Woe is Me Joe
by Copper Rose
Once upon a time, a few nights ago at five minutes after eleven in a fading northern town, Barry Burkanowski walked into Billy’s Bar. “Hey Joe, it took me a while to track you down. You weren’t at our regular watering hole,” Barry said as he took a seat next to his long-time friend.
“Yeah, I know. I decided to try something different.” Joe batted his bottle of beer back and forth between his hands along the slick surface.
“Everything okay?” Barry asked.
“I think Martha is cheating on me.”
“Oh man, I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Yeah, what’s a guy to do?” Joe nodded his head at Mickey, the bartender. They’d been getting to know each other during the hour Joe had been sitting at the bar. “Say Mickey, get my friend here a double shot of your best gin. It’s on me.”
“You sure you want me to do that?” Mickey asked.
“Yeah, why not?”
“Well, there’s sort of a catch to offering a person a serving of our best gin.”
“What kind of catch?” Joe asked.
“A genie happens to live in that bottle, and he gets kind of grumpy when I take the cap off the top.”
“A genie? Oh man, I love genies! If the drink is for me, that means I get a wish.” Barry sat up straight, suddenly excited.
“Well, there are certain rules about that. I’ll have to ask him,” Mickey said.
“Go ahead. Ask him. Tell him to get his sorry butt over here, and grant me a wish.” Barry tapped his index finger on the bar, punctuating his words.
“Okay, if that’s what you want. But just so you know, that’s your first wish.”
“How many wishes do I get?”
“That’s up to the genie.”
Mickey reached up, grabbed the biggest, most expensive bottle of gin off the shelf, and plunked it down on the bar. He tugged at the crystalline stopper shaped like a flame. It came out with a loud pop.
“Hey, what are you doing?” a gruff voice called out.
“You know the rules. You can live here but if someone offers the best drink in the house, you have to come out.”
“Do they want me to grant them a wish?”
“It looks that way,” Mickey said.
“For crying out loud.” A puny green wisp of smoke accompanied by what looked like lightning bolts began spiraling up out of the bottle until a fully formed, angry looking genie appeared. He was skinny as a fence post, and he hovered above the neck of the bottle. He growled, “Which one of you is responsible for this?”
Joe raised his hand. “That would be me. I’m really sorry. I didn’t know.”
“No, that’s okay. It’s my job.” The genie glared at Mickey and turned toward Barry. “So, you’re the one who gets the wishes?”
“Yep. My name is Barry. How many wishes will you grant?”
The genie eyed him suspiciously. “One more.”
Barry wrinkled his nose in disappointment at hearing that news.
Joe sighed. “Man, how come you’re always the lucky one, having a genie grant you a wish?”
“What do you mean lucky? It’s only one wish. Stupid genie.”
“Take it or leave it,” the genie said as he started to turn away.
“Fine, I’ll make a wish.” Barry said. He glanced around, and spotted a beautiful woman at the end of the bar. “I want to be with her,” he said pointing at the stunning beauty.
The genie glanced toward the end of the bar and grunted. “Okay, it is done. That woman will be all over you like honey on a biscuit.”
Barry grinned from ear to ear. He slicked back his hair, and then rubbed his hands together, warming them in anticipation. “Okay, wish me luck,” he said as he hitched up his pants, and sauntered to the end of the bar.
“That beautiful woman, you’d think she’d have a boyfriend or a husband,” Joe said as he peeled the label off his bottle of beer. He felt more despondent than he had when he first walked into the bar to drown his sorrows.
“She didn’t before but she does now,” the genie offered.
“Watch what happens next.”
“That’ll teach him. He was the one putting the moves on my wife. I love genies, he says. Well, there’s one genie he loved just a little too much.” The genie’s voice was high-pitched, and had a snarky edge to it.
“He put the moves on your wife? I didn’t even know genies could get married and have a wife,” Joe commented in disbelief.
“Yeah, we can. But all of this should cheer you up because Barry was the one putting the moves on your wife too.”
Joe gave the genie a side-ways glance. “Are you serious?”
“Serious as a librarian swearing an oath on a bible. Your friend, Barry, he put the moves on my wife, and then she kicked me out of our bottle. So now, I’m granting my own wish. The woman at the end of the bar now has a husband, a big jealous one.”
Joe turned toward the end of the bar where a big-muscled man had just hauled off, and punched Barry in the nose. Blood was spurting all over, and Barry was crying like a baby.
“Well, I’ll be a …” Joe shook his head in disbelief, and then found he couldn’t stop laughing. When he was finally able to catch his breath, he waved his hand in a come-hither signal. “Hey Mickey, my friend, will you do me a favor?”
“Sure,” Mickey said.
“See that guy down there with the big muscles?”
“Tell him his next drink is on me.”
Then Joe turned back to the genie. “Do you want to come over to my place?”
“Sure, especially since it would be hard for me to invite you to my house,” the genie said, pointing to the bottle of gin on the shelf.
“I’ve got my garage set up pretty nice. We can hang out there,” Joe said.
“Do you have a pool table?” the genie asked.
“No, but I sure wish I did.”
“Well, don’t worry. There’ll be one when we get there,” the genie winked. He slapped Joe on the back as they headed out of the bar.
Julie Eger writes under the names Julie Eger, A.J. Lawdring, and Copper Rose. She perforates the edges of the page while writing, believes anything is possible for those who believe anything is possible, and lives in Wisconsin with her husband and a black Golden Doodle. She has raised two sons and has been accused of playing well with others. Credits include seven anthologies at Clarendon House Publications, and numerous online journals and other anthologies. She also understands there really is something about pie.