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Of Jinns, Jellybeans and Kmart Underwear

Elizabeth is an MFA creative writing graduate who now types out all her stories with one hand while the other holds her baby. She's been published in Takahe and Sponge, and prefers writing fantastical nonsense over just plain nonsense. You can find her at: riverandcompanywriting.wordpress.com.

I was searching through the clearance underwear bin at Kmart when I first met the Jinn. I knew what she was by the oil-slick gloss to her skin that simmered like a heat wave in the distance, and I wondered how it would feel to run my fingers across it. Would they come away slick? Or would the Jinn dissipate before I could touch her, like smoke from an extinguished cigarette? She held a giant pair of granny panties against her midsection, carefully measuring crotch to belly button coverage. She wore an oversized military coat that ended just above the knees, snow boots (even though it was late June) and 1970s circle lens sunglasses. I felt dumpy in comparison, but there was something about her that made me want to talk to her. As I picked up another 99-cent thong, I drew her attention. "There's a changing room in the juniors' section," I said, thrilled over how she paused to look at me. "A bulb's blown, but I don't think anyone buying granny panties cares what they look like."
"I care."
"Oh, well, then they look like shit."
Her laugh echoed through the empty store. "Some honesty." She shoved the granny panties into her jacket pocket. "Tell me." At the expression on my face she clicked her tongue. "Your wish, doofus. We both know that I'm a Jinn."
"Aren't Jinns supposed to be older and a bit ugly?"
"Is that your way of calling me young and pretty?" She yanked off her boots and threadbare socks and threw those to the side in exchange for a pair of tan loafers.
From the depths of her deep pockets came a bag of jellybeans. Tipping back her head she poured the contents into her mouth--and with a full mouth said, "You can call me Angelica."
"I'm Zarai. I met a Jinn when I was a kid. His name was Chester and he lived in the apartment above ours for a while. I asked him once if he wanted to be a girl because of his shimmery skin."
She laughed. "Chester granted you something."
"Yeah. But it was so long ago I can't remember," I lied.
Behind those circle lenses I could swear she looked right through me but instead she asked, "What do you want, Z?"
"I wish you'd take off your sunglasses," I said.
Angelica did as I asked. Like polished bronze, her eyes reflected everything I ever wanted, and I was transfixed, remembering each thing until I was left with my most recent want--the desire to find out what her mouth would feel like against mine. She slid the glasses back up the bridge of her nose, and my cheeks flushed red as if I had been caught spying on her changing.
"Well, it's been fun."
"That's it? You're just leaving?"
She shrugged. "I gave you what you wanted. And I got a flight to catch."
"Do magic carpets have regulated airspace?"
Angelica laughed, then swiftly gave me a kiss on the cheek that left me flustered. "You're dumb," she said and was gone by the time it took me to blink.
The gifts started sometime after that. First it was a bag of jellybeans in an old pair of heels tucked in the back of my bedroom closet. Dingy socks draped my car, then I stumbled upon a pair of scratched sunglasses in the pasta aisle of the grocery store. It became a habit of mine to look for Angelica everywhere I went. I searched for her in oil spills, peered suspiciously into the shimmering reflection of hot cooking oil. In my desperation I started wishing. I pleaded with the north star, took a purse filled with loose change to a fountain, bought rabbit foot after rabbit foot, cracked wishbones, pulled out eyelashes, blew on dandelions, blew out birthday candles, tried (without success) to find the end of rainbows, and waited twice a day for 11:11 to come around. Nothing came from my efforts. One morning I woke early enough to hear a bird chirping, unusual since it was the middle of winter. Out of habit I wished, but this time for Chester.
"Hello to you. It's been some time, hasn't it?" Chester Montgomery sat before me, serenely sipping tea from a ceramic cup that looked like a speckled egg. He had the same craggy face, with lines like branches of a river running from the outer corner of his eyes that ended just before his ears. Candles flickered all around us, bathing the room in a soft orange glow.
"Where did you come from?" I asked.
Chester put down his cup. "Old Jinns don't take kindly to traveling, so you had to come to me. Now, you wished to see me again."
A white cat sauntered into the room, meowing as it gracefully settled into Chester's lap. I watched his hand rise and fall in gentle waves as I told him about Angelica.
"She's having a bit of fun, isn't she?" Chester mulled aloud. "The younger ones like to play with humans like a cat plays with a mouse." The cat flicked her tail lazily, as if contributing to the conversation.
"Why the gifts? At least an actual cat is merciful and ends the mouse's suffering."
"There is only one thing to do. Gather her favorite things and ask--do not wish--her to come to you."
"Like a seance, but instead of calling on the dead I'm calling on a Jinn. How do I know if I'm asking or wishing?"
"Asking is being okay if the other person says 'no.' Wishing focuses on just one person, the wisher, and doesn't account for the wants and needs of anyone else. That's why we have hard rules against necromancy."
As he said this, the cat opened her eyes and looked at me. Goosebumps appeared on my skin and I was strangely aware for the first time I was far from home. "Wasn't my wish necromancy, in some way?"
"You wished for a little more time with a loved one, Zarai, something everyone wishes for." At the sound of a crying baby and the low murmurs of Japanese, he smiled. "Time for you to go home. I should help my wife, lest she comes out and tries to drown us in the frozen river outside. She is a mizuchi water dragon, after all."
I thanked him, and the next thing I knew I was home, watching the lights from apartments flicker one by one into blackness as the city went to bed. From beneath my pillow I took the bag of jellybeans, under the dusty nightstand came a pair of socks, scratched sunglasses sat atop the microwave. I placed everything in the center of the kitchen table. The soft electrical hum of my refrigerator calmed my nerves as I grabbed a brick of cold butter. and for good measure I found a crumpled Kmart receipt in my pocket and threw it into the pile. Sitting down, I waited a moment to clear my head and my heart of wishes and then said, "Would you like to go out with me?"
I waited so long the butter melted into a giant puddle. As I noticed this, Angelica flickered into existence across from me.
"Looks like you've been talking to Chester; I wasn't sure you'd ever get around to calling on him." She had gotten rid of the coat and snow boots in favor for a frilly purple bridesmaid's dress and a closely shaved head, which made me blush as I imagined running my hands over the soft stubble.
"So?" I asked again.
"I thought you might wish we never met at all."
Dumping out the bag of jellybeans, I flicked one at her and laughed when it pegged her on the nose. Angelica rolled her eyes but grinned as she picked it up and ate it.
"Well," I pestered her for a third time, "Will you go out with me?"
Angelica chewed an orange jellybean slowly. "Yeah."
I could feel the smile on her lips, and the taste of jellybeans.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, June 28th, 2019

Author Comments

I set out to write a flash fiction piece about kleptomaniac genies but somehow it turned into a love story. Funny how that happens sometimes.

- Elizabeth Ho
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