The ebook comes with four full-color illustrations inside
The genie Fatima, right out of the lamp. Cropped image. Cover art and all interior art by Commotion22
Fatima and Marvin, seconds later. Cropped image. Cover art and all interior art by Commotion22
Fatima at the Pool Party. Cropped image. Cover art and all interior art by Commotion22
Virgilia (a stripper in Marvin’s harem) watches as Marvin is magically attacked. Cropped image. Cover art and all interior art by Commotion22
A Boy Called “Shorty”
Hank Miller was slamming me into a locker, ten minutes before the start of First Period. Another typical day at Plato Smith High School.
“You stay away from my girlfriend, Shorty, got it?” Hank said. As if there was the slightest chance that I hadn’t already gotten the message clearly, months ago. Hank lifted me so that my face was even with his (and my feet were off the floor). “Anna Kay deserves better than to be seen with a runt like you,” he said.
Which was certainly true, at least from Hank’s point of view. Not only was Anna Kay Henderson a cheerleader, she was stacked. As for me, Marvin Harper, I’m the shortest guy in the senior class, at 5′2″. Shortest by several inches. While Hank was the starting quarterback. Yeah, there was a definite status-difference here.
“Um, Hank?” Anna Kay said, in a small voice.
“Later, cupcake,” Hank said. “I got to explain some facts of life to shrimp-guy here.”
Anna Kay said, “Hank, I asked Marvin to help me, tutor me in Trigonometry.”
“Yeah? That right?” Hank asked me. I nodded. Hank smiled evilly. “Well then, maybe I can persuade Tiny Tim here to do your trig homework, not just help you with it. That way, Anna Kay, you and I can spend more time together.”
“Vat are you doink to Marvin?” a female voice demanded.
“Go away, `Princess Anastasia,’” Hank said, without turning his face away from mine.
Hank didn’t turn his head to look at Natasha Ludmenkov, but I did. Mainly because Natasha was definitely worth looking at. Right now, she had her arms crossed, she was tapping a foot, and she was glaring at Hank.
Hank still was looking straight at me. “So, you tutoring Anna Kay because you expect to get into her panties?”
“What, do I look as stupid as you are?” I said.
“So, you doing it for money? How much are you paying him, Anna Kay?”
Anna Kay looked unhappy to be part of all this. “Hank, Marvin offered to help me without charging me a cent.”
I said, “In class it’s easy to tell she’s struggling with the trig. She needs help, and I can help her, so I offered to tutor her for free.”
“Oh? Isn’t that nice,” Hank said to me. “You’re a real nice guy, aren’t you?”
“He is. He is nice guy,” Natasha said. “So go let him.”
Hank still didn’t glance at Natasha. Raising his voice, he said, “Run off now, child. Let the adults talk.”
“I vill not leafe until you go let him,” Natasha declared.
Hank smirked at me. “You need for skirts to defend you now? Wow, you really are a girly-boy.”
Hank finally turned to look at pale goddess Natasha. “Bell’s about to ring. You’ll be late to class.”
The leggy Russian girl gave my tormenter a smile. “So long as you hold Marvin, I stand here. Soon or late, teacher is seeink four pipple in hallway. If you still bullyink Marvin then, thinks not good for you. Maybe you expel, hm? I stand here, checkmate.”
And sure enough, the Tardy Bell did ring then.
Hank let me go. “We’ll talk later, pee-wee,” he said, before walking away with Anna Kay. Anna Kay glanced back to show me an apologetic face.
As I was donning my backpack, Natasha nodded toward Hank. “I am him not likink. Totally not likink. Hank Miller is”—the Russian word did not sound flattering.
I started to walk to my first-period class, having decided that going to the office and requesting a tardy slip was asking for trouble. But as soon as I started to walk toward Physics class, Natasha turned to walk alongside me.
Natasha hadn’t asked my permission, of course. There were three reasons that Natasha had been nicknamed “Princess Anastasia” here at school. Yes, Natasha was Russian, and yes, she had the looks and the poise of a model, but mainly her nickname came from walking into any room as though she owned the place.
I had not spoken since she had taken up position as my wingman. Filling the silence, she said, “Not is so bad if you is girly-boy. Some womans do girly-boy more likink than furry man.”
I said, “I don’t like it at all, a woman rescuing me. I should be rescuing her. But fat chance of that.” I sighed. “I graduate in three weeks, and I by myself still can’t stop anyone from shitting on me.”
But then I remembered my manners. “Natasha, what you did was kind,” I said. “Thanks for your help.”
She shrugged. “I cannot let you to nurse clinic is goink, while I am the hands wrinkink.”
By now we were in front of Physics class. I put my hand on the doorknob to go in, but then Natasha put her hand on my shoulder. She said, “You are good man, Marvin Stephanovich Harper. I am you watchink. You should get gooder life than you is gettink.”
Soon a genie would come to agree with Natasha, and my life would get “gooder” than I could possibly imagine. But I need to set the stage first, O Reader.
Aunt Claire, Uncle Warren
I managed to avoid Hank for the rest of the day. I ran into Anna Kay at lunch, who gave me an apologetic smile and said, “I’m okay with Trig. I don’t need any more tutoring for a while.”
I had just sat down at the lunch table, between Bob and Christopher, when Natasha sat down in the seat opposite me. Again she didn’t ask permission, she just acted.
“Marvin, I am havink flavor you to ask,” she said.
“You want to ask me a favor?” I said.
“Yes. I have gotted invite to party. With all wear kas— kas—”
“Da, costumes party, Saturday after Saturday. I want you as invitink. We are makink funny couple, I zink.”
“Who would we go as?”
Before Natasha could answer, Christopher did. “As Boris and Natasha, guy! You’re a midget, she’s tall and thin, and she even has the accent. All you need is a black coat and black hat and a fake moustache, and you two will have the prize locked up!”
“I am not a midget,” I said.
Bob said to Natasha, “So is that the plan? You and Marvin, as Boris and Natasha from the cartoons?”
Natasha smiled big. To me she said, “Please is sayink you will go.”
Well, I didn’t like being reminded (again) that I was short, but on the other hand, Natasha hadn’t needed to invite me. “Sure, I’ll go,” I said. “Is this a date?”
Bob and Christopher turned their heads to hear Natasha’s answer. Natasha was well worth dating—she had pale, almost white skin; pale blue eyes; naturally pale blond hair; cheekbones; pouty lips; and legs, legs, legs. Only her tits were ordinary.
Natasha looked at me and smiled sadly. “I not am dayink you. Do you is sayink nyet now? But I am wantink you as friend, Marvin, party or not party.”
“Not a problem, Natasha,” I said. “I will go to your costume party a week from Saturday, dressed as Boris, even though it won’t be a quote-unquote date.”
“Spasibo,” she said, smiling and squeezing my hand.
That night, I had a light homework load, which meant—a free evening! By 7:30 p.m., I was driving my clunker toward the hospital, to visit my Aunt Claire.
I walked into a hospital room that was stuffed solid with flowers and metal balloons. Aunt Claire was loved by everyone, which mainly explained the generosity of so many flowers and balloons. But the other reason for all the stuff in her room was that Aunt Claire had uterine cancer, and wasn’t expected to last another month.
“Ah, it’s my favorite great-nephew,” Aunt Claire said when she saw me.
“Until another great-nephew walks in,” I said. But I was smiling.
I was shocked by her appearance. I had heard the expression “skin and bones” all my life, but now I was seeing it. Aunt Claire looked like someone had shrink-wrapped skin over a skeleton. But what I said was, “You’re looking good, Aunt Claire.”
She smiled crookedly, as if to say I know you’re lying. But what she said back was, “Yes, I’m almost out of here. And the next time you come to my house, I’ll bake some of my super-secret-recipe chocolate-chip cookies.”
“I’ll enjoy them, Aunt Claire,” I said, smiling. But inside I wasn’t smiling, I was horrified. God, it’s like talking to a corpse, she looks so awful, I thought.
Then Aunt Claire said, “Did you know that your Uncle Warren is in this same hospital? Lung cancer, I hear.” Then Aunt Claire eyed me and added, “I don’t think he’s had a single visitor.”
“What, none of his jailbait girlfriends visit him?” I said, laughing. Somehow my obnoxious uncle always managed to have a gorgeous young girlfriend come with him to family dinners.
Now Aunt Claire replied, “No, two young hussies visit him regularly. His nurses are scandalized by how they carry on, so my nurses tell me. But my point is, Marvin, I don’t think he gets visits from family.”
I laughed. “Well, after he announced years ago that he was leaving all his fortune to the Eisenhower Library? What do you expect?”
Aunt Claire frowned at me. “So you’re saying the only reason you’re visiting me is that you hope to inherit something?”
“Auntie, do I need to remind you? Uncle Warren is an opinionated jerk asshole.”
“True. But now he is a lonely and dying opinionated jerk asshole.”
“Okay, okay,” I said. “I’ll go pay him a visit right now.”
As I was walking through the hospital to Uncle Warren’s hospital room, I reviewed what I knew about him.
Uncle Warren had enlisted in the Army in 1942, and eventually had been sent to Africa to fight Rommel. In late 1943 the Africa war was over, and so he was in the first wave of Americans invading Sicily.
And suddenly Pvt. Harper, who’d been all but invisible in the Tunisia fighting, was daily putting himself in danger. Rescuing injured comrades, charging machine-gun nests, personally wiping out three Panzer crews—Pvt. Warren Harper should have been dead a dozen times a month. But except for shrapnel in his left arm and a shot in the leg, he went through the war without a scratch. By the time the Army handed him his discharge in September 1945, Uncle Warren was a much-medaled First Sergeant.
Then, when he returned to civilian life. . .
Everything continued to go right for him. Everything.
Always he was surrounded by breathtaking women, and they were all always acting like they wanted sex with him.
And suddenly, Uncle Warren was making money hand over fist. To give just one example: He bought stock in IBM in November 1945, three months before ENIAC came online and began the computer revolution. To give another example: He bought scads of shares of Microsoft on the first day of its IPO; years later, while in Seattle for a stockholder meeting, he bought shares in Starbucks when it was starting up.
But his relatives couldn’t stand him, because of one nasty quirk of his. Uncle Warren thought that Dwight D. Eisenhower was our greatest president ever, and nobody around him could talk about anything without Uncle Warren trolling about Ike’s greatness.
Five years ago, Uncle Warren had announced that the Eisenhower Presidential Library deserved his millions more than did his “moron” relatives. After that, nobody but me acted even a little bit nice to him at family gatherings.
My walk through the hospital completed, I stepped into Uncle Warren’s hospital room. I saw no flowers and no balloons, but I did see something at least as nice: a blonde with young skin and a toned figure. She was standing up against my uncle’s hospital bed, alongside his hips, with her backside toward the door.
And it was a nice backside, let me tell you.
Uncle Warren looked surprised to see me. “Sherry, Sherry, stop that, we have a visitor! It’s one of my relatives!”
Sherry did something with the top bedsheet (that her body blocked me from seeing), then she turned around. Now I could see her from the front, and she had unnaturally large tits—that, or she’d won the Breast Lottery like Anna Kay had. When I finally tore my eyes away from her tits, I was shocked to see that Sherry’s face was flushed with sexual arousal.
Uncle Warren rasped, “Sherry, may I present my brother’s son’s son’s son, Marvin Harper. Marvin, this is my odd-days girlfriend, Sherry Benson. Sherry works as a pole dancer at. . .remind me.”
Sherry smiled proudly. “Right now I’m working at Club Physique, but next week I start work at the Nimfo Club on Woodrow Wilson. Come check me out—ask for `Bubbles’!”
I decided that Sherry was not a rocket scientist. “Um, I’m three years away from legal drinking,” I said.
Uncle Warren rasped, “Sherry, go find the on-call nurse and bring her in here right now. That’s a good girl.”
“But Warren, baby—”
“Do it now, Sweet Lips. Or I won’t let you you-know-what, later tonight.”
Sherry pouted, but walked out of the room, her high heels click-clacking. Now came the challenge: talking with Uncle Warren without strangling him.
“So how’d you get here?” Uncle Warren asked. “Take the Smith Freeway?”
“Right,” I said, knowing what was coming next.
“Good man. You know, President Eisenhower started the interstate system.”
“Uh-huh, you’ve told me,” I said. Many times, I chose not to add.
There was an awkward silence, which stretched out. Unusually, my uncle wasn’t trying to dominate the conversation—was he really waiting on what I had to say?
At last I said, “I got invited to a costume party next week. We’re going as Boris and Natasha—you know, the cartoon characters?”
I expected Uncle Warren to point out that Boris and Natasha were Commies, and President Eisenhower had fought the Commies in Korea. But instead, Uncle Warren said, “A costume party! Been a long time since I’ve been to one of those. Going with a girl?”
“Yep. Her name’s Natasha—her real name’s Natasha, I mean.”
“Very. And no, she isn’t a Communist.”
“Of course not. You’ve got more sense than that, Marvin.”
A combination click-clack and squeak-squeak announced that Sherry had brought the nurse. Oddly, the nurse was looking me over. She was an alert oriental woman in her thirties; her nametag said NGUYEN.
After looking me over, she turned to face my uncle. “You needed something, Mr. Harper?”
Uncle Warren said, “Yes, Nurse, when do I get my next pain medication?”
“At midnight, Mister Harper.”
“That’s what I thought. Sorry to bother you.”
“No problem, Mr. Harper,” she said.
I couldn’t shake the weird feeling that this boring conversation was being staged for my benefit. That feeling got stronger when Nurse Nguyen glanced at me and said, “By the way, Mr. Harper, who’s your visitor?”
“This is Marvin Harper, a great-grandson of my brother Herbert,” Uncle Warren replied.
“Marvin Harper, I’m glad to meet you,” she said. And oddly, I believed her—she was smiling the way I would if I were holding a winning scratch-off ticket.
Nurse Nguyen left, and Sherry took up a position standing by Uncle Warren’s head. Sherry reached into his pajama top and started rubbing his shoulder. She began biting her lip, and I thought, My god, is this blonde stripper actually getting herself hot, rubbing an old man’s shoulder?
Perhaps noticing where my eyes had gone, Uncle Warren said, “You remember how my leg and arm got injured in the war?”
Where was Uncle Warren going with this? Aloud I said, “Yeah?”
Uncle Warren’s eyes bored into mine, as if he was trying to tell me something important. “I got hurt because I didn’t think something through. I bet my ration, Jackson, about that.”
I shook my head. “I don’t understand.”
“Of course you don’t. Not now. But by next Sunday, I think you’ll understand. And then you’ll want to talk with me.”
“Uncle Warren? No offense, but you and I aren’t close. I can’t imagine me having a heart-to-heart with you.”
Uncle Warren wheezed a raspy laugh. “Not close? We aren’t, boy, not even slightly. Not today. But I have a feeling we both are going to have an eventful week.”
A minute later, I had said my goodbyes to Uncle Warren and nodded to Sherry (who gave me a distracted smile in reply). I was just turning to leave when Uncle Warren rasped, “Marvin.”
“I told my lawyer to read my will right after my funeral. But I also told him not to file my will till a week after I die. I bet my ration, Jackson, that you’ll find this is useful information.”
I thought that Uncle Warren would outlive Aunt Claire by weeks. But nope, he died just four days after our strange conversation.
He died Friday morning. Friday afternoon, as soon as school ended, Uncle Warren’s probate lawyer called me.
I Inherit—Sort Of
Uncle Warren’s probate attorney, a Mr. Dodd, had asked me to come straight to his law firm. He had something to give me, he said. No, he couldn’t tell me over the phone what it was.
The “something” turned out to be a 1940s-era Army footlocker with “Harper, W G” stencilled on it. It was padlocked shut. Mr. Dodd handed me a little brown envelope, saying, “That’s the key to the padlock.”
“Why all the secrecy for a footlocker?” I asked.
“I truly do not know,” he said. “Nor can I tell you what’s inside. In fact, Mr. Harper went to great pains to keep the existence of this box a secret.”
Mr. Dodd handed me a piece of paper. Though the paper had been notarized with three witness signatures, the words themselves were handwritten—
To David Dodd:
If I am hospitalized before I die, I wish it reliably reported when/if any of my relatives visit.
If at least one relative visits me in the hospital, then upon my death, this box is to be given to the relative who visited me most.
If none of my relatives visit, then Mr. Dodd, upon my death take this box to a garbage landfill a) without opening the box yourself, b) without letting anyone else in your law firm see you remove the box from the building, and c) without letting my relatives know that you possessed this box but gave it to none of them.
That chunk of text was followed by some lawyer language, and then came Uncle Warren’s signature and a February 2010 date (meaning, three months ago).
Then Mr. Dodd handed me a notarized piece of paper, in which Sherry Benson and Marie Nguyen both swore that last Monday, Warren G. Harper had been visited by “one of his brother Herbert’s great-grandsons, Marvin Harper.”
I tapped the sworn-statements paper. “How did you get these two to `reliably report’ about me?”
Dodd replied, “I visited the hospital during every shift and promised the nurses there that if one of them found Mr. Harper with a relative, and that relative could be named in a sworn statement, then I’d pay the nurse a thousand dollars.”
“And how much for Uncle Warren’s stripper girlfriend? I’ll bet she was expensive.”
“No, Miss Benson did it for free. Mr. Harper told her to come to my office and sign the paper in my presence, and that’s what she did, though she told me afterward that she was missing work.”
“He told her to miss work to sign a paper and, bada-bing, she went?”
“Yes, it does seem odd, doesn’t it?”
I dug out my car keys from my pocket, threw them on top of the footlocker, and was just about to pick everything up, when a thought occurred to me. “So we relatives of Uncle Warren, none of us is getting any of his fortune? Not a dime?”
Mr. Dodd gave me a “What can I do?” shrug. “That’s correct. Everything of his that’s worth having, except for that box, is going to the Eisenhower Library.”
Twenty minutes later, I arrived home, without mentioning to my parents my detour to Mr. Dodd’s office. Then I let the footlocker sit in the trunk of my car for several hours, until my parents left to see a movie. (It was something about a shipful of Caribbean pirates battling a killer robot from the future. Sounded hokey.)
It was dark twilight when I brought the footlocker from my car to my bedroom. I keyed the padlock open, and opened the lid.
Inside were two old photo albums, and a brass oil lamp.
If you’ve read any “Aladdin” story, you know what the lamp’s shape was. But the oil lamp had nothing special about its metalwork, and its finish was mottled and lusterless.
In short, I was unimpressed with that oil lamp.
But hey, I figured I might be able to sell it for a few bucks on eBay, or use it as a prop for Halloween parties.
I set the lamp aside.
I started leafing through the photo albums, and figured out quickly that they were the reason that Uncle Warren had wanted the footlocker kept secret from his relatives.
The pictures in the first album started in 1942. There were yellowed black-and-white photos of Uncle Warren in uniform, and photos of young uniformed men who had to be his war buddies. There were photos of palm-tree’d Tunisia, the Pyramids, and the Sphinx, and of lions and hippopotamuses. All G-rated stuff, right? But there were also photos of naked young women, black- and brown-skinned, and photos of young Warren getting blowjobs from young women.
Actually, there were lots and lots of photos of Warren getting blowjobs from women.
About three quarters of the way through the older photo album, I turned the page and—I freaked out.
On the left-side page were two photos of a serious young woman who was looking at the camera. She was fully dressed (unlike many of the women in the album), wearing Middle Eastern clothing. Oddly, while her hips and everything above them were in focus, her legs were out of focus. Uncle Warren had captioned her photos with the puzzling words, “Fatima, who changed my life. June 3, 1943.”
Immediately below these photos, and their strange caption, were these words that had been written in 1943: “I will die on May 7, 2010, a Friday.”
What the hell is going on? I wondered.
The rest of that first photo album, and all of the second, were naked women posing for the camera, and Uncle Warren getting sex.
But now the women were gorgeous (by Forties and Fifties standards), and the sex was outrageous. Uncle Warren was getting plenty of blowjobs now, from breathtaking beauties, but now he also was involved in bunches of threesomes.
Uncle Warren had a photo of himself in 1944, appearing onstage at a Victory Bond rally in Hollywood with a blonde actress (whose name you might know), and appearing with a line of brunette chorus girls; Uncle Warren’s next photo showed this same blonde naked, cocksucking my uncle, while a brunette dancer ate the blonde out.
I looked at every photo in both albums. It didn’t help; I couldn’t figure out how what I was seeing in the photos, had happened. How had Uncle Warren suddenly become a sex god? Who was this Fatima, and what had happened between her and Uncle Warren? I couldn’t begin to guess.
So this was my “inheritance”: two pornographic yet puzzling photo albums, and a souvenir-stall “Aladdin’s lamp.” I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to buy pornographic 1940s photos, so…
My only hope of gaining any money from my “windfall” was through the lamp. Which in turn meant: I needed to polish this sorry excuse for a lamp before I could hope to sell it.
I drove to the store, bought some brass polish, came home, and reassigned my rattiest pair of briefs to brass-polish duty. I dipped the cloth in the brass polish, and rubbed everything against the right side of the lamp. The result?
The lamp shook in my hand as if a frantic rat were trapped inside of it. Then green smoke came out of the lamp’s spout—lots and lots of green smoke.
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