinah the All-Wise sat cross-legged, her arms spread toward the starry expanse before her.
“Just as I calculated,” she murmured. “Relativity, entropy, unified fields, multi-dimensional supersymmetry strings, and the spacetime continuum resonate together from the infinitesimal quantum foam to the macrocosmic galactic clusters!”
Joey hoped she knew what she was talking about, because he sure didn’t! He eased his way to her side and poked her lightly with a finger. After a while she shifted her attention from outer space and gazed down at him. He feared she’d be angry at being disturbed, but she smiled and patted his head.
“Little genie boy, what brings you to call on old Heck-An-Dinah? I have so few visitors these days. Not many care to climb all the way up here among the stars.”
“Great Heck-An-Dinah the All-Wise,” Joey began.
“Wiser than most, I guess,” said Heck-An-Dinah with a laugh. “But anyone can gain knowledge and wisdom if they study and apply themselves. Most won’t make the effort.”
That was the truth. “I’m Joey, and I’d like to be a little boy in the people world instead of a genie cooped up in an old lamp. Can you help me?”
“Hmm,” Heck-An-Dinah mused. “The people world has its charms, and we see the same stars here as they do there. Why don’t you go ahead and become a little boy?”
“I don’t know how,” said Joey sadly.
“Why Joey,” answered the grand old lady, “don’t you see? You don’t need anyone’s help to become a boy. You’re a genie. All you have to do is wish it!”
Joey hadn’t thought of that.
“I wish . . .” he began.
Heck-An-Dinah smiled as the little boy genie disappeared from her world. He’d simply needed some encouragement to use his own ability and help himself.
The new boy in school, Joey Little walked home at the end of his first day. He’d learned lots of interesting things and made bunches of new friends.
He looked around his new neighborhood at the neat houses with their picket fences and tall shade trees. He came to the house he lived in. Although he’d never been inside, he knew it was nice. And he knew his new family would also be nice, although he hadn’t yet met them. He opened the gate and walked across the yard. A doggy came to greet him. He petted it, and it wagged its tail. A kitty approached. It purred and rubbed itself around his legs.
As he walked across the porch and opened the door, Joey wiped away a tear. His new life as a real boy would be wonderful, but he’d miss his mom and dad, and even his pesky little sister Jenny. He couldn’t wish himself back to the lamp for a visit.
He walked inside his new home.
There stood his mom, dad, and sister, all smiling.
“Mom! Dad! Sis!” Joey exclaimed. “How did you get here?”
“Son,” said his dad, “you didn’t think we’d let you become a people person all by yourself, did you? As soon as you made your wish, we made ours, too!”
Loved ones should stay together in the same world, reflected Joey as he hugged the three of them.
In their new lives as people, he and his family lived happily ever after.
A lifelong resident of southeastern Kentucky, I am an older man who has discovered fiction writing after retirement from a thirty-six-year job. I have had short stories published in the anthologies "It Happened in a Flash" and "Hellfire Crossroads 7." I have also had a couple of stories accepted for Halloween podcasts by author Holly Lisle. At present I am working on a trilogy of novels set in and around the fictitious town of Cambin, Ky.
Interview available on May 11, 2021