“Did you meet my mother?” I ask him, dropping the cigarette into the can and hearing the last gulp of beer kill the ember with a tick.

“No,” he booms, the sound filling the entire basement, thick, rattling windows and throwing open dusty books, sputtering their pages.

“I haven’t told you about myself,” I tell him and wait to see if he cares to hear anything. He pushes himself down and cracks his neck. He lets himself up and folds his red tree trunk arms over his massive red chest. “This is my mother’s house,” I continue. “She died five months ago, and I was down here, going through everything. Everything she and my father accumulated in their lives. I was going to throw a lot of stuff away, to maybe clean it all and sell the place.” I realize I want to talk about my mother and father. I want to show him a photo or something. This impulse comes with guilt. I feel I must acknowledge my parents’ lives, really care for the memories now. Before I can move on.

“Do you know everything?” I ask him.

“No,” he booms.



When he finally came into full form in the basement, I realized I had been gripping the banister since running from the terrible lamp. He pushed down and slithered his torso around the space, his head and neck slowly scanning the room. His eyes, awesome black rotating globes, finally found me and he slid his great red head even with mine. 

He boomed: “You have three wishes.”

Then he drifted back up to the ceiling.

I clutched the banister. I waited. “How long do I have?”