by Dawn DeBraal
Jeannie Breckenridge moved into a house she loved but the house next door was an eyesore, painted blue, like its owner, John Genie. She knew when she plunked the down payment on that house that she would have to deal with an unusual neighbor. She had lived in neighborhoods before with djinns, so she was not a newcomer to their ways. John Genie proved himself to be an annoying neighbor with his endless pranks. He thought it funny tipping over her garbage can and rolling it up the driveway on its own while she tried to set it at the curb.
“Stop it this instant, John!”
She could hear his laugh from inside the house next door. It was forbidden to do anything to a human if you were a djinn living among them. But nothing said a djinn couldn’t use his magic trickery on inanimate objects. John Genie loved to see Jeannie’s frustration. He fed on it. John did whatever it took to get her goat. She did not find him amusing at all. Jeannie Breckenridge had had enough of it.
Amanda was a beautiful woman. A woman who men found irresistible. When Amanda turned on her charms, no man or djinn was safe. Jeannie invited her friend to stay with her for a while because she knew that John Genie would be distracted with Amanda, and leave her alone.
Amanda took on home projects with enthusiasm. She helped Jeannie paint her house, and brought the garbage cans down the driveway without a problem. The neighbor, John, seemed to respect and admire Amanda. He never commandeered the garbage cans when Amanda was working with them, and Jeannie enjoyed the reprieve.
The ladies had a pleasant visit. As they sat in the back yard one hot day, John poked his head up, floating over the fence.
Amanda stood up out of her chair, and extended her hand over the fence.
“How do you do? My name’s Amanda. Would you like to have a summer hummer with us?” Jeannie shrunk back. A djinn couldn’t come into your yard unless invited. Amanda broke Jeannie’s number one rule: never invite a djinn over. Now, John Genie could come into her yard, at least whenever Amanda was there. John materialized through the fence.
“Jeannie,” John bowed to her with a twinkle in his eye. He was on his best behavior as Amanda poured a glass of lemonade, giving John a good vodka dose. John hovered around them until Amanda offered him a lounge chair, and sat next to Jeannie on the poolside.
“It’s so hot out here.” Amanda lamented. John floated to the pool, gathered a considerable amount of water in his mouth, and sprayed the ladies down. Both were screaming as they ran through his water shower. Amanda sputtered and laughed while Jeannie stalked off mad.
“John, stop it! I’m going to change my clothes,” Amanda was still laughing, shaking herself off. John admired the wet t-shirt display she was giving him.
“That was so refreshing. What other kind of tricks do you do?” Amanda pulled her chair closer to the chaise lounge. John Genie’s smile was broad.
While Jeannie was inside changing her clothes, she listened to Amanda doing her best to captivate John Genie. It was her gift, charming men. Amanda’s peals of laughter caught and carried across the back yard. Jeannie couldn’t believe her friend would toss out their friendship like that. For a man! No, a djinn!
“Yes, I would love to come to a barbeque in your yard tonight,” Amanda said happily. Jeannie came out dry, scowling at her friend.
“You accepted an invitation to dinner tonight? How could you do that?” Jeannie was upset. John was the enemy, making Jeannie’s life miserable in a lovely house and neighborhood.
“It’s just dinner.” Amanda retorted. For the remainder of her visit, Amanda spent every waking hour visiting Jeannie’s neighbor, and Jeannie was jealous. John sat by, watching his neighbor stew in her own juices. He enjoyed seeing Jeannie angry.
Amanda let John know she would be leaving the next day, going back to the city. John was heartbroken. He had enjoyed their time together. John also enjoyed rubbing salt into Jeannie Breckenridge’s wounds, who now was barely speaking to her friend Amanda.
“Would you like to come with me?” Amanda asked in her most sultry voice.
“I can’t leave the neighborhood on my own. It’s not allowed,” John Genie said.
“Is there any way around it?” Amanda asked, batting her eyes at the djinn.
“I could travel in my bottle, and register when I get to your neighborhood,” he told her. Amanda snapped her fingers.
“Would you like to come with me? Back to the city?” John Genie’s eyes looked excited.
“You mean I could live with you?”
“At least until you found a place of your own. I’m sure there are several vacant apartments in my complex.”
John seemed excited by the prospect, and readily agreed to go.
“Come and pick me up tomorrow!” he told Amanda.
The next morning, Amanda packed her bags for the trip home. Jeannie was sad to see her go, even though they were barely on speaking terms. She would have to suffer under John’s jokes again after her friend left.
“I’ll be right back,” Amanda disappeared next door. Jeannie could feel her temper rise. How could Amanda do this to her, picking a djinn over their friendship? Amanda came back a few minutes later, placing a decorative corked bottle into Jeannie’s hands.
“John Genie, in a bottle.”
“How did you do this?” Jeannie held it up, seeing the djinn inside, striking the bottle with his fists.
“I promised to take him with me. He can only travel out of this area in his bottle. He vaporized himself, and I put a cork in him. Now, he is yours to do with whatever you’d like!”
Jeannie burst out laughing.
“He can’t get out of here?”
“Not unless you open the cork, and tell him he can. If you decide to open it up, make sure it’s after I’ve left the neighborhood, so he can’t come after me.”
Jeannie hugged her friend.
“Thank you, Amanda! You are a true friend.” Jeannie put the bottle up on her mantle. She walked out with Amanda, and waved as her friend got into the car and drove off.
John Genie pounded on the side of his bottle for what seemed like hours. He was stuck here until Jeannie pulled the cork. He wished now he had been nicer to his neighbor.
“John, I just wanted to let you know. I am taking you on a cruise. I thought perhaps you would enjoy some time at sea.”
Over the side of the White Crown Princess, a luxury cruise ship, the bottle bobbed in its wake. John Genie cursed the day he met his neighbor Jeannie Breckenridge. He wondered how long he would be at sea before someone found the bottle, and released him back into the world.
Dawn DeBraal lives in rural Wisconsin with her husband Red, a slightly overweight rat terrier, and a cat. She has discovered that her love of telling a good story can be written. She has published over 200 stories in many online magazines and anthologies. She was also Falling Star Magazine’s 2019 Pushcart Nominee.