I knew it was a mistake the moment it was over.
The moment the third wish left my mouth, I felt my tongue dry up, my lips gasp with the effort of taking it back. But it was already done. The genie had already disappeared in a poof of purple smoke, and I was left standing there with my winning lottery ticket in one hand, my published novel in the other, and the knowledge of what I had done creeping up behind me. No, scratch that. It wasn’t knowledge creeping up behind me—it was him. I could hear his padded footsteps, the guttural scrape that might have been the start of a growl or the clearing of a throat, depending. And then, the voice.
“I have a bone to pick with you, Charles.”
I gritted my teeth. “No one calls me Charles. You know that. My name is Kip.”
“Your NAME is Charles, despite what people call you. I, for one, should know the difference. My name is Garowlskins. My mother named me. But that doesn’t stop idiots like you from calling me Tom or Felix or, horror of all horrors, ‘sweet widdle kiddy’. Does it?”
I closed my eyes. Why? Why had I said it? I was so excited about the money and the book and there was so little time left. The fairy tales don’t mention that genies come equipped with timers these days, little hourglasses (minute-glasses really) filled with sand, counting down the precious seconds until they disappear, wishes or no wishes. It’s a lot of pressure. And as a kid I always thought it would be neat if — but that was then. That was when I had Scruffy. Scruffy was the best. Scruffy never would’ve had a harsh word for anyone. But Tom… I didn’t think it through, didn’t consider the consequences.
“There are things for us to discuss,” he squalled, easing himself back onto his haunches. “The irregular meal times, for instance, the lack of quality entertainment, that annoying high-pitched thing you do in the shower that hurts my ears, the way you cruelly sever my weapons once a month… yes, there are many things to discuss. But FIRST, I want to know. Do you remember that night in the winter of 2011 when you fell asleep on the couch after putting me in the backyard? Do you remember how it SNOWED that night? Do you remember how the temperature dropped to twenty-four degrees, and when you let me in the next day I had bronchitis? Do you remember that, Charles? Because I do. I lost one of my lives that night and I’ve never forgotten it. How many lives have YOU got, Charles? Huh? You might want to hold them a little closer from now on.” He narrowed his eyes at me, flicked his gray striped tail. “I’m waiting.”
Why, oh why, I thought, did I wish my cat could talk?
Carie Juettner is a poet and short story author living in Austin, Texas. Her work has appeared in over a dozen publications, including The Texas Poetry Calendar, Dark Moon Digest, and Writers Weekly. Carie splits her writing time between her home office and her favorite Austin coffee shops. She has one dog and four cats and is thankful that none of them can talk.