Be careful what you wish for . . .
Diego and the Genie
Diego tugged at the ancient net. He needed a firm, but gentle hand to haul in even a small catch. The net was not strong and the motion of the sea complicated the problem. He could feel the thrashing of many struggling fish as he braced himself precariously against the side of the boat and pulled. Diego had found the discarded net on the beach and patched it many times, using bits of old string or rotting fishing line. A poor orphan could hardly afford to buy a new nylon fishing net! Even a spool of cheap twine seemed expensive to a young man who often lacked money for food. And even if he could land his catch, old Hector always demanded half to pay for the use of the small boat. And then he paid only half of what Diego’s half was worth, because Diego was young and alone in the world.
Diego uttered a small cry of despair as the overloaded net gave way. He grasped frantically at the loose ends and managed to land five entangled fish who were unable to escape. “At least I can eat tonight,” he thought, but it was small comfort. As he gathered in the last of the netting, he saw a bright gleam in the bottom of the boat. It was an oddly shaped cut glass bottle. It had a patterned surface with an iridescent sheen and Diego found it difficult to make out the design. It was a striking object, however, and Diego gave thanks for the lucky find. It might bring a few pesos at Segunda Mano, the village shop that traded in used goods.
Old Hector would be angry to see so few fish, but there was no reason to stay on the water with a torn net. Diego thought of the greedy fishmonger and carefully wrapped the shining bottle in the remnants of the net to conceal it. He rowed slowly back to the beach and carried his mostly empty basket up to the decrepit shack where Hector sold the fruit of other men’s labor.
“Only five fish? That won’t even cover the boat rental!” Hector exclaimed.
“Por favor, three is more than half? And I have nothing else to eat . . .”
“Alright, four - since I am a kind and generous man.”
Diego left with one fish, picked up his net and made his way to the tiny tin-roofed hut where he could make a small fire of driftwood and cook his supper. As the fish sizzled, he looked more closely at the bottle. It was oddly difficult to see clearly, but he realized that it didn't have the slimy film that usually coated objects cast up by the sea. It was unnaturally clean and bright, even the stopper that was secured to the neck of the bottle with a wire hinge. Curious, Diego popped it open, wondering if it might contain wine or even have a message rolled up inside.
“Dios mio!” Diego cried out as a rush of smoky vapor spewed forth and quickly congealed into a vaguely human shape. “What is happening . . . what . . . who . . . who are you?”
It was difficult to focus on the image in front of him. Still, there was a sense of beauty as well as power. Diego’s initial fear became a wondrous sense of awe as the figure solidified into a beautiful dark-haired woman. She wore colorful silks that covered but didn’t conceal a stunning figure. A translucent veil only emphasized her comely features. Diego had never seen anything like this before!
“You may call me Mariel,” the figure intoned in a melodious voice. “Though that is not my true name. I am a genie, and you have found your fortune. You may have three wishes. Each wish must be formally and clearly stated. Choose wisely and you will be granted your heart’s desire. Choose poorly and you will receive exactly what you request!”
But how did you come here?” wondered the amazed and curious Diego. “Why have you come to me?”
“Long ago, I was a servant to a great sorcerer,” explained Mariel. “He sought only knowledge, but I sought my own selfish ends. I stole from him and tried to use his magic for myself. As punishment, he gave me the power to fulfill dreams, but only for others. I am cursed to travel the world as a spirit and grant wishes to the poor and unfortunate until I have learned true humility.”
Diego’s mind was reeling as he tried to grasp the meaning of the genie’s words. The young man was barely literate, having left school early after the loss of his parents. His hard-scrabble life since hadn’t included time for magic, or even hope. Still, he had heard the tale of Aladdin and began to wonder if the genie might be real.
“May I wish for wealth and power?” he asked, trying to remember how Aladdin’s story had turned out.
“To an extent. Wishes are granted such that they blend in with what is real and what could be real,” replied Mariel. “But take heed, I am compelled to give warning that selfish desires led to my fall. And there are many ways for a poorly worded wish to go wrong, so think carefully before you speak!”
Diego considered Mariel’s advice for some few minutes, thinking about his own life and what would bring him true happiness. He had no experience of wealth and little desire to dominate other men. Most of all, he was lonely. There were few in the village who had time for such a poor young man. And there was virtually no chance of finding a wife who would join him in his poverty.
“I have always wanted a home, a wife, and family. Sons to carry on my name. May I wish for such things?” he asked hopefully.
“Yes, such things are within my power,” answered the genie.
“Then I wish for a suitable house to have a family.”
“A suitable house, perhaps this young man is wiser than he looks,” mused the genie, who hadn't yet learned humility. “It would be difficult to twist such a wish and call the house suitable. Still, it needn't be a palace.”
“Your wish is granted,” the genie gestured, and Diego suddenly found himself in a comfortable cottage instead of the shabby squatter's hut. It was a simple house, but well-constructed, with room enough for sons and daughters. There was a front room for visitors and a kitchen large enough for cheerful family meals. The genie intended the small house to be a disappointment, but Diego was delighted.
“But how . . .? Is it really mine?” Diego wondered aloud. Then vague memories began to form in his mind. He remembered his parents working and saving. How they had also received a small inheritance shortly before they passed. Just enough to build this house and leave it to him. He remembered a greedy lawyer who tried to deceive Diego and keep the house for himself. In fact, it was just this week that an honest judge had finally ruled in Diego’s favor. A simple explanation for Diego's new house. It could have happened that way. And now, thanks to the genie, it had happened that way!
Diego could barely contain his excitement. The genie was real! He could have almost anything if he was clever enough. What should his second wish be? A wife? Family? Money? He considered for only a few moments before realizing that with a wife, family would naturally follow. And then the third wish could be used for a sum of money, his own fishing boat, or even better – a fleet of fishing boats!
Diego considered the young women of the village. Which one would make the best wife? A good homemaker? A woman from a prominent family? Several pretty girls came to mind, but none could compare to the exotic beauty of Mariel. The mysterious and beautiful genie would make a most interesting wife! And then he had a very clever thought, “Why not get two desires with one wish? If the genie has my child, then she would have to be my wife!”
Diego's face reddened and he looked down at his feet as he thought about making such a proposal to Mariel. He wasn't accustomed to speaking of these things with women. Or to speaking with women at all. He was unsure of exactly what to say, but his desire for a family finally gave him the courage to speak.
“Mariel, I wish that you would give me a son,” he smiled shyly with what he thought was a clear intent.
“Granted,” Mariel replied eagerly. This was more like it! A wish with just enough ambiguity to be interesting!
Diego gasped as he felt an unfamiliar pressure within his midsection. His ragged trousers suddenly felt very tight as his belly swelled out over his belt and then there was a sharp twinge of pain as his pelvis reformed. Diego looked down in shock at the bulge of an advanced pregnancy, and at the small but unmistakable breasts pushing out the front of his threadbare shirt!
“What have you done to me?” he cried out plaintively.
“Your son will arrive in one month,” the genie explained, enjoying Diego's distress. “That will give you time to prepare.”
“No, no,” he protested. “This is not right; you gave me the wrong wish! I wanted you to be my wife!”
“Wishes must be clearly stated,” reiterated the genie with an impish grin. “And I cannot break my curse and live as a mortal. You have exactly what you requested.”
“But this is wrong!” shouted Diego, too upset to think clearly. “This is not my wish! I wish for a wife to give me children – “
“Done,” interrupted the genie gleefully, "you will bear many children." Then both genie and bottle vanished as if they had never been.
Dazed, Diego wandered through his new home. Everything felt so . . . different. His gait was affected by the width of his new pelvis and the weight of the baby reminded him even more of his new situation. Diego sank awkwardly into a chair and tried to understand what the genie had done to him. He couldn’t really be pregnant! A man can’t have a baby, can he? Or nurse one? Diego tentatively touched his new breasts, but quickly pulled his hands away when he felt a sexual tingle from the surprisingly large nipples. As he contemplated a new and very different future, the door swung open and Gabriela entered with a shopping bag full of vegetables.
“Hola Diego, I found some beautiful tomatoes at the market!” she called out.
Diego found more new memories forming as he vaguely remembered the courtship, their wedding, and how Gabriela had planted a seed that was now bearing fruit. His strong and capable Gabriela. How fortunate that they had found each other! He with his slight build and feminine anatomy, and she with her broad shoulders and manly member. Her parents had been so overjoyed that they had provided a small dowry to furnish Diego’s cottage and start them out in married life.
The chance of such a match was nearly impossible, yet thanks to Mariel, it had happened just that way. Diego felt a rush of emotions that were almost too much to bear. A passionate love for his Gabriela, maternal love for his unborn son, joy at the thought that he would never again be alone. Diego reflected on the genie’s first words. Had he chosen wisely? "Perhaps not," he thought ruefully, yet he still had a sense that he’d been granted his heart’s desire.
Gabriela bent down for a quick kiss and then pressed her hand against his stomach. “Was the fishing good today? Did our little Juan cause you any difficulty with handling the net?”
Still dazed by his new reality, Diego smiled weakly as he felt the baby kick. “Yes, the sea was very . . . bountiful.”