Three Stars and A Minor Want
Jimmy, like most 10 year olds, had been told lots of fairy tales when he was younger and as far as he could see they all followed a similar theme. A person finds a trapped fairy or elf. That person then helps free the trapped fairy or elf. The said freed mystical creature then offers the rescuer three wishes with an attached health and safety notice in the form of a dire warning. The rescuer takes the wishes and totally ignores the dire warning, makes a mess of his/her life and, if they are lucky, find themself back in the same wretched state they were in before they met the giver of the wishes.
These stories were usually followed up by the storyteller, either your mum or a teacher, telling you that the moral of the tale was not to be greedy, or to think about other people before yourself. Jimmy always felt that this was nonsense. If he ever came into possession of three wishes he would make sure that he used them well. But as Jimmy didn’t believe in fairies, elves or other small magical creatures waiting to dole out free wishes, he knew that whatever he might or might not do with three wishes didn’t matter – it was never going to happen. That was until that eventful Tuesday morning.
Jimmy was on his way to school, it was pouring down with rain and he was late. Being late for school was a normal state of affairs for Jimmy. It wasn’t that he didn’t like school, he just didn’t like getting up in the mornings, especially wet ones. He knew that this morning, no matter how quickly he ran, he wasn’t going to make it to school for 9 o’clock. He was going to get a right telling off whether he got there at 10 past 9 or half past 9, so he might as well slow down a bit. He decided that he would rest for a few minutes at the old oak tree on the edge of the park. Then once the rain had eased off, he knew that he could get to school from there in 5 minutes. This was a favourite place of Jimmy’s. Most people who walked past it each day didn’t even notice it. To Jimmy it was the place he could go to if he was feeling sad or angry or just wanted to be on his own for a while for a bit of peace and quiet. As he got to the bottom of the tree, he slung his school bag over his shoulder and started climbing. Jimmy had a number of secret resting place in this tree, the best being quite high where he could see for miles. He used to love sitting there watching the people below. He knew that today he didn’t have time to climb up high so settled down in a lower part of the tree. No sooner had he relaxed against the huge trunk, when he heard a voice. It was a strange squeaky voice and seemed to be coming from above him. “Oh don’t mind me! You just make yourself comfy. I wouldn’t like to see you putting yourself out to come and help me,” grumbled the squeaky voice.
At first Jimmy thought that he must be imagining things. You don’t hear voices in trees, it must just be the sound of the rain on the leaves playing tricks. He decided that, just to be on the safe side, he would climb down and get off to school as son as he could. As he started to get up he heard the voice again, “Oh that’s right, you just leave me! Typical of the youth of today, they only ever think about themselves, never a thought for others. Don’t you worry about me. I’ll just stay here, with my foot stuck in this hole.”
Jimmy stopped and looked up. He couldn’t see anything. “Who are you?” he whispered,“What are you doing in my tree?”, not believing that he was really answering an imaginary voice.
“Your tree, your tree! What a cheek! Whatever makes you think it’s your tree? Ouch! Now look what you have made me do. Clear off, you are more of a nuisance than a help.”With that the voice went quiet. Jimmy waited but heard nothing. He knew that the sensible thing to do would be to carry on down from the tree, get off to school and forget all about hearing voices in trees. Instead he started to climb. He’d only gone a short distance when he found the owner of the squeaky voice. There, with his foot trapped in a hole, was a very strange-looking creature. He was about 30cms high, very thin, almost like a stick insect. His feet, hands and face were very gnarled and wrinkled. These were the only parts Jimmy could see because the creature was wearing a large, brown, tattered coat, done up at the neck and stretching right down to his ankles. Most of his face was covered with a bushy grey beard and on his head he wore a large, battered top hat.
“Wow!’ said Jimmy, “Are you a fairy or one of those elf things?”
“Stupid boy!”, replied the owner of the squeaky voice, “Do I look like a fairy or an elf? What do they teach you in school nowadays? Anybody with half a brain would know that I am a Forest Imp and a very important Forest Imp at that. My name is Slyther and I am the official Guardian of this tree. Now stop all these questions and help me get my foot free, I’m already extremely late for a very important meeting.”
Jimmy sat there, not believing either what he was seeing or what he was hearing. Then he asked, “Excuse me but are you one of those fairies …. sorry Forest Imps that give people who rescue them three wishes?” Slyther folded his scrawny arms and glared at Jimmy. Jimmy glared back. “…… because, if you’re not, then I’m also running very late and don’t really have time to hang around helping out ungrateful, bad-tempered, Forest Imps.”With that, Jimmy started to climb back down the tree.
“Wait a minute,” pleaded Slyther, “Please come back and let us talk about your reward.”
Jimmy climbed back up and very carefully began the delicate job of freeing Slyther’s foot from the hole. It wasn’t that straight forward. The foot was twisted and well and truly stuck. Jimmy was having to be so careful. The creature’s leg was so thin and frail that any undue pressure and it would have snapped like a twig. After 10 minutes of gentle manipulation by Jimmy and 10 minutes of constant complaining from Slyther, the foot was free. In between the complaining Slyther had been explaining the whole three wishes reward thing. It was obviously not as straight forward as the story books would have you believe.
“You can forget about three wishes,” he said, “That practice ended years ago. Nowadays we are strictly regulated by the ‘Magical Wishes & Rewards Commission’ and very strict they are too. You don’t want to cross those guys, trust me.”
The Forest Imp went very pale as he talked about the Commission and how they monitored this whole wishes area. Jimmy had the distinct impression that his new friend had indeed crossed them and whatever they had done to him had left some nasty memories.
“My quota for this year,” continued Slyther, “Was three packages. The first one was the ‘Two Wishes Package’ and that could only be used if my life was in serious danger. I used that one up last week when a little girl saved me from being eaten by her cat. The second package I had was a ‘Wish and a Bag of gold.’ Again only to be used to get out of serious trouble. Believe me the troll I gave them to was both trouble and very big. That just leaves me with one package and that is the ‘Three Stars and a Minor Want’ package. I still have that one and I suppose I will have to give it to you.”
“What exactly is the ‘Three Stars and a Minor Want’ package?” asked Jimmy, feeling quite put out that the good old-fashioned ‘Three Wishes’ had been scrapped.
“Oh I haven’t got time to explain it all to you,” cried the Forest Imp, “I’ve already told you that I’m late for a very important meeting. Look it’s all in here.” With that he took, a small, battered looking, wooden box from beneath his shabby coat. He handed it to Jimmy and before Jimmy even had time to think of a question he had gone. He had dived head first into a large hole in the main trunk and disappeared
Jimmy sat down and looked at the box. On the cover was a label and written on it was:
PACKAGE 3 – ‘THREE STARS & A MINOR WANT’
ONLY TO BE USED BY AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL.
ANY MISUSE COULD RESULT IN SERIOUS PUNISHMENT.
ANY QUERIES SHOULD BE REFERRED TO THE
‘MAGICAL WISHES & REWARDS COMMISSION’
Jimmy was curious to find out what was inside the box but when he tried to open it he found that there was no lid, no secret drawers, nothing. It was just a slab of wood with a label on it. Jimmy tried bashing it against the tree trunk in the hope that this might help to release it’s contents, but still nothing happened. It was then that Jimmy remembered to look at his watch. Just gone half past 9. He had forgotten all about school, he was going to be in so much trouble. He quickly put the box into his school bag, scrambled down the tree and ran, as fast as he could.
At playtime he left his friends and sneaked off to one of his hidey holes – the school bin store. Jimmy climbed over the fence of the bin store and sat down in the corner, safe that nobody would find him here. After ten minutes of trying everything he could his patience ran out. “Stupid box,” he shouted, giving it a good shake, “It’s not much to ask for is it. All I want is to get inside the silly thing!” With that there was a puff of smoke and the box began to tremble in his hand. As he looked it slowly began to crack, just like an egg cracks as a chick is being born. The crack grew slowly and before long ran the full length of the box. With a final puff of smoke the box fell open. Inside was a rolled up piece of paper and a small cloth bag. Jimmy carefully unrolled the piece of paper and began to read what was written on it,
‘Three Stars & A Minor Want’
If you are the rightful owner of this magical package, welcome.
If you are not – then beware!
By now you will probably have worked out that you have already used up the ‘Minor Want’ in getting the box open. Most people are, at this point, disappointed that they didn’t get a more substantial ‘Wish’ – unfortunately, in order to achieve this you would have needed to upgrade to a more substantial rewards package.
The ‘Three Wishes’ – accompanying this instruction sheet you should have a small cloth bag. (If yours appears to be missing you should immediately contact the magical creature that you rescued)
In the bag you will find three small stars, numbered 1 – 3. These are your three wishes. They can only be used in the following way.
(Failure to follow these instructions to the letter will render the wishes null and void.)
Wish Number 1 – must be attached to the recipients arm – who will then only be able to say nice things about you. Duration 1 hour.
Wish Number 2 – must be digested by the recipient – who will then do anything you ask of them. Duration 2 hours.
Wish Number 3 – must be put in the recipients shoe – who will then go anywhere you tell them to. Duration 3 hours.
Owners of these wishes are fully responsible for any action resulting from their use. The Magical Wishes & Rewards Commission (MCRW) accept no liability for any accidents, misadventures, injuries or deaths that may be sustained through the use of this magic.
In the case of extreme emergency please contact 0123456789
As he read these instructions Jimmy was feeling more and more excited. If this was all real and these wish star things really worked he was going to have a lot of fun. He picked up the small cloth bag. It was made of what he guessed, was some sort of leather and was bright red. Jimmy opened it very carefully and shook the contents into his hand. Nothing happened. He shook the bag again, this time more vigorously, still nothing. It was not until he had turned the bag inside out did he finally realise it was empty. He was furious. It was bad enough finding that he only had the ‘Three Stars and a Minor Want’ package instead of the customary three wishes but to now find that he had been tricked and that there was nothing in the bag at all made him feel really angry. If only he could get his hands on that Slyther creature!
The whistle for the end of playtime blew and Jimmy hurriedly put the broken box and its contents into his pocket. As he walked back into school he was thinking about what to do next. He had no intention of letting the matter drop. Somehow he was going to find this Slyther character and get him to explain himself. The rest of the school day seemed to drag. Jimmy spent most of lunchtime being lectured to by the Head about the importance of getting to school on time. But he wasn’t listening. He had remembered that there was a contact number on the bottom of the instruction sheet. He couldn’t wait for the end of the day to arrive so that he could phone the Magical Wishes & Rewards Commission and let them know what he thought about their ‘Three Stars and A Minor Want’ package.
It was four o’clock by the time Jimmy had managed to slip away from his friends and climb to his favourite place in the old oak tree. Once settled, he took out his mobile phone and started dialling. The call was answered after just three rings
“This is the Magical Wishes & Rewards Commission, Juniper speaking, how may I help you?”
Jimmy’s first thought was to end the call straight away. This was silly. There was no such thing as magic, Forest Imps and wishes, was there? He couldn’t really be speaking to the Magical Wishes & Rewards Commission, could he? Before he could do anything, the voice on the other end of the phone said,
“This is the Magical Wishes & Rewards Commission, Juniper speaking, how may I help you?”
Before he knew what he was doing Jimmy replied, “I want to make a complaint.
“Very good sir,” replied the efficient Juniper, “If I could just take a few details. Can we start with your name please sir?”
“Jimmy,” answered Jimmy, “Jimmy Jones.”
“Thank you Mr Jones,” continued Juniper, “Now can you tell me, are you human, human with some magic or a magical creature?”
“Human,” said Jimmy, “With no magic. In fact I don’t believe in magic, or I didn’t until this morning. You see what happened was I found this ……”
“Thank you Mr. Jones,” interrupted Juniper, very politely, “There will be time for details of your complaint later. For now could you please tell me which package your complaint is related to?”
“Yes,” said Jimmy slightly annoyed that she hadn’t let him tell her his story, “It was a ‘Three Stars and A Minor Want’ package.”
“Ah,” she said, “One of those. In that case Mr. Jones I am afraid I can’t help you any more. All complaints about that particular package have to be made in person. If you can just wait where you are I will have one of my associates with you in no time.”
And before Jimmy could say anything she put the phone down. He tried re-dialling the number but he just kept getting a message saying that this number was not recognized. It was just after his third, unsuccessful attempt at re-dialling that he became aware of the fact that he was not alone. When he turned his head there on a branch behind him stood a Forest Imp. Unlike Slyther this one was smartly dressed in a grey pin striped suit and was wearing a bowler hat.
“Good evening Mr. Jones,” said the creature, “I understand you have a problem. If you would be so kind as to follow me we will endeavour to try and sort it out for you.”
With that he disappeared, head first, down a hole in the trunk of the tree, just as Slyther had done earlier in the day. Jimmy stood there, mouth wide open, wondering what was going to happen next.
“Just jump, Mr. Jones,” came a voice from in the hole, “Everything will be fine.”
So Jimmy closed his eyes and jumped.
Mike Jackson © 2010
If you enjoyed this have a read of Chapter 2