“Genie Needs Help,” by Alex Dermody

Dec 20th, 2022 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

cave of wonders (arabian desert)

Genie floated above Aladdin, a towering blue know-it-all. “I grant you three wishes, little man,” Genie said. “The rules are—”

“I wish for the ability to stop biting and picking my fingernails,” Aladdin replied.

The corners of Genie’s mouth curled into a small smile. “Biting your nails?”

“Biting and picking,” Aladdin said. “I wish for the ability to stop biting and picking my fingernails.”

Genie couldn’t help it. He laughed so hard his forehead hurt. He laughed so hard he turned purple. “I needed that. Wow, I needed that.” Wiping away tears, he said, “In all my years granting wishes, that’s the dumbest one yet.”

Aladdin looked at Abu (the monkey on his shoulder) and whispered, “Asshole.”

After a bit of coughing and rib holding, Genie said, “Granting that wish is like making Shakespeare write fortune cookies. Wish for the ability to rewind time. Or all the riches in the world. Or a hot girlfriend.”

“You don’t understand,” Aladdin said, holding out his jagged nails. “I’ve battled this my whole life.”

Battled!” Genie cackled and snorted. He wheezed. “Please, kid. Enough. It’s too much.”

Aladdin had heard enough. He whistled for the magic carpet.

“Ohhh, relax,” Genie said. “Your wish is stupid, but your wish is also my command. I grant you the ability to stop biting and picking your fingernails.” Genie snapped his fingers, and it was done. “You’ve got two wishes left.”

“No thanks,” Aladdin said. He reigned the magic carpet like a horse. “We’ll show ourselves out.”

With that the magic carpet swirled and darted out of sight.

Genie couldn’t believe his eyes and pointed ears. No one had ever turned down the last two wishes. “Some people just don’t know how to have fun,” Genie said. He picked up the glowing gold lamp—his eternal resting place—and stuck it in his pocket. “Whatever.” He shrugged. “Time for a vacation.”


six months later, cliffside malibu mansion

Super models. Professional athletes. The entire cast of Friends. Caviar. Oysters. Champagne. Ice sculptures of swans. An infinity pool. These things surrounded Aladdin as he lounged on a large white daybed with Megan Fox and Kendall Jenner. Dressed in pink silk Gucci pajamas, the Pacific Ocean reflected in Aladdin’s Tom Ford frames as Abu popped green grapes in his mouth.


It was Genie.

“Street rat! Woah. You got, like, a lot of tattoos.”

Aladdin was absolutely tatted from head to toe.

“All pieces of my story,” Aladdin said.

Genie began to feel out of place. “Crazy running into you all the way out here.”

“Considering this is my home, it’s not that crazy.”

Genie’s chin hit the marble pool deck.

“Well,” Aladdin said, correcting himself, “one of my homes.”

“Shut the fuck up,” Genie said.

“Once I could stop picking and biting my fingernails, I finally had the confidence to finish my apps. After my apps took off, I published Nails in My Coffin, a memoir about my trials and triumphs. And now Netflix is turning the story into a movie they think could be the next Social Network.”

“Baby,” Megan Fox said to Aladdin. “It’s like so hard to stop biting your nails.”

“Exactly baby,” Aladdin replied.

Genie now understood the whole situation. He terribly underestimated the importance of Aladdin’s wish and, he deduced, the wishes of many others. The realization caused him to vomit in the white rose bushes.

“Good God,” Genie said, wiping his mouth. “I’m a monster.”

Aladdin rolled his eyes. “You’re not a monster.”

“Well, maybe not in this instance. But Hitler wished he could tap-dance, and I laughed right in his little mustached face. And Napoleon? He wished to be two inches taller. Two! I laughed so hard I punctured a lung.” Genie hung his head. “I bet they decided to become dictators on the spot.”

“And then there’s you,” Genie continued. “I laughed and laughed about your wish, now you’re having mansion parties with the entire cast of Friends, and you’re dating Megan goddamn Fox.”

“We’re actually engaged,” Megan said, flashing a fat diamond on a perfectly manicured hand.

Genie massaged his eye sockets with his palms. “I’m a fraud,” he said.

Aladdin patted Genie’s back out of pity. “Come on—what’s the lesson? No more belittling wishes. Now you know, for next time.”

The words “for next time” vibrated between Genie’s ears like a tuning fork. Because Genie knew he could never change. Genie knew the next time someone wished to be a master magician or a professional bowler, or the next time someone wished for thinner eyebrows or bigger feet, he would have no choice but to laugh. The thought made his skin cold. It made his stomach hollow.

That’s when Genie saw a solution.

“As a favor, Aladdin, could you use your second wish on a hammer? A big one, like from the carnival game with the bell at the top?”

Puzzled but wanting the interaction to end, Aladdin said, “I wish for one of those big carnival hammers.”

Genie snapped his fingers, and in his other hand a massive hammer appeared. “I would like to formally announce my retirement,” Genie said. Grinning lazily, he withdrew the glowing gold lamp from his pocket and placed it on the marble pool deck and with a rippling of back muscles Genie swung the hammer up and over his head and brought it down on his home. The gold lamp shattered into large shards. The sky went black. Red, green, and purple lightning splintered the atmosphere, and Genie dissolved blue particle by blue particle into nothingness.

Thinking this was all part of some elaborate fireworks show, the party erupted with cheer.

Aladdin draped a tattooed arm over Megan Fox, both staring up at the exploding neon sky. Abu stuck a lit cigarette in Aladdin’s mouth.

“What was that?” asked Megan Fox.

“He helped himself out,” Aladdin said, smiling. His happiness quickly washed away, however, upon remembering a conversation with a Netflix executive. The network wanted Genie to play himself in the film adaptation of Nails in My Coffin, and Genie’s sudden unavailability would not make the studio happy.

From across the infinity pool came a voice. “Hey, Aladdin!” It was David Schwimmer, beloved cast member from the hit series Friends. He was toasting a martini, shouting over the neon explosions in the sky. “Kickass party!”

The corners of Aladdin’s mouth curled into a small smile. He pointed a perfectly manicured finger across the infinity pool. “Schwimm-Daddy! Get over here—I just found your next big role!”


Alex Dermody can be reached at alexdermody15@gmail.com

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