“What did you do to Janelle?!” He reached over the counter and grabbed Mr. E’s jacket.
“Pardon Me?” Mr. E removed Charles’ hands with ease. “I merely granted your wish.”
“My wish wasn’t for Janelle to become old.”
“Well, your wish was to be young again. I had to get the youth from someplace.”
“My wish was to be able to love her, the way she should be loved.”
“No, Mr. Jordan. The problem I solved for you was your lust for the conceit of youth; your wish to be young again; to reclaim the virility and strength you once commanded. I grant wishes, Mr. Jordan. I’m a genie and I know my trade. I granted you, your wish.”
Charles stumbled back in shock. His wish had not been as altruistic as he had sold it to himself. Had he simply only yearned to be young again? “Can you reverse it? I need you to reverse it!”
“Sorry, all sales are final, Mr. Jordan.” The genie looked at him in a mockingly reassuring way. “You have what you paid for…Youth…Not love. You could’ve given love to her at any moment. You didn’t need me for that.”
“I wanted to make her happy and do things with her…things that someone her age could do.”
“Now, you have more than enough energy to do things with her.” He looked down and then chuckled. “Why, now she’s dependent on you to help her to the bathroom, to cook and to clean for her.” He laughed at Mr. Jordan. He laughed a deep and hearty laugh. A laugh that never abated in enjoyment, while Charles looked away, resigning himself to the fate he’d brought upon Janelle and himself. “Look at it this way, Mr. Jordan, she will never leave you as you once feared.” The genie was now hysterical with laughter. The mocking tone beat on Charles’ eardrums as the cackle bounced, in wave after wave, between the walls and his ears. A laugh that fed off the sadness and regret that welled inside him.
Charles placed his hands over his ears to push out the maddening laughter. Stumbling out of the building and onto the street, he made his way up the block, slowly placing one foot in front of the other, with slumped shoulders.
When he walked back into the apartment, Janelle called out to him. “Charles, I’m over here. I’m so tired.” She lay on the couch looking feeble and frail. He fell to his knees and began to sob.
“Janelle, can you forgive me?” Charles asked. He lay his head on the couch, while she rested. “I’ve been an old fool, looking to reclaim the euphoria of my youth.” He held her hand and felt the tissue thin skin. “You made me feel young again. A return to my youth, when time held no requirements, only the moment.”
He looked up at her. “While at the same time, being with you was torture; like someone was holding a mirror in front of my face, reminding me of my age, reminding me that I couldn’t possibly make you happy.”
He laughed at himself and lowered his eyes. “This tree has too many rings. I understand this now. Where I’ve been planted is where I was meant to be. My season in spring has passed as has the humidity of my hot, summer sun. I’m truly sorry, Janelle.”
Charles buried his face into the cushions of the couch and cried on Janelle’s hand.
“I’m so sorry.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“I’m so sorry.”
He croaked out the words over and over, again.
When trees dream and become nostalgic for their youth, they may fixate on the notion of going back to reclaim their former glory. To waste away, floating in a time misspent on ordinary and un-weighty things. A time spent on events that presage nothing and hint to no tomorrow to come, because in our youth, we are the kings of the universe and will forever be young and invincible.
Charles Jordan learned this lesson the hard way, that you can’t go back, at least not without a cost. And unless you are willing to pay the toll, the desire for youth should remain in the rear view mirror and any references should remain in memory.
But should you find a way to return and come across a rotund man granting wishes – be careful -he may just be a genie and you may have crossed over into the Twilight Zone.
by malakhai jones
I loved the conclusion you brought to the story! Great work.
First off, thank you for choosing to spend your minutes on my story. Secondly, thank you for the feedback. I greatly appreciate it!
Your story did indeed feel like an episode of The Twilight Zone. Everything comes with a price, so we should alway be careful what we wish for. We just might get it. I’m at an age now that there are times I long to return to my youth, but I know there’s no going back, so I try my best to enjoy each moment life gives me–even if my body isn’t what it once was. Great story, M, with a powerful message to our youth-obsessed society.
As you can tell, by my writing, time is paramount in my thinking – what we prioritize to spend it on, how we are frivolous and are spendthrifts, and how miserly we can be with it. I’m not a spring chicken either, so I’m much more conscious of time nowadays. Thanks as usual for reading with a critical eye, Cathy! It means a lot to me.
Yeah, the older we get, the faster time flies. I’m more aware of it now too, so I try to spend what I have wisely. I enjoyed your story–I always do. You do such a good job of building characters, showing their emotions, creating the backdrop, that I can see it play out in my mind’s eye. You’ve got a lot of talent, M…you’re one of the best storytellers I’ve encountered on WordPress.
I’m afraid the links at the bottom of each section didn’t work for me. I had to keep going back to the main menu to read the continuation. 🙁
Thank you for letting me know. I’ll correct the links.
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