Lately I’ve been pondering riddles.   Here’s one to consider.   

A man and woman are wandering in the wilderness when the woman spots an unusual bottle.   The stopper is very stiff, but the man manages to loosen it.    With a whoosh a rather tired and irritable genie pours out.   He hands the man and woman each a paper pad and a pencil.   

“You have an hour,” he says.   “Whoever can ask for the most in that time wins whatever he desires.”

They begin scribbling.   After a while the man notices that the woman is fanning herself with her paper.    He shakes his head and goes on writing.

The hour ends, and the genie takes back the papers.

In his tired voice with its peculiar accent,  he begins to read aloud  the man’s list.   

472   Get a slow boat to take me to China.

473   Buy the latest gadget

474  Get the newest, most expensive car

475  Buy a horse.

The woman rolls her eyes.   The genie, somewhat exhausted, lays down the man’s list and picks up the woman’s, which has only a few lines daintily written.    The genie however, does not seem relieved.   He reads:

Give me whatever I want whenever I want it.

Consider world domination.

The genie looks at them thoughtfully.   The man looks slightly anxious;  the woman is trying not to look smug.

“Those are not the right answers,” says the genie, and the papers fly away in the wind.

“But I did everything I was supposed to do,” protests the man.

The genie shrugs.

“You promised!” complains the woman.

“Did I?” says the genie.    As he disappears into thin mist and seeps back down into the bottle, into which the stopper firmly plops itself, his voice comes faintly back to them.   “I’m a genie.    Why did you believe me?”


Sometimes laughter is silvery, but just for the moment, silence is golden.