A Christmas Surprise.
by ©Angela E. Dold. 

The tiny bells hanging on the kitchen door tinkled loudly as Sandra’s mum bustled in from outside. Sandra, her daughter, was baking.

"Oh, Sandy. What lovely smell. Are you making mince pies?” She didn’t wait for a reply. She was very excited about something. “I've got a really special bargain to show you," she said, her eyes shining as bright as the fairy lights on their Christmas tree. “You’ll love it!”

"Oh, mum. What have you got this time?" Her mother had put her shopping bag onto the table and was so busy delving into it she didn’t hear the disgruntled tone in her daughter's voice.
Sandra stopped what she was doing, washed her hands and, with a sigh, turned round to face the old lady. Sandra knew what was coming having watched this ‘Show and Tell’ act many times. So, she pulled a chair out from under the table and plopped down onto it. And waited.

Her mum loved scouring the local charity shops for what she called ‘bargains’ always managing to bring one or two home although ‘bargain’ wasn’t quite the word Sandra used. She’d given up reasoning with her mother to stop buying stuff so Sandra kept it under control by regularly filling a big box and returning the things her mother had brought home and forgotten about. It was quite a merry-go-round. But it did stop the house becoming an overcrowded junk shop.
Sandra’s sister, Carol, who was a high-flying lawyer, didn’t help the situation. She knew about her mother’s fringe-hoarding as she called it. She just unhelpfully suggested: "Tell the shops not to serve her; or put her on medication."

"It's all right for you sitting in your penthouse apartment," Sandra argued. "You don’t have to put up with her. Why don't you let her live with you for a while?" Carol had the sense to know which side her bread was buttered on regarding her mother’s living arrangements, so she quickly gathered up her Gucci handbag and departed.

Realistically, Sandra knew her sister would never be able to cope with their mother and their mother would never be able to cope with Carol, so life continued on as usual. A couple of years ago, her mother needed to have company at home, and Sandra needed to move house after a disastrous divorce, so they moved in together. She loved her mother so when things got a bit fractious, Sandra just swallowed hard and counted to 10 or, sometimes, 100 depending on the reason.

Her mother’s chattering brought Sandra back to the moment. "There’s a lovely lady at the Sallie Army shop who always looks after me. She said this had just come in and gave it to me, cheap, because…” her mother puffed out her old chest “I’m her best customer.”

Sandra bit back a cynical retort, but her fit of pique disappeared as she saw what her mother was unwrapping. – the most beautiful little teapot she had ever seen.

"Only $5.00,” her mother whispered, awed by the beauty of it. “…looks old. Is it silver?" She handed it to Sandra. It was exquisite with scrolls, small flowers and animals etched onto its patchy, tarnished surface.

Sandra shook her head. "At $5 I doubt it, Mum. But it is lovely.” She put the teapot in the centre of the table and the two ladies, awed by its beauty, sat, silent, looking at it. Even though it was dirty, it had a glow.

"You know, ma," Sandra murmured as she picked it up. "It could be silver. I think I can just make out a silver mark. It's really is gorgeous!"

Her mother preened under the unexpected praise, stood up, took her bag and put it over her arm. She said “I'll put my things away and then come down. I think we've got some silver polish somewhere. Once I clean it, it'll look new.” She added,” I’m going to give it to you for Christmas. Mischievously, she asked, “Do genies live in teapots?"

"Genie’s live in lamps, Mum, not teapots!”

They both laughed. Mum left the kitchen and walked up the stairs to her room with a slight bounce in her step because her daughter, for once, seemed to like something she’d brought home.
In the kitchen, Sandra cleared away the crumpled-up newspaper and went back to her baking, leaving the teapot sitting in the middle of the table. This time, her mother was right, she would be very happy to get the bargain teapot for Christmas a few days away.

She put the last tray of mince pies in the oven than then looked at the teapot. "It really doesn't need much cleaning," she thought. "I'll give mum a surprise." She scrabbled around under the sink and found the silver polish.

The crumpled up newspaper was retrieved from the bin, and straightened out on the table, and Sandra got to work. Grabbing the silver polish cloth, she smiled as she thought of her mother’s question about genies living in teapots. She started to chant, “Abracadabra, Kalamazoo, come out …" the amusing rhyme was never finished. Two or three swipes over the teapot were enough to answer the question – out came a genie!

The genie, coughing and spluttering, waved a well-manicured hand in front of her face to clear away the wispy pink-coloured smoke that had heralded her arrival, and said in a well-bred voice. "Three wishes; I’m at your command." She coughed again as she said 'command' then she ended with a whine. "That horrible smoke gets down my throat every time! They should do away with it.”

Sandra shrieked and dropped the teapot and dived under the table looking up in fear and trembling at the floating, nebulous form bending close to her, peevishly shouting, "Didn't you hear me, Luv? I SAID. 'THREE WISHES. I’M AT YOUR COMMAND.” The genie folded her arms and legs in a sitting position and continued. "Let me know what they are soon, if you wouldn't mind. I’m getting some time off for Christmas shopping; I’ve got to make a pavlova, and I’m meeting Abdul…later… for chocolates….!”

Usually-sensible-Sandra did the only not-sensible thing she could do under the circumstances, she fainted…but not for long. She felt a little slap on her face, and then another one, so she had to open her eyes. She wished she hadn't because the genie was now down at her level. “Wake up, wake up! No time for a ‘Hollywood’ here.”

The genie was dressed in the typical middle-Eastern costume: a little bolero covered a shiny blouse and harem pants. Her shoes were turned up at the end, and gold bracelets adorned her plump little arms.

Poor Sandra tried to crawl further back under the table but she simply popped out the other side. There was nowhere to hide.

Sandra's behaviour wasn’t unusual; a genie coming out of the spout of a teapot was quite an entrance and always took people by surprise. Usually they thought genies came from lamps, not teapots but actually genie’s could choose what utensil or appliance they popped out of. The genie was in a hurry. She really did want to get away. If she spent more than 15 minutes with each person, the Chief Genie would not pay overtime. Also, she wanted to go shopping for one or two more Christmas presents. She was not allowed to wish for presents. It wasn’t in the Genie Constitution.

So, here she was, with a dazed woman taking up her valuable time. “Oh, Bulbous Bullucks!” she thought. “Am I getting too old for this business?” Sandra’s scream had given her a headache. She blew out her cheeks and out squirted a little puff of pink smoke from each ear. “That’s better.” Headache gone, she spoke to Sandra again. “Now, will you please LET ME HAVE YOUR THREE WISHES!”
“Three wishes? Sandra had nearly recovered. “Three wishes?” She slowly crawled out from under the table and stood up. “You’re going to give me three wishes?”

Genie rolled her eyes and sighed. “Yes” she said.

Sensible-Sandra asserted herself. “Do I have to tell you what they are now?”
“You’re allowed 24 hours to summon me again,” Genie said. “But after that, you lose all of the wishes.” Genie’s hopes of Christmas shopping, tele-watching and uninterrupted chocolate-eating cuddles with Abdul tonight, started to disappear, but then she had a crafty idea. “You can only rub the teapot tomorrow between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm.”

Just then, the door opened and mum appeared.

She wasn't fazed at all when she saw a see-through genie floating near the ceiling.
"So it was silver!" she called out, matter-of-factly, "And genie's do live in teapots!"