Usually, a Saturday morning meant cartoons and sugary cereal, but not only did Tyler’s parents not own a TV, but sugar was in short supply in their house. Spending his morning like a normal kid wasn’t on his mind though. No, Tyler was still lying in bed, reading a book, but focusing entirely on worrying about his friend the talking, wish-granting sloth.
Hearing the news about the zoo closing had hit him very hard. He had spent every weekend and any evening he could for the last couple months going there to see Jean. The idea that he wouldn’t be able to anymore was heartbreaking. He couldn’t even bring himself to go visit. It hurt too much now, seeing that each trip could be his last. He had no idea when the zoo would be closed to the public so they could move the animals. The worst part was that Jean was no ordinary animal. Would he still remain a sloth and move with the zoo? Would he change and go somewhere else? If only he could talk to Jean, hear his voice, and then maybe he could figure something out.
“Tyler, what do you hate more than anything else in the world?” a familiar voice echoed in Tyler’s small room.
“Wh-what? Jean? Is that you?!” he said to the air. Where could Jean be? How did he get out of the zoo? He’s a genie, so any number of ways, but still, this was a first.
“Of course it’s me,” the voice responded. No doubt, that was Jean’s voice.
“Where are you?”
“Hanging from my branch. Or another way to say that is: literally where I have been every moment since you’ve met me.”
“How are you talking to me then?”
“You always surprise me with how much I need to explain to you. Haven’t you come to terms with the fact that I can do literally anything? I’m just using telepathy.”
“Oh, yeah, I guess that makes sense.”
“Whatever. What was the question you asked?”
“What do you hate more than anything else in the world?”
“God Jean, really?”
“That’s a very heavy question to ask someone right out of the blue. Why not start with something a little lighter. I’m reading Harry Potter, why not talk about that?”
“Dumbledore dies. There. Done. Now, what do you hate?”
Tyler glared silently into the air and dropped his copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on his bed, the bookmark only sitting at the halfway point.
“I saw that. Don’t glare at me like I ruined it. The book has been out for years, no way you’ve gone this long unspoiled,” Jean’s voice paused for a moment, “Come on, I’m curious.”
“At the moment, I hate you.” Tyler knew Jean was smiling with that odd half grin that only a sloth could manage to give. It was where his mouth moved into a smile, but his eyes remained calm and unresponsive.
“Well, there are plenty of things I don’t like…Like green peppers, mushrooms, public speaking, being sweaty-“
“I would have thought you’d have gotten over being sweaty after visiting me for so long. I am in a humid jungle enclosure. You must be drenched in sweat each time.”
“Yeah, I guess I’ve learned to deal with it.”
“Once again, without using your wish you have solved one of your many problems.”
“Sure…but as for what I hate. I can’t think of anything that deserves that word. At least nothing off of the top of my head.”
“How very PC of you.”
“Honestly, nothing really goes above dislike for me. What about you Jean?”
“Well, I hate most everything.”
“Then why not change it?”
“If you had ultimate cosmic power, would you shape the world into what you wanted?”
“Why not? If I didn’t like how humid it was, why not just make it go away?”
“If I was to remove humidity from the air, it would have serious consequences to the weather and the climate of the area. Also, where would that humidity go? You can’t just destroy something. It would have to be moved. I can’t just throw it anywhere, especially somewhere where it may do some damage. I’d have to figure out a place to send it where it wouldn’t do harm, and I would also need to keep an eye on where I am to make sure removing it didn’t cause any adverse effects. Removing humidity in my area sounds like way too much work, even for someone all powerful.”
Tyler looked up at the ceiling of his room. His eyes focused on the spinning fan that kept his room cool. On his window he saw beads of moisture formed from the humid day outside. He stayed silent for a moment as he watched small amounts of the water drag along the glass, grow in size and slide all the way down the window.
Sweat had begun to form on Tyler’s forehead. He wiped it off as best he could with his sleeve, and exhaled deeply.
“Still. It sounds worth it,” He finally said.
“Then wish for it,” Jean spoke into Tyler’s mind.
“I’ll just have my parents turn up the air conditioning. Why waste a wish on that?”
“You’ll have to use it eventually, Tyler. What’s holding you back?”
“I don’t want to regret what I spend my single wish on. I want it to mean something,” he said, “Plus, something knew has just been thrown into the mix.”
Tyler sat quietly waiting for Jean’s rebuttal, but nothing came. He chuckled to himself as he pictured the exhibit, seeing the sloth’s eyes close and his breathing get heavier. He knew what had happened and this wasn’t the first day his friend had fallen asleep on him. He hoped it wouldn’t be the last.
Jean was right though. He did have to use that wish eventually. Having only one wish was so difficult. Tyler had been forced to prioritize his life. What was something he wanted more than anything else in the world? One thing was so difficult to pin down. His life up until now had been all about variety. His parents had made sure that he was experienced in anything and everything so that when he was older he had every door open to him. But a life altering choice didn’t wait to arrive until he was older. He had to decide now what he wanted.
With the zoo closing, a very simple option had arisen: wish for it to stay open. That way he could still see his friend whenever he wanted. What Jean said today though couldn’t have been a coincidence. If he kept the zoo open, what would that mean? After all, it had to be closing for a reason. If he wished for it to stay open, perhaps they wouldn’t have the money to take care of the animals properly, and he had to keep their wellbeing in mind.
He could figure out what the problem with the zoo was, and wish to solve it. But it could be a combination of a dozen things.
Then there was the same issue from the start, which was if he was to spend one wish on himself, what would he want? A defining desire was hard to pin down. He had never been forced to think so much about himself before. Especially himself in the present. His mind had been trained to think to the future. What would he be, where would he be going, and who would he become. This was about who he was right now, and that was why it was so scary. Having to figure out this wish made Tyler realize, he had no idea who he was right now.
He sighed and stood up out of his bed. Reaching over he grabbed the book he had been reading and placed it back on the bookshelf.
“Maybe I’m overthinking it,” Tyler said to himself, “…see you tomorrow Jean.”