“Master, you have set me free and for that I will grant you three wishes. Are you ready or do you need some time to think?”, the Genie asked, rubbing his neck and sighing. He sounded more like a phone sales guy who promotes internet packages than a mythical creature.
“I think you need some time mate. Go for a walk or take a shower or something and we’ll talk later, alright?
“No, no, ready when you are, oh…”, he moaned, cracking his back. Tom rolled his eyes and shook his head in disbelief. He put the lamp he was polishing down and picked up a crystal ashtray, circa 1850s. Caltzestrouchi, a giant of a calico cat, waltzed in the storage room and hopped on the table. She bumped her head lovingly upon Tom’s belly, asking for scratches and spared only a quick glance at the Genie.
“Cal, what do you think? Do you have any wishes?”
She curled her tail into a question mark and purred. Tom let down the ashtray and the cloth and looked around the antique store’s storage room, the “real antique store” as he thought of it.
“Look, I could probably ask for a renovation of this place and all, right?”
“But of course mast…”
“But!”, Tom interrupted. “Would that make me really happy? I don’t think so. I mean wishes are supposed to make you happy, right?”
The Genie only looked at him, waiting to hear the rest of what seemed a monologue upon the nature of contentment.
“So, I won’t wish for that. You know what I always wanted my friend? To travel the world. To go on a road trip, like the one that Kerouac writes in his “On The Road” book. Probably you haven’t read that.”
Tom was walking around the table with the antiques, picking one after another and inspecting them for dust or rust or cracks. The Genie, not very interested in all this, made some jumping jacks that gained the interest of Caltzestrouchi who was now moving her head up and down, synchronizing with him. Tom continued.
“But not only do the American coast to coast thing. Travel Europe and the Balkans as well, maybe even go to India and Africa too.”
“What’s… stopping… you?” The Genie asked, out of breath now. He had started doing squats.
“Money. That’s all.”
“I can give you money.”
Tom nodded at Cal, who was now scratching her head on the ashtray, dangerously moving it towards the edge of the table.
“What about the cat?” the Genie asked.
“I can’t just leave her, can I?”
The Genie stopped exercising and looked at Tom, then the cat, then at Tom.
“I fail to see the problem.”
“Probably because you never had cats. I can’t just take her with me either. She will suffer. Cats love their houses more than they love us, you know? She will freak out in a car or a ship or a plane or a train or a…”
“I get it.” The Genie interrupted. “Look I am sure you can wish something about that too.”
“Hmm… I could, couldn’t I?”
The Genie nodded and stretched his arms and legs.
“What do you say Cal?”
Cal looked at him, uninterestingly, closing her eyes and opening them again very slowly.
“Okay, okay. Let’s see. So, first wish, are you ready?”
“My first wish is to have enough money to travel comfortably the world for ten years.”
“Done”, the Genie said plainly.
“Done? What do you mean done?”
“Check your bank account.”
Tom put out his phone and checked his balance online.
“Holy shit mate. That’s more than I thought.”
“You said ten years and comfortably. And don’t worry about taxes, I got it covered. It’s like you won the lottery or a super-rich uncle died or something. You’re alright.”
“Uh-huh. Okay, two more, let’s go.”
“My second wish is to have my companion, my cat Caltzestrouchi that is, with me in this ten-year road trip and for her to have a good time with me, not be afraid, and not get sick or die. Is that alright? Is it like… more wishes in this one?”
“No, it’s okay. Done.”
“Shouldn’t you be clicking your fingers or something every time you grant a wish?”
“The money on your bank is not proof enough of what I can do?”
“Right. Well, that’s it then. Thanks.”
Tom started toward the door. The Genie was in front of him in an instant.
“Hey, hey, hey. You have one more wish.”
“Yes, I know. I don’t want it now.”
“But…” he mumbled. “What about me?”
“Well,” Tom scratched his head. “You want to join us?”
Cal meowed in what both of them thought of as an agreement but neither of them said so.
The first year of the trip was hard and wonderful and extremely fulfilling. It was everything Tom feared and wanted. They got robbed, they fought with each other, and they had dinners watching the sunset on a mountaintop and swam in the ocean in midnight. Cal was indeed having a wonderful time, making friends with the foreign strays and looking out of the window when they were on the road. They read ghost stories at campfires and drank wine and slept on the deck of a ship with a sleeping bag and caught a cold the next day.
“You should have wished for us not to get sick as well. Is never too late for me to grant you the third wish, you know”, the Genie said after that night.
“I am alright”, Tom replied and then sneezed.
The second year of the trip they went to Vietnam and stayed at a monastery. Both the Genie and Tom agreed that Cal was beating them in the silent contest of “who meditates better”. They travelled around the country with the car, swore at all the drivers on the road at first and then just breathed deeply whenever they found somebody on the road that was making their life hard. The Genie asked if maybe Tom would like to use his wish to make everyone in that country take a driver’s test again.
“I am alright”, Tom replied and then inhaled to the count of four, held to the count of two and exhaled to the count of seven.
The third year of the trip they spent some time apart. The Genie found a job as a waiter in a diner somewhere in Colorado and Tom and Caltzestrouchi spent a month in a cabin in Montana. They met after four months, planned to go to New York and do the proper coast to coast trip to Los Angeles in a Cadillac. Tom met somebody he really liked in New York but their affair had to end because of Tom’s plan. Tom was heartbroken.
“Do you wish me to make it go away?”, the Genie asked sympathetically.
“I am alright”, Tom replied and then turned up the volume to the “Don’t Stop Believing” song that was playing on the radio.
The fourth year of the trip, they found themselves lost on what to do next, so they flew to Italy, drove to Tuscany and then rented a villa for six months. They drank wine and ate pasta and made some wonderful friends who stayed most of the time there with them. It was a girl named Elena from Romania and an Italian guy named Luigi. They had met there in an artist’s residency and became a couple. Luigi taught Tom how to draw, just the basics and Elena spent hours talking with the Genie about men and God.
“Oh man”, Tom said one particularly blissful night. “I wish life was always this sweet.”
“Do you want me to grant you this wish?”
“I am alright”, Tom replied and screamed “I am alive” from the balcony into the night air.
The fifth year of the trip, they decided to give back. They went to Peru and helped abused women recover and start a new life. The sleeping arrangements were terrible, the small house stank and was full of bugs, the water was not clean, and they came back crying at least once a week. Cal had become best friends with a lousy looking dog and they played together. They both wanted to move on to something else but the pain they saw was addictive. They wanted to make them better, all these women and children.
“Tom, do you wish me to make them better?”
“I am alright”, Tom replied after thinking about it for a long time. “We will do the best we can for a little bit longer and then move on.”
The sixth year of the trip, Tom, Cal, and the Genie went to Australia. They marvelled on how a country so relatively new was so wise and authentic. They stayed at a five star hotel for some time, enjoying the luxury life and the amazing service and then they went on drives that seemed to be endless and roads that looked so similar. Tom, whenever the Genie was driving, was writing a book.
“Do you wish me to make it a best seller for you?”
“I am alright”, Tom replied and scratched Caltzestrouchi’s ear. She purred and continued sleeping on his lap.
The seventh year of the trip, they decided to go to many places and not just stay somewhere for the whole year. So they traveled to Europe and went to Romania, stayed at a castle and read Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”, then they went to Ukraine and were shocked by Chernobyl and the nuclear disaster, then they went to Belarus and spent time learning about the Soviet past and also visited the cat museum which Cal was calmly delighted to explore, they then went to Lithuania and spent time in a house just outside of a forest, making friends with the deities and learning about the pagan past of the country. As the year was coming to an end, they both decided that the next year should be dedicated to Russia.
“Do you maybe wish to learn Russian?”, the Genie laughed.
“я в порядке”, Tom replied which he searched on Google translate.
The eighth year of the trip, they spent it in Russia, exploring, freezing and drinking. In Moscow, their first stop, the Genie got into a fight which led them both to the hospital. Cal was waiting for them the next day in the hotel, pissed off that she didn’t eat for a day, completely ignoring that they were both wounded. As they travelled to Saint Petersburg, Tom noticed that Genie really liked his drinks a lot. When they talked about it, the Genie said that it was under control. Tom and Caltzestrouchi had their doubts. In the train to Igarka, the Genie came out of the toilet, holding his belly and looking pale as ever.
“Can you wish for me to stop drinking? I don’t think I am handling it very well after all”, the Genie begged and then gagged.
“I am alright”, Tom replied, “And you will be too”, he continued.
The ninth year of the trip, they went to Japan and then China. They laughed on how wrong the assumptions of Western people are that these two countries are somehow connected, or that they even speak similar languages. They went again to a monastery in Tokyo, and remembered their second year of the trip and Cal beat them again at “who meditates better”. The Genie, recovering from last year’s hangover, had now picked an interest in learning about flowers. Tom started writing a second book on travelling and meditation while they drove a long highway in Northern China.
“Do you wish me to make us meditate better than Cal?”, the Genie asked, already knowing the answer.
“Actually…”, Tom started, making the Genie look at him with wide eyes. “I am alright”, Tom replied at the end, and they both chuckled.
The tenth year and final year of the trip, Tom asked the Genie where he was from.
“Sierra Leone”, the Genie replied. So they went to Africa, which Tom wanted to visit anyway. Of course, it was nothing like Genie remembered because the Genie was very old and had traveled a lot in his lamp, granting wishes all over the world through the centuries. Tom, Genie, and Cal spent some time helping the poor and then got scared and took a plane to travel to Kenya. They went on a safari which made Cal uncomfortable but also curious. They drove to Tanzania and then Mozambique and then it was time to go home.
“It is over”, the Genie said before they got on the plane. “What is your wish?”
Tom looked at him and a smile started forming on his face that went on to become the biggest smile Tom had ever given to anyone in his whole life. He grabbed the Genie by the shoulder.
“I wish to do it all over again”, Tom replied. “With you and Cal.”
Cal meowed in what both of them thought of as an agreement.