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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Layla

Since I don’t want to be accused of stealing anything in these unhappy times of plagiarism, I wrote this little Genie story from a suggestion written on Jordan Summers’ agent’s Publisher’s Marketplace site. After reading Ms. Ginger Clark wanted any manuscript with a genie, I thought I’d have a little fun with the idea. Anyway, there’s no charge for this, but that’s where the idea came from. :)

The young man walked along the rows of tables at the flea market, his face set in a grim mask of concentration. His fists clenched each time he noticed a table with used tools for sale, and immediately went over to investigate the items. Cole worked for an auto shop, which had been broken into the previous night. All of the employees’ tool boxes had been stolen. Thousands of dollars invested in his chosen profession disappeared overnight, leaving a bitter man hurrying around the area pawn shops and flea markets, looking for his lost tools. Something glinted in the sunlight as Cole passed by a haggard man with items laid out on a beat up blanket. Pausing, Cole searched idly for what he had glimpsed in the bright noontime of a San Jose, California day. What looked like a slim copper teapot lay in the middle of the blanket, catching the beams of light when seen at just the right angle. Cole picked it up, and the forlorn merchant shook his head in warning, gesturing negatively with his hand.

“You don’t want that thing, kid, trust me,” the worn out voice cautioned. “I’m selling it to someone more deserving.”

“Deserving of what?” Cole asked, turning the shiny object over in his calloused hands.

The hunched over old man, with grizzled gray beard in salt and pepper splotches, grinned up at the tall, intense young man. He looked Cole over appraisingly. Lithe corded muscle moved under the young man’s tee shirted form as Cole inspected the dully gleaming object. Pointing at Cole’s buzz cut brown hair, the old man’s bushy gray eyebrows lifted questioningly.

“Seen some action, huh kid?”

“I’ve been around,” Cole answered carefully.

“Saw some myself,” the old man muttered absently, a far off look momentarily making his eyes fade in introspection. Shuddering a little, the old man held out a gnarled sun browned hand. “Name’s Sonny.”

Cole shook his hand. “Cole. How much you want for this teapot, Sonny?”

“It ain’t no damn teapot. It’s an old oil lamp,” Sonny said, with a dismissive wave of his hand.

“How much?”

“I don’t want you…” Sonny bent over, clamping hands over his temples, as if in the grip of some painful head trauma.

Cole quickly put the lamp down, and helped the old man to his battered lawn chair. Sonny’s pain passed quickly, and he looked up at Cole with fearful compassion, his lip trembling.

“Are you okay?” Cole asked, real concern etched into his features, as he gripped Sonny’s shoulder to steady him.

“Give… give me five dollars… and it’s yours, kid.”

Cole reached into his pocket, extracting a twenty from the small number of folded bills he came up with. He stuffed the twenty dollar bill into Sonny’s hand.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Don’t worry about me, kid… worry about yourself,” Sonny answered, his head down. “Take it and go before I change my mind.”

“Sure, Sonny,” Cole replied, picking up his purchase. “Thanks.”

“Don’t thank me yet, boy,” Sonny muttered after Cole had walked away.

At home in his apartment in San Leandro, Cole sat down heavily on a used maroon sofa in the living room. He held the only prize from nearly twelve hours spent perusing back area markets tiredly. The slender spout curved back into the larger body of the lamp. Cole pulled a few Kleenex from the box on his coffee table, wetting a portion with his own saliva. Rubbing the inscribed lamp base, Cole felt the lamp quake in his hands. He dropped it, lurching up from his couch warily. Foggy mist drifted eerily from the spout, forming into what looked to Cole like a storm cloud up at his apartment ceiling. Oval eyes opened in the cloud. Azure colored orbs gleamed brightly down at Cole’s retreating form. He stopped only after backing into his living room wall, gauging the distance to the door. Laughter like small silver chimes on a doorstep at Christmas echoed inside the mist cloud. A pale form, nearly five and half feet tall, took shape as the cloud eyes and mist dissipated.

“Sweet Jesus…” Cole gasped, his mind spinning out of control with mental images from his fictional encounters with magic lamps, both in book form and television.

“Cole, is it?” The raven haired beauty asked, with a voice soft as a whisper, yet resonate as a gale force wind. “I am Layla.”

“You…you’re a Jinn.”

“I can be anything you wish,” Layla said, clothing her form in black miniskirt and high heels, and then instantly into a flowing transparent chiffon, thigh high night gown. Her azure eyes blinked enticingly. “What would you wish?”

Cole stayed silent. He spoke only after five full minutes had passed.

“I saw an X-Files episode where these dimwits get some carpet Genie to grant wishes, which they subsequently destroy themselves with,” Cole stated carefully, as Layla began laughing appreciatively, clapping her small hands together.

“I’m not that kind of Genie,” Layla chuckled. “I saw the episode. Very entertaining.”

Cole smiled. “Let’s cut to the chase. I wish for you to be free of the lamp.”

Layla screamed her mouth and form swirling into a mini-whirlwind before disappearing.

Cole sat down on the sofa, running shaky hands through his close cropped hair.

“I guess old Sonny really was trying not to screw me over,” Cole murmured to himself, leaning back.

“He…he didn’t screw you over,” Layla said, her form materializing where she lay in a heap at Cole’s feet. “Sorry, I turned invisible for a moment.”

Cole edged away from Layla. “You’re free. Look, the lamp’s gone. Why are you still here?”

“As you say, I am free,” Layla said, clutching Cole’s leg, and leaning her head against his thigh. “You… have no idea… it has been thousands of years. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Cole said, feeling as if his leg were on fire where Layla gripped it. “Have a nice life. Good luck to you.”

“I am free to grant you any wish I want, and no tricks,” Layla met Cole’s distrustful gaze steadily. “Let me thank you properly. I will even help you with picking your wish.”

“Okay…” Cole replied, his heart racing. “I’m going with simple. I want you to help me get all the stuff stolen from the auto shop I work at back.”

Layla took Cole’s hand, tilting it palm up, and kissed his palm. “Done.”

Cole stood inside a dingy steel building, filled with every imaginable item. Layla stood next to him in a mini-skirt with white blouse, gesturing happily.

“Your things are here, Cole.”

“Hey!” A gruff voice yelled from across the way, where two men had a table set up at the building entrance roll up door.

The two burly thugs ran across the warehouse to confront their visitors. They were both over six feet tall, and heavily built. When the two saw their intruders were unarmed, and one was a beautiful woman, the crooks stopped twenty feet away. They looked at each other and started laughing.

“Where the hell did you two come from?” One asked finally, as the two spread out, reaching for weapons. “You’re cute, baby.”

With but a gesture from Layla, the two went flying headfirst into the back wall of the warehouse, where they lay unmoving. Layla took Cole’s hand, and they were instantly standing next to a group of toolboxes and equipment. Cole jogged over to one on the right, a nearly six foot high Mac Tools box.

“I never thought I’d see this again,” Cole looked back at Layla gratefully. “I’ll call the police.”

“Call them from your workplace,” Layla smiled, and they were standing inside the auto shop where Cole worked, along with all the stolen gear.

“You’re amazing,” Cole whispered, taking Layla in his arms. “Thank you.”

“We’re even,” Layla grinned up at him mischievously, putting her arms around Cole’s neck. She kissed him, lightly at first, and then with growing passion. She broke away from him in confusion. “I…I felt that.”

“Oh yeah…” Cole reiterated.

“Maybe I could hang around with you for a while,” Layla offered, her azure colored eyes translucent gateways, Cole lost his way into immediately.

Cole put his arm around Layla’s shoulder. “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Do you know anything about cars?”

“I can learn,” Layla leaned into Cole with a sigh.

6 comments:

Jordan Summers said...

Cute story. Now you should write her something for real. ;)

BernardL said...

BTDT. Thanks, Jordan. :)

December/Stacia said...

I agree. I love the Sam Spade-esque voice here.

BernardL said...

Thanks for noticing, D, that is just the voice I had in mind when I wrote it. I've always been a sucker for pulp fiction stories. :)

Bernita said...

Just delightful.

BernardL said...

I'm glad you liked it, Bernita. It was fun writing it. :)