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My Master's Secret Mission

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DECEMBER 25

I am THE LUCKIEST GENIE IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD!

My Master has given me a DIARY!  He says that now I can write down things that happened, so I will be able to remember them!

I said, but Master, my memory is perfect, genies always remember everything! and my Master said, what about the time Major Healey and I thought your sister might be impersonating you, and we asked you what we had done just the night before, and you didn't remember? and I shrugged, and then he said, and what about all the times I told you to stay home, and you didn't remember I said that? and I shrugged, and then he said, and what about all the times I told you to not use your powers because that only Makes Things Worse, and you didn't remember I said THAT? and I said, but Master, if genies were predictable, we would not be genies! and Major Healey said, ain't that the truth.

I am SO GLAD that Major Healey understands me.

I asked my Master why he got me a diary, and he said, because it is Christmas, Jeannie, and Major Healey got you something too, and Major Healey said, look, it's a book of recipes from all over the world, and I blinked a few of them into being, and they were WONDERFUL.  But then I was sad and my Master said, what's wrong, Jeannie?  And I said, Master, why do people give presents on Christmas?  And he said, to celebrate the birth of Christ, and also because it is good fellowship and makes people happy, and I said, but Master, you never let me give you anything, and my Master said, you don't need to give me anything, Jeannie, and I said, BUT IT IS CHRISTMAS.

My Master groaned but Major Healey said, hey, Tony, it's just for one day, and my Master said, okay, okay, Jeannie, just for today, anything you want to give me, you can give me.

So I gave him a great big palace with camels and elephants and a thousand servants, and a feast with jugglers and singers and dancers, and a beautiful lake outside the palace and a sailboat to sail on it, and he said it was all wonderful and I am writing this down to remember it for ever and for always.

I have THE MOST WONDERFUL MASTER IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD.


DECEMBER 26

I have THE MOST IRRITATING MASTER IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD.

This morning the first thing he did was make me put the elephants back, and the next thing he did was make me put the servants and the palace back, and in the end he even made me put back the sailboat, which I knew he had liked best of all.

I said, oh, Master, at least let me give you the sailboat! and he said, look, it's great, Jeannie, but if I want something I need to work for it like anybody else, and I said, that is silly, Master, you are NOT like anybody else, you are an astronaut who has a genie.  And then he said, look, it's the principle of the thing, don't you understand?  But I did not understand at all.

I told him that where I came from, no Master would ever be so ungrateful as to refuse a genie, or not allow her to use her powers for his benefit, and my Master said, Jeannie, we're not where you came from or even when, we're not in Baghdad or Tehran or Basenji two thousand years ago, and we do things differently here.  He said, work is important, Jeannie.  Work means something.

I said that I do not think people can have changed so much.  People still get married, and people still have children, and people still walk around the Kaaba, even if they have changed the reasons why.  And before the Blue Djinn cursed me when I would not marry him, I was a human and so I know what work is.  Work is not ennobling and does not give you character.  Work is blisters on your hands and a mother whose back hurts too much for her to ever stand up straight.  Work is what you do from dawn to dusk because clothing must be made and dyed and washed and mended.  Work is what you do because if you do not work you will have no food and if you have no food you will die.  It is hard and it hurts and it is ugly, and if it is nobility then I want nothing of it!

And then I blinked away and now I am in my bottle writing this AND I AM NOT COMING OUT.


DECEMBER 27

This morning Major Healey came during breakfast and told my Master he had urgent news, secretive, very hush-hush, so of course I made sure to listen.  Major Healey said that a Russian spacecraft had crashed in the Arctic circle, and that the government was putting together a team to go and inspect it.  Of course the government wanted my Master to go because he is the best astronaut there is, and they wanted Major Healey to go because he and my Master are a team, and they wanted them to leave RIGHT AWAY. 

I said, but Master, it is the holidays! and Major Healey said, yeah, just our luck this happened when we weren't doing anything.  

I said, but you are SUPPOSED to not be doing anything, and my Master said, a Russian spacecraft is important, Jeannie, and I said if he wanted a Russian spacecraft I could just bring him one, and my Master choked on his orange juice and Major Healey had to pat him on the back until he stopped coughing.

Then I suggested that if he was content with the crashed spacecraft I would just bring it here and he would not need to go to the Arctic, but my Master said, it's like you never listen to me at all.

And then Major Healey said they needed to catch the plane, and I told my Master to take my bottle so that I could go with him, but he said, no, Jeannie, you just take a rest and enjoy the holidays, I'll be back as soon as I can.

And then he left and Major Healey said, sorry, Jeannie, and he left too, and I AM SO INFURIATED BY THE PAIR OF THEM BUT I WILL BLINK TO THE ARCTIC ANYWAY BECAUSE THEY CANNOT DO ANYTHING WITHOUT MY HELP.


DECEMBER 28

I am in jail.

I did not know they had jails in the Arctic.  But they have little settlements, and bases, and the bases have little jails, and I am in one, because when I blinked myself here I walked up to the first man in uniform I saw, who was a captain, and asked him where they were keeping the Russian spacecraft and if Major Anthony Nelson was here yet.

The captain asked me what the blankety-blank did I mean, Major Anthony Nelson, and I said, oh, he must not have arrived yet, but he is coming on a plane with Major Roger Healey and some scientists and they are going to look at the crashed Russian spacecraft, and then the captain said, oh boy. 

The captain asked me if I was going to tell him how I knew about the Russian spacecraft and Major Anthony Nelson, and I said because Major Healey told Major Nelson about it all at breakfast, and the captain said I had to be the worst Russian spy anyone had ever heard of.  

I said that I was NOT a Russian spy, but he said, pull the other one, honey, it's got bells on, and then I said, pull the other what?  And he said, don't think you're going to tempt me with that sex kitten act, and then he said I had better go to jail. 

I could have blinked him into a vase of petunias, but I knew my Master would be most displeased with me and so I went along.  

The captain clicked his radio a few times but only got static, so then he took me to the base commander, who was a colonel, and the colonel looked me up and down and said, who is she?  And I said, I am here to help Major Anthony Nelson find the Russian spacecraft, and the colonel said, oh boy.  

The colonel said, I guess I'd better tell Major Nelson to not talk about matters of national security in front of his dippy girlfriend, and I was very happy because I thought he would let me go.

But then the captain said, yes, Colonel, that would be a good cover story, except I've read the Life magazine stories on the astronaut program, and if these men are Tony Nelson and Roger Healey and they are coming to look for a downed Russian craft, they would have been having breakfast in Cocoa Beach, Florida, so how'd a civilian girl get here faster than their military plane?  

And then the captain said, it's not my call, sir, but when they get here maybe we ought to detain this team, particularly Major Nelson and Major Healey, until we see what is what.

That is when the door opened and my Master and Major Healey came in, and I was SO GLAD to see them but before I could say hello the colonel was yelling at them about breaches of national security and now there had to be an investigation, and he had me put into a jail cell and them into the cell next to mine.

I am very happy to be with my Master again, even if he is not speaking to me.


DECEMBER 29

This morning I said, Good morning, Master! and when he did not answer me I said, Master, you are very clever to pretend not to know me, because if you DID, then you would be in trouble for breaching security, and they would not let you be an astronaut any more!  And my Master said, Jeannie, I'm still not talking to you.

The colonel came in and said, we have some people coming to get to the bottom of this, and my Master said, Colonel, we can't afford any more delay, the Russians will have their own teams out and searching for the spacecraft.

Then a little man with glasses came in, and he said, sorry, Colonel, but you said you wanted the weather report as soon as it was ready, and the Colonel looked at the little man's papers and said, jehoshaphat, and then he said, a big snowstorm is moving in and it'll be over the area in a few hours.

Major Healey said, the snow will cover the spacecraft and then we'll never find it!  And then my Master said, we have to get underway immediately, there's no time.

The captain said, but the Russians!  And my Master said, the Russians would want you to hold us here so we don't even have a chance of beating them to the spacecraft, and the captain said, yeah, or they want you to find the spacecraft and hand it right over to them.

The colonel said, shut up and let me think, and then he sat down on the edge of his desk and frowned.

After a long time, the colonel said, captain, suppose these men are Russian agents, what would you have me do?  They're two of the most famous men in America, Our Brave Boys in the space program, and we're going to tell the kids of America they are communist traitors?  If the Reds get them, they can get to anyone.  Their trial alone would be a Red propaganda victory.

Then the colonel said to my Master, it's a nasty storm out there, certain death to go out into it, you may not even find the spacecraft, and my Master said, we can try.  

The colonel said, if you're Russian spies, then I guess we'll find out.  And if you're not Russian spies, then God forgive me, you'll understand.

Major Healey gulped, and my Master said, we understand, sir, and the colonel let my Master and Major Healey out of the cell.

I said, oh Master, you cannot go, the storm will catch you and you will FREEZE TO DEATH, and I will be miserable and so will your mother in Bridgeport, and my Master said to me, whoever you are, I wish you really did understand Russian and knew the Russians' secret codes, because if you're going to stay here you'd be able to find something out and get this mess fixed, and don't you leave here till you do.

And of course as soon as my Master wished I understood Russian codes, I did, so when later that night the captain turned his radio to a certain channel and issued three clicks into the static, I knew that he had just made certain that the Russians knew my Master and Major Healey were coming, so they could kill them.

And I could blink the captain into a vase of petunias, but I cannot get him arrested because there is no one I could tell who would possibly believe me or who would be able to do anything about it.

I am the most miserable genie in the whole wide world.


DECEMBER 30

This morning I heard an airplane coming overhead, and a little later the door opened and in came a lot of snow and with it a man in a great big coat, and when the man lowered his hood I said, oh, COLONEL BELLOWS! because I was SO GLAD to see him, and I had not thought he would come all the way from Cocoa Beach.

Colonel Bellows said, do I know you, young lady? And I said, no, but I must tell you something, and when he came close I whispered to him all about the captain being a Russian spy.

Colonel Bellows asked me if anyone else was a Russian spy, perhaps the base colonel, and I said I didn't think so but didn't know for sure, and Colonel Bellows said, I see.

Then the base colonel came in and said he was sorry about the flight being rough, but, well, weather conditions were what they were, and Colonel Bellows said it was quite all right, but his General was concerned about what exactly was going on and had sent Colonel Bellows to find out.

The captain said to the base colonel, sir, should they be in this investigation?  It's a black eye for them if it turns out they can't even spot a Russian spy. 

Colonel Bellows said, oh, I doubt very much that Major Nelson is a Russian spy, and the captain said, because you know him, sir?  and Colonel Bellows said, because I'm a trained psychiatrist and I monitor him very closely.

The captain said, all due respect, sir, you can't catch a spy with psychoanalysis, and Colonel Bellows said, no, in some cases it's quite possible, have you ever heard of the Stroop Test?  I can give you a demonstration if you like.  Do you have some colored pens?

The captain said no, but the colonel said he had a few, and he sent for them, and Colonel Bellows sat down with the pens and some business cards and he wrote for a little while and then he took off his watch and said, all right, Colonel, would you like to be first?  Captain, just sit over there across the room, and Colonel, I'll hand you a business card, and I'll have you tell me what color each word is.  Never mind what the word says, just tell me the color of the ink.

The base colonel looked at the business card and read the colors of ink aloud while Colonel Bellows looked at his watch, and when he was done Colonel Bellows made some notes and then gave the colonel another business card, and the colonel started to read again, but as he did he stopped and started and frowned, and he took longer to finish and when he was done he laughed and said, I'll be, it's harder that way.

Colonel Bellows said, don't worry, Colonel, that just shows you can read.

I saw that what Colonel Bellows had done was to write out out a long list of color names on the business cards: blue, red, purple, green, and the like, and he had written them in COLORED INK.  The first business card was simple because each word on it was the same color as its name, but on the second card the color of the ink did not match the word so it was easy to get confused and read the word rather than the color.

Then Colonel Bellows said, try this one, and handed the base colonel a third card, and this time the colonel read the colors off as easily as anything.

Colonel Bellows said, congratulations, Colonel, you're not a Russian spy; Captain, it's your turn.

I could tell the captain did not want to take the test, but he sat down anyway, and Colonel Bellows asked him, by the way, you don't speak Russian, do you? and the captain said no, and Colonel Bellows said, do you know the letters at all? and the captain shook his head, and Colonel Bellows said, then this will be easy, and when the second hand came around on his watch he handed the captain the first card.  

The captain did the first card easily, and on the second one he stumbled, just as the base colonel had, and when Colonel Bellows gave him the third card he started to read the colors, and he stammered and corrected himself, and then he got out of his chair and tried to run but the guards were on him before I made the door.

The card fell where I could see it and what Colonel Bellows had done was SO CLEVER, because the third card was JUST LIKE THE SECOND CARD ONLY IN RUSSIAN, so stumbling on it meant the captain had known Russian after all.  

I do not know what happened after that, because no one was looking at me and so I blinked away and found my Master, who was huddling with Major Healey in their little tent, and I was VERY happy to see my Master again.  And after I had hugged and kissed him, I said, oh, do not worry, Master, it is all ALL RIGHT now, the captain was a Russian spy, but Colonel Bellows came and unmasked him so you are safe!

And Major Healey said, that's great news, see, Tony!  And I said, of course, last night the captain signaled the Russians that you are here and so they are sending men to kill you and Major Healey, and Major Healey said WHAT.  

And my Master said, all right, Jeannie, we can't do anything in this storm and neither can the Russians, so let's wait it out until morning.

And I did not have my bottle, but my Master had a spare lamp that was VERY cozy once I blinked some comfortable pillows into it, and so I nestled down into it to write in my diary while we waited for the morning.


DECEMBER 31

When I came out of the lamp, my Master was awake already and was opening a can of rations.  I said, Master, I can make you something better than that! and I blinked up a frying pan full of bacon and eggs and my Master said, thank you, Jeannie.

And then I said, this is a very small shelter, Master, and he said, it's what we had, and I said, I can make you a better one, Master, and I blinked up a LOVELY ski lodge around us, with a bearskin rug and a roaring fire, and my Master sighed, and he said, thank you, Jeannie.

I said, oh, isn't this fun, Master? it is like a ski trip! and my Master said, except there are Russians coming to kill us, and I said, oh, Master, the Russians will be easy to handle now that I am here, and he said, yes, of course, but I thought he did not seem happy.

Major Healey said, is that bacon? and he came up out of his sleeping bag and ate some, and then he looked around, and said, boy oh boy, it's not even like work now, is it Tony? but my Master said nothing.

I said, Master, are you sorry I am here?  and he said no, of course not, Jeannie, it just -- well, the Russians are waking up in their crummy tents and getting cold breakfast out of cans, and this is wonderful but it feels a little bit like cheating.

I said, Master, life is not fair, and it is only wise that you use all of your advantages to prevail, and he said, I know it's smart to not play fair, but that doesn't mean I like it.  Do you understand, Jeannie?

I think so.  I think that is what work is.  If my Master had not practiced by staying late hours at his job and saving his money and getting up early in the morning, he might not have been able to make himself go search for the Russian spacecraft and risk being lost forever.

Work is what humans like my Master have instead of magic, and so it means as much to them as my magic does to me.

Major Healey said, you can't feel bad for the Russians, Tony.  What'd they do to us?  What'd they do to the free world, if they could?  and my Master said, I know.

Major Healey said, Jeannie, can you help us find the spacecraft?  But then my Master looked out the window and said, I don't think she'll have to.  

Major Healey looked out the window too and then he said, is that a house on chicken legs?  and I said, Major Healey, that is silly! and my Master said, it might be silly but it's coming this way.

It WAS a house on great big chicken legs, and there was a rope dragging behind it, and on the other end of the rope was the wreckage of the Russian spacecraft, and in the window of the house there was a scowling old woman.  

Major Healey said, this is it, I've finally cracked, and my Master said, don't be silly, Roger, we all see it, the Russians must have magic too.

The old woman yelled at us in Russian, and my Master said, I wish she'd speak English, and so I blinked, and then she did, and she said that her name was Baba Yaga and she had been drafted into the Soviet Space Race and that it was her job to take the spacecraft home, and weren't we ashamed trying to steal it, and she was of a good mind to use her magic to take us all to Russia.  

I said that I was NOT going to Russia, and I blinked her house into a great big picnic basket and its chicken legs into drumsticks. That got her attention and so she blinked up a great big man with a fur hat and fearsome knouts, but I blinked up a mob and they tarred and feathered him and then dragged him away on a rail.  Then she blinked up a man with an axe, but I blinked up a man with two hammers, and we went on and on like that, but while we were fighting my Master and Major Healey had rounded up the rope attached to the Russian spacecraft, so I blinked up a GREAT BIG TEAM of sled dogs and a sled for them to pull, and we tied up the spacecraft and we mushed away.

Major Healey said, Jeannie, you're a lifesaver, and I said, I suppose that work is good for something after all, but I cannot help but think magic is better, and my Master, who was squinting hard from the glare of the snow, said, Jeannie, sometimes I almost agree with you.

And I told my Master I was going to kiss him, and then I did.


JANUARY 1

It is SO GOOD to be home again in Cocoa Beach.  

Colonel Bellows came to visit today and said that the spacecraft was on its way back to Cocoa Beach where everyone could look at it very carefully.  He said, that young woman from the CIA vanished somehow before I could thank her, but she was very resourceful.

And Colonel Bellows also said that my Master's eyesight would recover from the snow blindness he had suffered but that he would need time off from work, so he was not to even think of coming in for at least a week.

Then Colonel Bellows left, and I came right out of my bottle because I was SO GLAD that my Master would have a holiday vacation after all.

My Master said it wasn't a vacation exactly, and it certainly wasn't the holidays, and I said stuff and nonsense, Master, why, you are sitting right underneath the mistletoe!  and Major Healey said actually -- but I gave him a LOOK and he agreed my Master was, and my Master said, Jeannie, but it's not actually Christmas anym-- BUT I DID NOT LISTEN.

I AM THE HAPPIEST GENIE IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD.