Adventure Number One
"I'm going to have adventures, when I grow up." Exzy informed his unimpressed audience of older boys. "This is my wizard's coat."
"It's stupid. Even a girl wouldn't wear that." Stodie sneered. "Why don't you just get out of the way, else I'll send you on an adventure right now."
Exzy crossed his arms stubbornly. "Send away. Dad'll get you, if Mom doesn't get there first."
The boys laughed.
"Oooo! The brave adventurer is going to run to Mommy!" Farris grinned. "Hey, Larry, Can you open and close a gate before anyone notices?"
"No but I can be embarrassed, and surprised at how easy it was, and I closed it right away, sorry teacher."
Uh oh. This sounds serious . . . Exzy pulled his dimensional bag out of his pocket, reaching in for the knife he wasn't supposed to bring to school. A grab and shove, and he was in the bag!
He could dimly hear laughter.
And Stodie. "Hey, if we stick the handles in that empty bottle, he won't be able to open them and get out, will he?"
The handles closed on their laughter. The darkness descended.
"Oh . . . Doodie!" Exzy got himself turned around and located the handles by feel. He pried at them, got them open a few inches, which gave him a view distorted view through green glass. "Oh, double doody! If I can't break the glass, I'll be stuck here until Mom or Dad come looking for me . . . and they're awful busy . . ."
I really wish I was magically precocious, like Dad. Or Aunt Q. I'm eight years old. Everybody in my family is magically precocious. Except me.
I'm going to have to get out of this the old fashioned way.
He shoved the handles out until they hit the glass, brought them almost together and slammed them open. Producing noting but a loud clank. He slammed then open and closed a few times, threw his weight against one side to try and topple the bottle . . .
Then the view through the glass swung around . . . Exzy closed the handles . . . Maybe they'll fall out . . . opened them wide and fell out himself.
Onto a grimy street . . . a narrow alley festooned with trash . . . and four hideous old people gawping at him.
"A Genie!" The man whose rags were topped with a filthy black coat peered at him.
The old woman held a green wine bottle upside down in one hand. Her other hand darted forward and grabbed him. "He's mine! I let him out! I get the three wishes!"
Uh oh. I think those idiots did open a dimensional gate and throw me through.
He started grinning.
I think . . . I'm about to have an adventure!
“I gets three wishes, right? Genie?” The old hag still had a grip on his shoulder, and shook him a little. “Three of ‘em.”
“Umm, that what all the stories say . . . But I may not be able to do all of them.” Exzy eyed her, and her three friends.
“I wanna live ferever.” She leaned over, beady eyes staring at him.
Whew! No problem, except . . . “Well, I have a potion that will ensure that you don’t die of old age, but it can't stop accidents and stuff.”
“An I wanna be rich!”
“Umm, what do you use for money, around here?” Exzy looked down at his wizards coat. He’d mined the gold and pounded out the decorations himself, and sifted through a whole lot of sand for the diamonds. The garnets had been a bit harder to get out of the rock, and the emeralds weren’t quite gem quality, from that beryl mine in Desolation. Then he’d talked Ezra’s dad into showing everyone how to facet the little pebbles.
He fingered a gold star. “Is gold worth much, here?”
“Gold.” She leaned closer and squinted. “Thet ain’t real gold!”
“C’mere.” She hauled him out of the alley, pushing a cart with one hand. It was heaped with trash. Or maybe dirty laundry. It wobbled and she finally let go of him so she could steer. They walked down the street and around the corner. This street was full of bright lights, glowing signs, and a few noisy laughing people. Right now it all looked grubby. Another hour and it’d be dark and everything would be all glittery and no one would see the dirt.
A couple of tarts on the corner turned to look. “Hey, what are you old winos doing here? You know no one wants bag ladies and winos around the customers. And what’s up with the kid?” The one talking had purple hair, but her skin looked normal, well, real dark, but not purple like real purps.
The black haired Chinese lady leaned over. “Oh, isn’t he cute!”
Exzy growled. “I am not!”
The tarts laughed, and the hag tightened her grip.
“He’s my Genie! I freed him an I get the three wishes. We’re goin’ down to Bernie’s to see if he’s got any real gold.”
The Chinese lady eyed his wizard’s coat. “I don’t think so, Ruby. If that’s real gold it’s worth thousands.”
“Lots of thousands.” Purple was looking them over, narrow-eyed.
The hag—Ruby?—pulled Exzy away and further down the street. The winos and the tarts all followed.
The store with the Bernie’s sign in bright yellow said it bought gold. And it had double locked doors.
On the other side of thick glass a little man with glasses frown down on them. “Only one person can come inside.” His voice was thin and tinny, coming from a speaker in the wall under the glass.
Exzy worried a couple of the plain stars—the ones with no stones in them—off the leather coat and held them out to Ruby.
She snatched them, then frowned around at the winos and tarts. She looked back at the man behind the glass. “I gotta bring my genie . . . my grandson in with me. Can’t leave him out here.”
The man leaned and peered through his glasses. “All right, but just the boy.”
Ruby glared. “Nobody touches my cart.”
Inside, Bernie (still behind glass) weight and measured. Then used two different machines. Consulted a chart. “Right. A todays prices, I’m offering four thousand, three hundred and forty-six dollars and twenty-nine cents. Take it or leave it.”
Ruby grinned. “I’ll take it. In cash.”
Back on the street, she fended off her new good buddies. “That’s a bunch’o money, but it ain’t rich. We ain’t done yet. And what about livin’ ferever—an when I say that, I mean lookin’ young and pretty forever!”
Exzy shrugged. “Okay. But remember, some things have side effects.” The old people and the tarts just got closer and hungrier looking. Speaking of which . . . “Is there a store around here? We need food and wine. The food’s for me, the wine’s for the magic potion.”
Well, the nearest liquor store had a chest of things claiming to be sandwiches. Exzy grabbed eight, while the others loaded up on wine.
“How many of them things are you buying?”
“One for each of you, two for me.”
“Humph!” Ruby eyed the others. “And how come I’m buyin’ food and wine fer these no gooders?”
“Probably because you want to show off, and throw a party.” Exzy looked around, and spotted a cold case with other drinks and grabbed a cola.
The clerked eyed them cynically and handed Ruby the change.
“So let’s go home and I’ll mix up the potion.”
They all looked at each other.
The bald guy finally shrugged. “There’s some empty houses a couple of blocks from here.”
They don’t even have homes?
Exzy took the bag with the sandwiches, and when they argued over who was trustworthy enough to tote the wine, he put all the bottles in his bubble.
They all stared at him when he tucked the rod into the inner pocket of his wizard coat.
“Well, where are these houses?” Exzy looked around at them. “Trust me, you don’t want to drink this stuff out in public.” Except . . . Stodie, Ferris and Larry must have been kidding me about the instant orgy stuff. I mean, they were just playing another stupid trick.
When I get home, I’m going to live in the Fast Room. I can get older than they are and, and . . . Drat. They’re so much older than I am, and I don’t want to spend a whole five years inside the Fast Room, just to wind up going to school with them.
But maybe I’ll sleep there, just so I get old enough to grasp power a little bit faster.
The winos all complained and whined, and wanted the wine now, and no they didn’t want a sandwich first . . . and they turned down a street between a laundromat and a boarded-up restaurant and suddenly they were walking past old houses, small, packed pretty close together. Lots of trash and beat up cars.
“That one’s boarded up, we could . . .”
“No!” Exzy hustled past, cold chills up and down his spine. “Not that one! Trust me!”
But I haven’t grasped power. I shouldn’t . . . feel things.
Three houses later another boarded up wreck just looked tired.
They all looked at him.
He nodded. “This one’s good.”