A billowing puff of blue smoke escaped the ancient oil lamp Efraim had rubbed, and in front of him stood a magnificent genie. It all seemed a little pat. Efraim had been out shopping for antiques on a rare evening off from his law practice. He’d found a really cool oil lamp, and then after purchasing it, rubbed it on a whim. Now this giant ephemeral creature was hovering in the air before him.
“Greetings mortal! Today is your lucky day — you have freed me from this lamp, and for doing so, I will grant you three wishes.”
Efraim looked at the creature in front of him, then to the lamp, and finally, back to the genie.
“Why were you stuck in a lamp?”
“Oh it’s a whole thing with an evil wizard and stuff. You don’t need to worry about it.”
“Oh okay.” Efraim paused, but then his curiosity got the better of him. “Wait, but… why does rubbing the lamp free you? Like, couldn’t someone have just accidentally rubbed you free when they set the lamp on a shelf? That seems like a pretty whacky security system. Why not require something like a strong, complicated alphanumeric passphrase?”
The genie stared at Efraim.
“Really? I’ve just promised you three wishes, to create whatever you’d like in your life, and you’re asking me about the inner workings of a magic lamp?”
“Well yah, I’m curious. And, I don’t know you from any other con-artist off the street. Maybe this is some elaborate ruse to get my hopes up or something.”
The genie scratched his pointy beard and looked at Efraim. How long had he been in that lamp? It seemed like times had changed. He was used to people jumping straight to wishing and asking for uncountable wealth, unreasonable happiness and the love of their life. This guy seemed, well, bad at wishing, if nothing else.
“Ummmmm. Okay. So, what would you like me to do? Do you want me to grant you some wishes, or …?”
Efraim thought for a while. The genie hovered impatiently. He didn’t really have anywhere to go, but he kind of wanted to get on with it.
Efraim spoke, slowly and deliberately. “Okay, well, first, I would kind of like to know why it’s only three wishes, and not four, or two. And then what are the catches?”
The genie took a big breath inwards, before being interrupted by Efraim again, “Oh, also, why are you breathing? Aren’t you a being of magic?”
The genie paused, thought about that, and realized he didn’t have an answer.
“Huh. I don’t actually know why I breathe. I guess I just do. Is that important?”
“No, I guess not, I was just curious.”
“Okay. And then, for the number of wishes, I don’t know why it’s three. That’s just what I chose. Like, why do you part your hair that way?”
The genie could see Efraim was about to answer that rhetorical question and spoke again quickly to avoid a lengthy, and almost certainly boring explanation.
“So, there’s not really any reason, that’s simply what I’m offering you. And then, as far as catches are concerned, there aren’t any. You tell me what you want, I will magically create it in your life. No strings attached.”
Efraim pondered the answer.
“Okay, that sounds too good to be true. How can I trust you?”
The genie was exasperated by the question, even if it was a valid one. People didn’t typically show up with this much skepticism. They just wished for what they wanted.
“Well geez. I don’t know. I mean, I guess you’ll have to choose. Hopefully it’s clear that I’m a magical being, so whatever I tell or show you, in theory, I could just be fabricating out of thin air. I suppose if you wanted to, you could use up one of your three wishes trying to prove that I was trustworthy. I’m not sure how you’d wish for that, but you could probably figure it out. You seem fairly smart. I suspect at the end of the day you’re just going to have to choose to trust me, or not to, and that’ll be that.”
Efraim thought some more.
“Okay, well… how about my first wish is that I’m fully able to trust that the wishes you’re offering me are without a catch?”
The genie was dumbfounded. It was a perfectly valid wish, but, what a waste! IF this person in front of him was simply willing to trust him, he could have an extra wish! Oh well, it wasn’t for the genie to question what people wished for, merely to grant it to them.
“Wishymonjero!” The genie moved his hands through the air in a series of complicated gestures. The gestures were unnecessary, but they made for a better performance and the genie enjoyed a bit of choreography.
“Oh wow. I can’t believe that worked. I don’t know what you did, but I’m on board. Sweet. So I’ve got two wishes now. Damn, I wish I hadn’t wasted that first wish, now that I’m here. Oh well. Still, two wishes to do with whatever I want. Okay, so… let’s see, what should I wish for?”
The genie looked back at Efraim.
“Are you asking me what you should ask for?”
“Yah, I mean, I can trust you now. What do you think I should wish for?”
“Well… but… why would you ask me? This is your life. What do you want? I don’t know what you want. To me, you’re just some jerk that rubbed my lamp and is being difficult about wish fulfilment.”
Efraim bristled, so the genie quickly cleaned up his impact.
“Sorry, you’re asking perfectly fine questions, and you’re not really a jerk, it’s just fun for me to say that. What I really mean, though, is that it doesn’t make a lot of sense for me to tell you what to wish for — I would just be telling you about the things I want in my own life.”