George was a creature of unvarying habit. His afternoon walk, for example, usually ended at one of the benches inside Rumeli Hisar. He often liked to sit there with a good book. His favorite bench was on an elevated spot where he could sit and watch the Bosphorus all day, if he had all day. Sometimes, George sat there simply to watch the ships plying the route between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara.
George started fiddling with the samovar’s faucet, his newfound bargain from the Tahtahkale market. Then quite suddenly he heard a man clear his throat. He looked up to find an elderly fellow sitting at the other end of his bench. Not having heard the man approach, George was surprised to see him at all. The old man was wearing a dark Ottoman style tunic and pants. A red fez crowned his obviously bald head. His long, bushy and elegant mustache curled ostentatiously upward at the ends. George nodded to him abstractly.
“Pardon, efendi,” the man said addressing George in a Turkish honorific, clearing his throat again and standing up. “Ahhhhgggg, I have been waiting to do that for sooo long,” the man added, making a grand production of
stretching his back. “You have no idea what such a tiny space can do to your bones,” the man continued in a heavily accented baritone.
“I guess not,” George answered to be polite.
“Thank you, efendi,” the man said formally. “I am Mustafa. At your service,” the peculiar man said as he bowed.
George did not know what to make of all this. Although the man did not look like a vagrant, he was acting strange. And for all his obvious years, the fellow seemed robust enough to do damage if so inclined. George decided to give the fellow the benefit of the doubt. He had no desire to give up his bench any time soon.
“I am deeply indebted to you, efendi,” the man informed George. “You may ask for anything you want,” he offered expansively.
“Thank you, sir, but I have not done anything,” George replied.
“Oh, but you have!” Mustafa exclaimed, launching into a brief foot-shuffling dance. “You released me from that horrible prison.
“I released you from prison?” George asked. “From this?” George inquired with obvious disbelief in his voice as he looked at his samovar. “Okay, so who or what are you,” he asked good-humouredly after a pause.
“I am a djinn, of course, efendi,” Mustafa replied with a huge smile, as he proudly twirled one end of his mustache.
“A djinn? Ahh, you mean flying carpets and Aladdin’s lamp,” George asked trying to keep a straight face.
“Efendi, please,” begged Mustafa. “I am a djinn, of course, but not the flying carpet sort. Those are a lowly bunch.
“I see,” George replied skeptically. “Please do tell me, am I the only one who can see you?”
“No, no, efendi. Of course, other people can see me,” Mustafa exclaimed. “Naturally, I can make myself invisible if I choose to,” he added with a wink.
“I see,” George replied. “Please stop calling me efendi. My name is George.”
“Of course, of course,” Mustafa replied. “I call you efendi merely to show my great respect. “If you are in doubt, you may ask the first person who comes by what they think of my fez.” When George did not respond, Mustafa continued, “You still don’t believe me? Okay, efendi, why don’t you make a wish?”
“All right,” George said, “make me the American ambassador to Turkey.”
“Efendi, you must understand,” Mustafa protested. “I am a djinn of small wishes. I can make many wishes come true one step at a time, but a colossal wish like that is beyond my domain.”
The man answered so seriously that George almost wanted to believe him. “Ahh, Mustafa, you are good,” George replied with a sigh. “Tell me, what is it you really want? A visa?”
But small wishes matter, efendi,” Mustafa insisted. “Many small wishes add up to a big wish, if you know how to ask…” He paused, and then asked, “What is a visa?”
“Never mind,” George replied. “So you mean that if I want to be rich, I should wish for a nightly win in the casino for what, a thousand days?” George could not keep the derision from his voice.
“Well, kind of like that, efendi,” Mustafa answered. “Of course, it need not be a thousand days,” he added seriously.
George was growing tired of the strange fellow’s game. “Okay,” he said, “here’s a small wish for you. I want to see three boats sailing under the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge right this minute. I want their colors to be lime, pink and yellow, in that order,” George smiled as he asked for the most impossible colors he could think of in a sailboat.
“The Fatih Sultan …” the man stuttered, looking confused. “Ahh, is that what they call that thing now? The Conqueror’s bridge…” Mustafa gestured towards the bridge. “Er, what kind of boats, efendi?” he asked, turning to George once more.
“Any would do, Mustafa,” George replied as he tried to keep a straight face. No sooner had the words left his mouth when he saw a slow procession of the ice cream colored boats sailing under the bridge. “What the hell!” he exclaimed, quickly jumping to his feet.
“Another wish, efendi?” the djinn asked calmly, obviously satisfied with his handiwork and the reaction to it.
“Well, let’s see now — how about a fish sandwich from one of those fancy boats by Galata Bridge?” George asked drolly, still not quite sure a real djinn is right before him. This only happens in fairy stories he told himself. “Wait!” he exclaimed. “How many wishes do I get?” he asked looking as if he just won the lottery.
“As many as you like, efendi,” Mustafa replied with a slight bow. “One fish sandwich coming up,” the djinn announced.