Sugar Puffs

by Janna Brooke Wallack

The tiny genie flew up from the bottom of the cereal box and hovered over the table, eye-level with the cop. “You’re a thinker, Sal. I dig that,” he said, his little wings fluttering. “But you’ve got fifteen minutes, bro.”

Sal could wish homes for the homeless, but then what about utilities, taxes, and repairs? And if the homeless defaulted on their mortgages? There’d be another crash, and Sal and his fat wife Francie and their fuckin’ “Hi-Ranch” were still upside-down from the last bubble; not to mention, free houses don’t straighten out junkies.

If he wished for oil fields, gold mines, and crops enough to feed the world, who would that screw over? There’d be labor abuses, guerilla rebellions, organized crime, raping, pillaging, and then there’d be Sal, in full riot gear, armed against ten thousand self-righteous college brats and loudmouth menopausal hippies protesting the goddamned environmental and human rights violations.

“Ten minutes,” said the genie. He plucked three Sugar Puffs from the top of Sal’s untouched cereal bowl and juggled.

If Sal wished to end drought, the genie might summon such endless rain that Sal and everyone he knew would all drown beneath the risen sea, or worse, some genie joke that stranded Sal, Francie, and their two shiftless teenagers adrift on an ark loaded with animals and shoveling shit until who-fuckin’-knew.

Sal studied the genie, a six-inch-tall Black guy—African-American, Sal learned to say. He never understood that particular bit of political correctness. What if the Black guy was Haitian or Jamaican, or friggin’ Swedish? They could change the semantics all they wanted, the hate stayed. Sal steered clear of all that shit. He didn’t hate anyone.

But with three wishes, he could time travel, whisper in the ears of all those cops with loose screws, “You gotta ask questions first. You gotta give a guy the benefit of the doubt. Innocent until proven guilty.”

Cop to cop, they might listen. Civilians didn’t understand the world of spending years arresting real bad guys who said, “I didn’t do nothing,” when they did beat their woman, did shoot rival gangsters, did sell crack to kids. ’Course, more folks were good than bad, but the natural variation was there: good people, evil people. Good cops, bad cops.

Sal was no saint, but he was a good cop. Still, to end racism altogether, he’d need to go back to when? Jesus, fuck. The Greeks? The Pyramids?

“One minute, Sal.” The genie yawned, bored.

Sal had a chance to fix everything. How could he waste it?

“Thirty seconds. You’d better—”

Sal wished.

One. Two. Three.

He did the best he could.

No soul felt amiss, when Sal’s head on Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s body parked a new candy-apple red Porsche at the Manalapan precinct Christmas party, and neither he, nor his wife, Cindy Crawford, circa 1993, had any sense of a time when any other reality was remotely possible.


Category: Fiction, Short Story, SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing