Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Dave was not in a particularly good mood after having wasted an entire afternoon, then most of an evening visiting a potential customer and listening to proposals for a new design concept that was neither new nor practicable, nor even - in Dave's mind - really coherent enough to deserve the term "concept"... Why was it that people, customers really, always wanted something that was not quite possible? Why was nothing ever easy?
Dave mused on the injustice of the world as he drove back, alone in the dark.
So absorbed was he by these thoughts that afterwards he couldn't decide if the warning light on the dashboard had been illuminated for some time, or if it had just sprung to life when he noticed it. It was the red glow that he (finally?) noticed and he peered at the dash trying to make out what the symbol was. It looked vaguely like a tea-pot, but the dash was so mucky that the shape was obscured. Ignoring the advice of a long-forgotten driving instructor Dave reached one hand through the steering-wheel and wiped at it a few times.
There was a pop and suddenly smoke issued forth from the Dashboard. He recoiled with a startled squeak and let go of the steering wheel, watching in stunned disbelief for several seconds as the inside of the car filled with darkness. It made no sense - was the car on fire? There was no heat, no smell of burning; no flames. Before he could find a way to rationalise it the smoke, if smoke it was, started to clear, and he was able to see ahead again... The returning view brought with it the realisation that he had been driving without any regard to the road, or the bends and trees and inconvenient ditches that lay in wait for those who drove cars full of smoke. He snatched back at the wheel and simultaneously stamped hard on the brake pedal, resulting in several seconds of exciting gyrations and squealing tyres, culminating in a thump and a few moments of weightlessness as the car left the road before landing again and coming to rest at an odd but possibly not irrecoverable angle.
Dazed, but not badly, Dave took stock of the situation. The car had left the road backwards and appeared to be resting with the rear wheels in some sort of ditch, judging by the slightly elevated view through the windscreen. It seemed unlikely there was any serious damage, there had not been any really expensive sounding moments. He closed his eyes, leaned forward until his head rested on the steering wheel and breathed a sigh of relief.
There was a discrete cough, a clearing of the throat, from the passenger seat.
Dave's head snapped round, and without any conscious control he found himself pushing back against the driver's door, backing away from the impossible... thing... now occupying the passenger seat. The sight was preposterous... In the seat was a... a Genie.
"What the fuck?" spluttered Dave.
"Hello mortal. I am the Genie of the oil-warning lamp. I - "
"What?" interrupted Dave. "You're the what?"
"Salaam. I am the Genie of the oil-warning lamp. I am here to offer you three wishes, oh mortal"
It was too much to take in. With trembling hand Dave slowly reached out and poked an index finger into the naked stomach of the Genie. He expected it to offer no resistance, half-hoped that the image would fade away or retreat like an optical illusion, but no. His finger pushed into the Genie, and it felt like normal flesh; soft, warm and slightly greasy. He withdrew his finger and wiped it on his shirt. Then he made his first mistake.
"Fuck me" he muttered.
When relating this tale in later times Dave was never clear about what transpired in the next few minutes, preferring to gloss over the loss of his first wish with various tales even more unlikely than reality.
However, regardless of the exact details we will resume our narrative with Dave panting and swearing and the Genie readjusting his clothing and checking in the car's rear-view mirror the state of his left eye. It was probably going to develop a remarkable bruise. Dave certainly hoped so.
After an uncomfortable few moments of silence the genie spoke thus:"You have two wishes remaining, oh mortal"
"Two wishes? Two?" Dave spluttered. "You utter bastard! A moment ago it was three wishes! I wish you'd make your bloody mind up... Oh"
The Genie looked thoughtful for a moment, appeared to reach a decision, nodded and then smiled.
"My mind is now made up. I am quite certain you have one wish remaining, oh mortal"
Dave at least had the wisdom to bite back his instant reply. He considered for a moment.
The Genie looked pleased.
"Well, does it have to be oil-related? Can I wish for, say, world peace? An end to conflict, eternal youth?" ideas began to form... "Success with women? What about Caroline?"
The Genie looked pained, and managed to convey with a sneer and sideways glance at the manufacturer's logo on the steering-wheel that both wishing for world peace and success with anything worthwhile were somewhat grandiose wishes for the driver of a Skoda.
"Be reasonable, mortal. I do have a certain familiarity with oil..." a look of distaste passed across the Genie's face, "... but that is to be expected after several years waiting in a sump. These modern times are hard for those indentured. But with anything else there are other factors and limitations, considerations and restrictions, provisos and requirements - "
"Oh, for fuck's sake! I wish it was simple..." As soon as these words left his mouth he paled. "Oh, shit"
The Genie looked thoughtful for a moment and then smiled.
"You have no wishes left, oh mortal. How much simpler can it get?"
And he started fading away, the car filling with smoke and deep, mocking laughter.
"Oh, you utter bastard!" repeated Dave, fists flailing at the smoke impotently. It was all too much; he'd be damned if he was going to be outwitted again. But what could he do? Already the smoke was fading as it rushed back into the dashboard. Dave tried to stop it by placing his hands over the hole, but he couldn't find it - the smoke rushed between his fingers and disappeared, apparently back into the surface.
Already the car was nearly clear, but suddenly he had an idea. Was there time? Flailing around he looked for some container - and wedged in the driver's door pocket was - yes! - a half-empty plastic bottle of coke.
Racing against time Dave tore at the lid, managing to unscrew it and shove the bottle into the flow of smoke before it completely cleared. He clapped his left palm over the top of the bottle just before the last threads of smoke reached the dashboard.
There was silence. Dave lifted the bottle, carefully keeping his hand over the top, and peered into the gap above the liquid. Was that a hint of smoke? He shook the bottle.
"Would you mind not doing that?" Said a muffled, irritated and markedly higher pitched voice from behind the dashboard. "It's sticky"
"Aha! Caught you!" Sneered Dave.
"No you didn't" Said the disembodied voice, but with an unconvinced tone.
Dave shook the bottle again.
"Stop that! Look, give me my... my... those... that... back"
"Shan't" said Dave.
"Be reasonable, you can't hold it closed forever"
Dave considered this. There had to be a way... He held the bottle between his legs and picked up the top in his right hand. He considered quickly moving his left hand out of the way and putting the top on, but it seemed problematic. There was an air of expectancy, as if the Genie was waiting for this move.
"Just try it", it said with an air of smugness.
Still holding onto the top, Dave lifted the bottle again and inverted it, so that the coke ran to the bottom.
"What are you doing?" said the voice, but Dave ignored it. The smoke was now trapped above the coke, and with a grin Dave let the top fall into the fingers of his left hand, then slid the hand so that the top was on the bottle and tightened it. Some coke ran out during this process, but the smoke remained. He shook the bottle.
"Now, let's go through this whole three wishes thing again, shall we?"