Barefoot and dressed only in a thin black tank top and California Crazee pants, I made a beeline for the coffee maker. My new friend was already up, trying to figure out how to use the satellite and DVR with its six remotes – each of them having one or more unique functions and about 97 buttons that all did the same thing.
“So, what’s your name?” I asked, scooping heaping tablespoons of fresh-ground Columbian coffee into an old, stained, but perfectly functional Mr. Coffee drip brewer.
I dropped the spoon. “Emmett?” I stared.
The genie stared back. “Yes?”
Using the kitchen sink hose attachment, I filled the water reservoir and pushed the brew button. I didn’t say a word. Emmett. The only Emmett I could think of was Emmett Kelly, the famous clown. Stifling a mad case of hysterical giggles, I shook my head and pressed my lips together.
Clowns gave me the heebie-jeebies. Heebie-jeebies and repressed laughter often end in embarrassing explosions from one end or the other. I tried not to laugh or fart. Emmett Kelly style clowns, though – classic, sad-eyed, kind-hearted clowns – were hard to hate. And I had, arguably, the worlds largest clown standing in the middle of my living room, juggling six remote control devices. Literally. Emmett had grown bored trying to get them to work, and was now juggling–no, he was levitating them in front of him, studying them as if he were a scientist from Mars, hell-bent on figuring out the secrets of the Earth people’s deadly semi-universal remote.
I’d bet $10 Emmett had never seen a AA battery, either.
He was no stranger to a gym, though. I closed my eyes and tried not to crave a beer before coffee.
Emmett was familiar with coffee, and gratefully accepted a giant ceramic mug full. We sat, side by side, sipping the warm elixir in companionable, if awkward, silence. Glancing at Emmett, still wearing his ridiculous purple MC Hammer pants and gold-trimmed genie tunic, I realized my original plan – to take him shopping at Cavender’s – had a flaw. “Oh, crap!”
I jumped up, spilled coffee on myself, and pulled on a t-shirt and shoes. “I’ll be back.” Emmett was already exploring the knick-knacks. “Don’t touch anything.” I had visions of returning to a trashed house. “Just…” I grabbed one of the floating remotes and pushed a few buttons. Ahh, we were in luck – the Disney Channel was showing Aladdin. I hoped Emmett had a sense of humor.
Grabbing my car keys, I took off for WalMart. Sweat pants. XXXL. That would have to do.
Driving down the highway, the insanity of the situation caught up to me. Hysterical laughter burst out of my nose, an unattractive snort. Maybe it was an undigested bit of sushi, a blob of wasabi, a crumb of Goldfish crackers, a sliver of underdone pork, I thought. Or not, since all I’d had for dinner last night was a Lean Pocket and a tossed salad.
I guessed at Emmett’s shoe size – 13 seemed a lucky number – and picked him up a pair of cross-trainers. I added a few men’s toiletries to my cart, while I was at it. Until I could puzzle out how Emmett landed himself under my couch cushion, I had no idea how to send him back, and no money to put him up in a hotel for the duration. He might start to stink, and I couldn’t have him showering with my Spicy Plumeria Sugar Scrub and Sassy Sea Salt Shampoo.
Plunking everything down onto the water-streaked conveyor belt, I grabbed a couple of candy bars, three decks of Yu-Gi-Oh cards, a plastic Tinkerbell flashlight, and a case of 5-Hour Energy Shots. It made sense at the time. Later I drank an energy shot and silently toasted the evil genius who arranged the impulse buys near the cash register. I had no idea why I bought the candy bars – they were not on my diet.
Wearing navy blue Hanes sweatpants and a psychedelic Einstein graphic tee, Emmett looked almost normal – as normal as a 7′ hunk who appeared out of nowhere in a shower of sparks could look, I supposed. “Okay,” I said, unable to postpone this awkward conversation one minute longer, “where did you come from?”
“If I said, ‘Pensacola,’ would you believe me?”
“I’d believe damned near anything, right about now,” I muttered. But Pensacola? Emmett, the genie from Pensacola? “So, I hear Pensacola’s nice. What brings you here?” Oh, that was lame. “I mean–um…”
“I know what you mean. Morna.”
“And how do you know my name?” I’d been the one asking the questions; I hadn’t volunteered it.
“Morna Owin.” Emmett smiled. “It’s written on the dust jacket of your last novel. The one you artfully, nonchalantly, tossed onto the coffee table to be perused by random house guests. I may be new to your–era–but I wasn’t born yesterday.”
I blushed. Was it that obvious? I artfully, carelessly, oh-so-nonchalantly tossed a kitchen towel over the book and looked away from Emmett’s gaze.
Emmett went on, “I wish I had answers. Last thing I remember, I was aboard the Little Nell, manipulating the winds and currents – you know, the sort of thing professional genies do–”
“Did you think we just sat around in the bottom of brass oil lamps, waiting for someone to mistake them for balls and give ’em a rub?” Emmett smiled. “I do know the fishwives tales. Oil lamps, thieves, something magical about the number three…” Emmett trailed off, lost in memory. “It’s not true,” he whispered. “Most of it, anyway. Sorry for the salty language, Morna, but it’s been a while since I enjoyed the company of a lady.”
I sat back and raised an eyebrow at Emmett. “How long ‘a while’ are we talking?”
“What’s the year?”
“Bloody crab-infested barnacles on Cap’n Billy’s Butt!”
“A couple hundred years.”
I nodded. A two hundred year old genie named Emmett, from Pensacola. Why did I have this thing for older men? In my defense, I didn’t realize GiGi was already an old movie the first time I laid eyes on Louis Jourdan. But two hundred years…even George Burns wasn’t quite 100 when he charmed me in Oh, God!
“You don’t seem surprised.”
“You sucked the last drop of adrenaline from my veins last night. I’ve got nothin’ left.” It was true. I am a committed arachnophobe, but if a giant, hairy six-foot-tall tarantula walked in the front door right this second, surprise would barely register on my face. I could do the math; besides sending Emmett back to where he came from, I now had to work out the problem of sending him back when he came from.
I went over to inspect the PC for the first time since Emmett appeared. It was an eye-catching, powerful machine, but there was something “off” about it, even when it was on. There was a connection, here – I just wasn’t seeing it. I’d picked up the PC in a quaint little shop down a back alley in the French Quarter a year ago. My friend Bob had told me that Voodoo made a great gaming rig, and so I sought one out. He might have been more specific. The second he laid eyes on it, he laughed his ass off. “That’s not a Voodoo PC.”
“That’s what the woman who sold it to me said it was!” She even threw in a mouse, for free. Beady-eyed little thing. “Everyone said she was the expert in Voodoo.”
“You weren’t even a little suspicious about the bat guano? What battery runs off bat poop?” The man had a point. But the computer was super powerful, only shrieked when I first turned it on, barely knocked and hissed when a teenager looked at it, and it was a long drive back to New Orleans, so I kept it. Bob installed a bat box in my oak tree and gave me a manicure set for Christmas. As for the blood of my enemies, well – that’s a tale for another time.
“We’re going to New Orleans,” I said. I gathered up PC parts and reassembled the bits I had pried apart last night.
Emmett blanched. “Not New Orleans.”
“Are you allergic to New Orleans?” I asked, rolling my eyes. While Emmett stammered out a series of rambling, nonsensical protests, I gathered up things for an overnight bag. “Come on, a road trip will be fun.” I called my boss as Emmett and I climbed into my car. “I need to take a couple of days’ vacation,” I explained, starting the engine. “Something’s come up – a, um, family emergency.”
Emmett grew quiet. Pondering. Finally, he breathed a sigh of relief. “They’re all dead now, aren’t they?”
“Yes, Emmett. All your enemies are dead.”
“Enemies? They were my best clients.”
“You never cease to amaze me, Emmett.”
If it wasn’t clear, I’m attempting to tame two birds with one blog – NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo – simultaneously. Throughout the month, posts tagged NaNoBloWriPoMo will be works of fiction adding up, I hope, to a ridiculously silly “novel” of at least 50,000 words. I say “I hope” because I’m blogging this one day at a time – as a committed “Pantser,” I’m learning how the story unfolds just minutes (hours, at the most) before you do.
Did you miss one? Here are the chapters, all in order (more will appear as they are posted):
- The Challenge
- Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You
- It’s…Different on the Inside
- Madame and the Warranty
- Like Fireflies in a Pickle Jar
- Like Sand Through the Motherboard
- There’s No Place Like 127.0.0.1
- Drunk on Freedom, Dancing with the Jinn
- Why Me?
- The Power of Imagination and Words
- Rebellion and Revenge