Like Fireflies in a Pickle Jar

“What the hell just happened back there?” I asked. “You two have a history, don’t you? How’d I get dragged into this? Talk to me, Emmett, or I swear to God I’ll hire a car, drive back to Houston, and leave you here.”

The old woman had kicked us out of the courtyard after foisting her “seven year warranty” on me and refusing me a refund on the PC from Hell. “Do you at least offer on-site service?” I yelled back as Emmett hustled me from the courtyard hissing, “You do not want that. Trust me, that’s the last thing you need.”

“Yes. We have a history as you put it. It’s complicated.” Emmett looked downcast and a bit sullen. “And by all means, leave me here. Where else am I to go?” Emmett slammed a fist against the stone wall next to him and let out an anguished cry. It was the first real emotion I’d seen him display, and it frightened me a little to see him on the verge of implosion.

I laid a hand on his arm. “What did she mean about the gift, Emmett?”

“Freedom, I presume.” He sighed. “And I am glad not to be crammed in that little box, but…”

“Is this another one of those genie urban legends? You’re telling me your kind is not used to being trapped in itty-bitty containers for centuries until someone finds them, rubs the lamp or the bottle, and demands wish-fulfillment?”

“No. We’re used to near-absolute freedom. What most humans know of the jinn could fill a thimble. The stories you know were mostly made up by a Frenchman.” Emmett smiled. “And a few American authors with overactive imaginations.”

“But you do grant wishes?” I couldn’t think of any other logical explanation for the unicorn, the old typewriter, and the call box in my bedroom this morning. Did Emmett know how to please a girl, or what?

“Look, if you were trapped in a PC by an evil witch for nearly two hundred years, would you limit the one who freed you from that Hell to just three wishes? Or would you lay the world at their feet, if it was in your power to do so?”

“I’d be pretty grateful.”

“You don’t know the half of it.” Emmett smiled. “We planted that seed – that notion of the three wish limit – in the writers’ brains, in order to discourage witches from cramming us into itty-bitty receptacles in the first place.”

“Emmett, how does one trap a genie?”

“Could we get the grammar straight, first?”


“It’s jinn. Jinni is plural.”


“You can’t trap ‘a jinni.’ You could, I suppose, trap a whole bunch of jinni – but I’d really rather you didn’t try.”

I tried to imagine a whole bunch of jinni trapped at the bottom of a Coke bottle for a hundred years. They’d annoy one another to death inside a week. It would be worse than that time I caught 157 fireflies and kept them overnight in an old pickle jar. That was my first mistake; my second was to leave the jar next to my Girl Scout Handbook. By morning, they’d taught themselves Morse code and had synchronized their glowing butts to flash “S O S” in my bedroom window. That was a hard one to explain to my parents and the SWAT team that broke down our front door.

I promised Emmett I would never try to do that.



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):


Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at For more information on her children's books, please visit
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