Discover more from Numb at the Lodge
Its voice like wildfires, its colours like a peacock fanning bright vanishing instants of flame
Ok so this bloke right is wandering down along a beach and finds a lamp down there in the sand. Little pewter sort of thing with all strange carvings on it. Bloke picks it up and rubs it [at this point you might consider pulling your sleeve over the heel of your hand, pretending to huff on it, and rubbing it against an invisible object] and a genie comes out and says for thousands of years I have been trapped in this prison and you have freed me I grant you three wishes whatever you might desire is yours. So the guy thinks about it and says what any of us would say right he goes I wish I was a billionaire and the genie says look in your wallet. The guy opens it up and there’s the bank statement he’d folded up and put in there that very morning and it says his current account has exactly one billion quid. [This part could be emphasised by patting your trouser pocket, or a quick folding motion with your hands.] And he’s kinda annoyed with himself right because he put that bank statement in there that very morning and now he’s only gone and wished for something he’s already got. Wasted a wish and there’s only two left. So he thinks a bit longer about how he’s pretty lonely wandering down beaches on the weekend and not getting much action if you know what I mean so he goes I wish I had a beautiful wife who loved me completely and we’d have kids together. And the genie says look in your wallet and the guy opens it up and there’s a picture of his wife absolute stunner [curve out an hourglass figure] and the beautiful little daughter they have together eighteen months old. So now the guy’s really pissed off and he goes to the genie look mate I don’t know what your game is but I’m not having it I won’t give you my third wish until I can take proper stock of my life you know make a full account of what I have and what I don’t have and be absolutely certain I’m not about to wish for something I’ve already got. So he picks up the lamp and takes it back home with him and all the while the genie’s screaming in there it’s not fair you have to make a third wish so I can be free but he doesn’t listen. Bloke gets back to his gaff and the kid’s throwing a fit and the missus is complaining at him [wag one finger like a scolding fishwife] giving it all that going babe with all the money we have we could afford to live somewhere nicer I don’t know why we don’t just sell this grotty old house and get ourselves a big place in the country. And so the guy sells his house and buys a big stately house in the country and a yacht and a flash car and sends the kid to a fancy school and puts the rest of his money in stocks and bonds and what have you so it never runs out and they’ll never have to work again. [Lavish gestures, throwing money around, big grin.] And he keeps the lamp in a garret in the east wing of their home that’s full of all old paintings and knickknacks and other crap from the previous owners and all dust and spiders everywhere. He knows he’s always got one wish left and if there’s anything else he wants he can always have it. But really he’s got everything he could possibly need and he did it all by himself and he doesn’t know what use he really has for the genie in its little lamp. And meanwhile the genie is just fuming still trapped in the lamp after thousands of years having come out to see the sky and the sea and feel the wind moving through its body of smokeless fire and now it’s just back in the lamp again and its freedom depends on a man who no longer needs anything. So the bloke has two more kids another girl and a boy and as they get older you know like kids do they start asking questions. The eldest daughter goes to a real posh school full of the kids of bankers and oil billionaires and what have you and one day she goes [looking upwards with a bright questioning innocence in your eyes, speaking in a high precocious voice] daddy what do you do where do you get all your money from. And the guy can’t remember. Fobs her off with the usual you know oh it’s grown up business things darling you wouldn’t understand wait till you’re older. And the younger daughter is watching all princess cartoons and goes [same posture but even more exaggerated] daddy how did you and mummy meet and fall in love. And the guy can’t remember that either just that it had something to do with a beach. All he knows is that once he was granted three wishes but he made the mistake of wishing for things he already had. He’s always had his wife and he’s always had his one billion quid that thanks to all his clever investments remains at the value of one billion no matter how much he spends. And his son is only a baby this tiny little thing small even for a newborn and he doesn’t ask any questions but just stares at the bloke in this sort of evil malicious way [darken your face, pull it in tight, and grin to reveal your toothless gums] like he can see right through him and the guy realises with a kind of shock that he’s afraid of his own baby son. Not afraid of the kid itself per se you understand but afraid of what he seems to represent like this awful staring excess like a needle wedged in his spine. [Pull up your shirt and let them see the mess of scarified tissue between your shoulderblades.] Boys yeah never easy you know how it is. But for a moment he thinks about going back up into that garret in the east wing and digging out the lamp and wishing that he’d never had his son only his two daughters but he’s horrified with himself for even thinking something so awful about a child he loves. [Let the torment of it play out across your features, rippling bands of black and grey.] So he goes to bed with his beautiful wife in his beautiful house and pushes down all thought of the lamp real deep down and the sands close over it and he forgets. So the years pass [a wind, screaming through the night, an incoming sandstorm] and he grows old and gives to charitable causes and sets up a foundation and gets an OBE and the Inland Revenue come and audit him over and over again but never find anything amiss. His daughters grow up and find nice kind loving husbands and he starts thinking about grandkids. But his son is still a newborn and still has this tiny dark scrunched up hateful little face and always stares at him like he can see right through him. Sometimes he wonders if he’s really happy. There’s no answer to the question. He’s got nothing to compare this life to because he’s never known any other kind. Maybe he thinks when you get down to it every life is basically the same. [The chill of a newly created earth, frost crusting the dunes of the desert, and a landscape livid with the trails of smokeless heatless fire.] Eventually his wife’s hair falls out and she gets thin and then she dies and his friends go there’s nothing you could have done mate she had the best care in the world but he can’t shake this weird feeling that there is something. Like he need only have wished for it and it would have come true like he has this titanic power to shape the entire universe at will. And that thought seems strange now because he’s gone so long without wishing for anything and in the end he doesn’t even [weep hot tears] want his wife back not really. He will face his own death indifferently wishing neither to continue nor to end. Anyway it’s getting lonely in his massive fuckoff gaff so one day he takes his son down for a walk along the beach carrying the little baby in a kind of sling over his shoulder and hobbling over grey sand under a grey sky by the grey waters where the grey seals huddle like boulders in the surf and he stops and remembers what it is he’s forgotten because there’s a hollow in the sand. Right by the shoreline the shape of where a lamp used to be as clean as if he’d picked it up just that very second. And now he understands now he gets why it is that he kept wishing for things he already had. He goes up into the garret in the east wing of his big stately home. Been years since he was last in here and all the old crap from the last owners is gone there’s just bits of charred wood and ashes and scorched plaster like there’s been a fire in here but he’s pretty certain there wasn’t a fire. [God said: O Iblis! what prevents thee from prostrating thyself to one whom I have created with My hands? Art thou haughty? Or art thou one of the lofty ones? Iblis said: I am better than he: Thou createdst me from fire and him Thou createdst from clay.] And the lamp is still there right in the centre of the devastation in a halo of ashes just where he left it. He knows when he makes his third wish whatever journey he’s been on all these years will be over and the punchline will have been delivered. Maybe it will even leave him where he started back on that beach again as a young poor and lonely man. But he wants more than anything to have the thing that was taken away from him that day which is [a broken eggshell] desire. To want things again. So he rubs the lamp but nothing happens. He rubs again and again all over its worn pewter surface until his hands go bloody but still no genie nothing happens. He talks to the lamp and cries to it and gives it orders and it’s like the emptiness of the thing could swallow him up. And at long last he realises [sunbeams] that the reason the genie’s gone is that he already used up his last wish long ago and now he can’t even remember what it was. He goes to himself there’s something in my life that’s artificial something that I must have wished for something apart from my wife and my house and my money and my children something I once desired. He sits up there all night trying to think of what he could have wanted. But it’s impossible to think because it’s something he already has and will always have had so the desire for it is impossible to locate. And eventually at long last he wonders if he wished to forget. He wonders if his last wish was to forget the shape of the genie when it granted him his final wish and its voice like wildfires and its colours like the iridescence of a peacock fanning bright vanishing instants of flame. He wonders if he wished to forget what he’d wished for so that he would always have something else to wish for which would be his wish to know what he had forgotten. And the thought of it is satisfying because now he knows that his stores of desire will never be empty and his hunger will never depart from him again. He has a hole in his life now and that’s a reason to keep on living. So he walks down from the garret aching down one stair after another with his old nervous bones and finds his son sitting there at the foot of the stairs still fixing him with that brutal scowl the look of someone who knows everything and can see right through him. And just when he comes off the final stair his tiny baby son throws himself at him and knocks him to the ground and starts pummelling him with his tiny baby fists until he’s bruised and bleeding all over. And then his son crawls over and bites him hard on the neck but he still doesn’t even have his milk teeth so it’s just pressure slowly choking him as he lies there helpless his bones broken about to die. The baby sits on his chest and looks into his eyes with nothing but hatred. And then he understands and with his last ounce of strength he reaches slowly so slowly into his pockets and with trembling shattered hands he takes out his wallet [at this point mime patting your trouser pockets again] and all that’s inside is a little folded-up note. And he opens it up and it says alright mate here’s the twelve inch prick you wanted.
Make a wish