He was walking around the dump, eyes looking for unwanted treasures. His heart skipped a beat! There, lying amid garbage and plastic, was what first appeared to be a metal gravy boat. His mom would love this! He stepped on piles of refuse to get to it, bent down, and picked it up. No scratches, no dings. Awwww right! Using his t-shirt tail, he started wiping the dirt off it for a better look. Suddenly the “gravy boat” took on a life, vibrating and falling from his hands. A wisp of smoke escaped from the spout. He backed away from it, stumbling and falling into the trash. The smoky vapor coming out spoke as it took shape into a little elfin figure. “So what do you wish for, boy?” it said.
The boy, not quite 12 years old yet, took it in stride. “So are you a genie or something?” he asked the shadowy figure. The figure nodded. “And I can wish for something and you’ll make it happen?” the boy further queried. Again, a nod, then the figure said, “Right. In fact, you get three wishes. So what do you want?” The boy grinned. “NOBODY is gonna believe this! NOBODY! But what the heck. Let’s do this!”
He and the wispy figure exchanged smiles. “Well, think about it, boy. I got plenty of time,” the genie said. The boy nodded. Well of course, the first wish had to be to be rich. His mom could quit work, they could have a house, he could have a room all his own with privacy and no little brothers messing with his stuff–“Ok,” he said. “I wanna be rich.” The genie laughed and said, “Now that is real original. But think about it, okay? Are you sure you want to wish for that? Think about it, boy.” The boy laughed also and said, “Yep! I wanna be rich. So go ahead. Do your thing and make me rich.”
The genie shrugged, then said, “You got it. You’re now rich.” And he blew some of his smoke towards the boy. The boy laughed with excitement, and immediately reached into his jeans’ pockets. He pulled out a dollar bill and 45 cents in coins. He looked from the money in his hands to the genie and back at the money again. Then he demanded of the genie, “This? This is supposed to make me rich?” The genie, grinning, asked, “Did you have that much before you came here?” The boy shook his head no, then said, “But a dollar and 45 cents doesn’t make me rich! It won’t help my mom out! Or get us a house with my own room! What is $1.45 gonna do to make me rich?”
The genie seemed shocked. “Really? You don’t think you’re rich?” The boy’s temper flared. “I’m not stupid, ya know! I know what RICH is!” The genie shook his head sadly. “I don’t think you do, boy,” he said. “Oh yes I do!” He glared at the genie. “You’re a fake! A stupid fairy-tale! I should have known! Thanks for NOTHING!” the boy yelled. The genie shrugged, sadly. “So do you want to ask for the other two wishes?” The boy picked up the “gravy boat” angrily and said, “No! You don’t grant wishes! But my mom can use you for gravy. She hardly has anything nice left. So just crawl back in there and shut up.” And he tucked the gravy boat under his arm and headed home. He was angry at himself, the genie, basically the world for duping him.
As he neared his home, he was walking slower and he was depressed. He decided to stop in at the mini-mart to see what he could get with his great fortune of $1.45. As he moved toward the door, he tripped over a man’s hastily retreating foot. He stopped and looked down. “Sorry, ” he said to the man sitting against the building. “No,” the tired and dirty face said, looking up at him. “It’s me who should say sorry. I didn’t see you soon enough to get out of your way. I’m the one who’s sorry.”
The boy looked closer at the man sitting there with a scroungy dog curled up beside him on the cement. “That your dog?” he asked the man. The man nodded, grinning. “Best dang dog in the world! Smart, loyal, and ain’t he a beauty?” The boy grinned back and squatted down in front of the man and his dog. “Is it okay if I pet him?” he asked. “Sure!” the man said. “He didn’t growl or move when you come up so I figure you must be okay. Go ahead! He’ll let you pet him!” The boy smiled, knowing the dog had given him a compliment by accepting him, and patted his head, then caressed the rough fur of his neck and shoulders. The dog rolled onto its back so the boy could rub his belly. The man and the boy laughed together as the boy obliged the dog. “Yep! He sure likes you!” the man said, obviously happy with the dog’s choice of a friend. The boy felt a sense of happiness to replace his earlier disappointment.
After petting the dog, and with his hand resting on the dog’s ears, he asked the man, “You want something from in there?” and nodded toward the doors of the mini-mart. Then he added, “I only got a dollar and some change, but I could get you like something to drink or maybe a cookie or something if you want, ya know?” The man chuckled and said, “Nah, we’re fine. You go get you something. But really, thanks for the offer.” The boy nodded and slowly stood, then headed into the store. He felt good, really good. He saw the store had a hot dog rolling under hot lights and it was on sale, today only, for $1.39. His face lit up. That was something both the man and the dog could enjoy! He stood before the cashier, ordered the hot dog and reached into his pocket. Out came two dollar bills instead of the one. He was shocked, but the cashier stood waiting, so he hurriedly paid him and then ran to the door and asked what the man and his dog wanted on their hot dog. The man started to protest, but the boy said, “Better hurry! It’s getting cold and I can’t return it!” and then he laughed. The man told him, the dog was now sitting up watching him, and the boy hurried to get the hot dog to his new friends while it was still warm. He ran it outside to them, then realized they had nothing to drink. He ran back into the store and asked for a cup for water. The cashier said nothing but went to where the hot dogs were. He pulled another one out and then told the boy to get a couple of sodas. The boy protested and said, “I don’t have any more money, sir. I can’t pay for it, but if I could just get the one glass for water my friend outside I’d really appreciate it.” The cashier said, “I’m not asking for money. The man let you share with him and his dog. Now let me share with you, okay? After all, there’s more to life than money, right?” The boy nodded, stunned.
He sat and ate his hot dog by the man, sharing some with the dog, also. Then he realized he needed to get home, said good-by, and patted the dog once more and knew he’d made two new friends. He felt good. When he got home, he told his mom everything but not about being upset over the gravy boat as he pulled it out and gave it to her. She smiled and hugged him, thanking him, and then said, “I feel like the richest woman in the world!” Shocked, he asked, “Why, mom? It’s only a gravy boat I found at the dump and thought you’d like.” His mom picked up his chin so he was looking right into her eyes. She smiled, as her eyes filled, and said, “I’m rich because I have a son like you who cares about others, human or animal, and finds such joy in that caring. It makes me a rich woman, rich mother, and you–a rich young man.” Then she hugged him so tight he could barely breathe.
He remembered how upset and disappointed he’d been that he wasn’t “rich.” How the genie had told him that the dollar and change had made him rich. Slowly, he looked into his mom’s eyes, really looked. She said she was rich. He had felt good–and rich–with his two new friends, making her happy. That genie wasn’t so stupid and mean after all. It wasn’t money that made you rich. It was the way you FELT inside, the people you could share with.
He went outside to call his younger brothers and sisters in for supper. As he waited to make sure everyone was coming in, he slid one hand into his pants pocket. He laughed to himself. He could feel a couple of bills. He didn’t pull them out to see how much he had now, because he knew it didn’t matter. He was one rich kid. “Thanks, genie,” he whispered. “And I still got two wishes left. You can bet I’ll think about them.” He was still smiling as he went inside to join the others.