Friday, March 23, 2012

Aladdin's Samovar by Lauren Sweet : Character Interview

Humorous Mystery/Suspense
A nice, normal, boring life—that’s all Amber Polaski ever wanted. One where she’s not unchaining her flaky New Age mom from endangered trees, bailing her out of jail, or getting dragged to naked pagan rituals. But when Amber finds a sexy genie in her antique brass samovar, any hope of normal goes up in smoke.

It’s just one tiny little wish—to find her long-lost father. What could go wrong?

Plenty. Dad shows up, all right—with a computer drive full of stolen data and angry mobsters hot on his trail. Now Amber has Fugitive Dad holed up in her Manville, NJ duplex, fending off the Mafia on one side and the FBI on the other. And she has Jasper the genie lounging in her blue plush recliner, conjuring chocolate chip cookies and passing himself off as her boyfriend. While Jasper is trying to tempt Amber with more disastrous wishes—and his seriously hot thousand-year-old body—Amber and her mom are forced to fight off Mafia assassins with nothing but chutzpah and household appliances.

It’s time for Amber to call in the B-team: Iggy the homeless dwarf, Tim the ecoterrorist, and Wanda the Fairy Dogmother with her pack of Happy Puppies. Together, they need to save Dad before the Mob makes him disappear again—permanently!

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When Amber came to, she was lying on the couch. Not tied up, not naked, not dead. All good signs. She opened one eye a tiny crack. The crazy genie man was sitting in her recliner, feet up, reading the newspaper. She closed the eye. Now what?

“I know you’re awake,” he said. The newspaper rattled.

Amber cracked her eye open again and watched his triceps ripple as he turned a page. Yowsah. Too bad the best-looking guy she’d met in, well, forever, happened to be an insane home invader. At least he hadn’t put her through the wood chipper. Yet.

“You’re faaaakinng,” the man singsonged softly.

Okay, that was creepy. And obnoxious. Amber rubbed the back of her neck, which was still tingling. “What was that?” she asked. “Taser? Vulcan death grip?”

“I told you,” he said. “I have magic powers.”

Sure you do, buddy. She started to sit up and a wave of dizziness passed over her. She lay back down.

He lowered the newspaper and gazed at her. “Can I get you something?” he asked politely. “A glass of water?”

“I think I need a beer,” she said.

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

“I don’t have anything stronger.”

He righted the recliner and went into the kitchen. Amber sat up—carefully—and gauged the distance to the patio door. Could she make it?

Too late. The man returned with two bottles, already open. He handed one to her, and then sat back down in the recliner, looking much more comfy than he had any right to. He took a swig of beer and made a face. “You must buy the cheapest beer in the universe.”

Ungrateful lout. “If you wanted expensive beer, you should have broken into somebody else’s house.”

“I didn’t break in, o gracious one,” he said. “You summoned me.”

“Stop calling me that,” she said. “And I certainly I did not ‘summon’ you.”

“Did so.”



“What are you, five years old?” Amber snapped.

He grinned at her, then passed his hand over his beer bottle. Amber heard it fizzing. The man-who-was-not-a-genie took another sip and looked much more satisfied.

Amber frowned. “What did you do to your beer?”

“Improved it,” he said.

 Amber stalked over to him and took the bottle out of his hand. At least if she drank his, she’d know it wasn’t drugged. She took a sip and choked, almost spraying the crazy man with her mouthful of beer. She checked the bottle. The label was her brand. The beer was not. It was rich, mellow, and expensive. Imported.

“Where did you get this? Not in my fridge.”

He raised an eyebrow and smirked. “Magic powers,” he said. “Believe me now?”

“No.” She handed back her own bottle of cheap domestic and returned to the couch.

The not-genie looked affronted. “Hey! You took my beer.”

“It’s my beer,” Amber informed him. “My house, my recliner, my beer.”

Heaving an exaggerated sigh, the not-genie waved his hand over the second bottle. It fizzed. Amber got up, went over, and tasted this one. Not the cheap beer she’d handed him.

Holy cannoli. Amber checked around the chair and behind the end table, looking for the bottles he’d switched out. Nothing. She tasted the beer again, and stared at him. He smirked again. “I’m an all-powerful—”

“Genies don’t exist.”

He spread his arms wide. “And yet here I am, in all my glory.”

“You’re not glorious. You’re delusional.” Not entirely true. He was delusional, but he was also fairly glorious. In a disturbingly hot, I-could-go-postal-and-break-you-in-half-any-second kind of way.

He sighed. “It’s always so tedious getting beyond the shrieking and disbelief,” he said. “You saw me improve your beer. I’m real. Can we move on to the good part?”

Amber refused to give in. The world had rules, and they didn’t include magic. “Any stage magician can do that beer trick,” she said. “You’ll have to do better than that.”

The not-genie narrowed his eyes at her. Uh oh. She’d made him mad again. Not a good plan if he was a crazy man. For that matter, not a good plan if he was an all-powerful genie.

He picked up an ugly big-eyed ceramic cat from the end table next to him and threw it in the air. “Hey!” Amber snapped. “That’s my—”

The cat reached the apex of its flight, and the not-genie pointed his index finger at it like a gun. The cat shattered.

“—grandmother’s,” Amber finished. Ceramic shards rained down on the coffee table.

The not-genie cocked an eyebrow at her. “Oops.”

She glared at him. Jerk. Just because her ornaments were tacky didn’t mean he had the right to destroy them. She started scooping up the shattered bits.

He made a peculiar sweeping gesture. The cat pieces slowly rose in the air. They swirled over to the man’s outstretched hand, rearranged themselves, and fused back together in a perfect whole, settling gently into his palm. He held the restored cat out to her.

Amber thought she might pass out again. She sat suddenly down on the couch.

“Put your head between your knees. Breathe.” The genie hit the lever and tilted the recliner back, crossing his legs. Amber, head on her lap, twisted her neck so she could look at him. He was wearing off-brand running shoes with scuffed bottoms. Amber wondered fuzzily how he managed to wear out his shoes while riding around in a brass samovar.

At that moment, Amber realized that she’d somehow accepted the impossible. There was an honest to God genie sitting in her recliner.

Laurie:  We’re here in Manville, New Jersey, interviewing Amber Polaski. Amber is a protagonist in Aladdin’s Samovar.  Amber, tell us a little about yourself. I hear you had a very, shall we say—interesting upbringing?

Amber:  That’s one way of putting it. I was raised by a single mom who’s pretty much of a hippie, so we bounced from commune to commune while I was growing up. Crystals, nudists, alien worshipers waiting for the Mother Ship—you name it, we—

(We’re interrupted by a stream of purple smoke swirling out of the ornate brass samovar sitting by the fireplace. The smoke coalesces into an enormous man with dark, shoulder-length hair, wearing jeans and a denim shirt with the sleeves torn off. He’s sitting cross-legged in mid-air.)

Amber:  (with a martyred sigh) And this would be Jasper.

Jasper: Did you call me, o gracious one? (He turns to Laurie and makes an exaggerated surprised face.) Why, a reporter! Are we being interviewed? (He shakes his head at Amber, then looks sardonically at his outfit.) And me with my hair all mussed, wearing any old thing. You should have told me.

Amber:  What I told you was to stay in the samovar.

Jasper:  Did you? I don’t remember. Anyway, getting interviewed is way more fun. (He turns to Laurie.) Go ahead. Ask me anything.

Laurie: Well, okay. What one word best describes you?

Jasper:  Hmm. There are so many… (thinks a moment) Handsome? (His outfit morphs into a Brooks Brothers suit, and he strikes a catalogue model pose.) Brilliant? (He’s suddenly wearing a scientist’s lab coat and a pair of horn-rimmed glasses). Unpredictable? (He blinks out and reappears, sitting upside down in mid-air.) Fun-loving? (He’s right side up, wearing clown pants and a red nose.) Charming? (A bouquet of flowers appears in his hand, which he offers to Laurie.) Dangerously domestic? (The outfit morphs into biker leathers and a frilly apron, and he holds out a plate of fresh chocolate chip cookies.)

Amber: Dangerously domestic is two words.

Jasper:  Everybody’s a critic. Dare I ask what word you would choose, o nitpicky one?

Amber:  Ubiquitous? Ebullient? Annoying? (She takes a cookie. Jasper makes the plate float over and offer itself to Laurie.)

Laurie:  (to Amber, while munching a cookie) What would you consider to be the best book you have ever read? 
(Amber opens her mouth to answer. Jasper raises his hand, bouncing like a kid in a classroom trying to impress the teacher.)

Jasper: Ooh! Ooh! I know!

Laurie: Yes?

Jasper:  Well, there’s this one about a woman who finds a sexy, fascinating, irresistible genie in a brass samovar. Even though she doesn’t appreciate him, he adds unbelievable excitement to her otherwise drab, humdrum, incredibly boring life…

Amber:  Do you mind? I’m sitting right here…you know, being drab and boring and all that.

Laurie:  (sensing an impending argument) Oookay, then. Next question: Would you rather eat in or out? What is your favorite restaurant?

Jasper:  Definitely out! (His apron disappears.) I love fancy restaurants, with snooty waiters in tuxes and napkins folded to look like swans. And a wine list. I love wine lists! And oysters and suckling pigs with apples in their mouths, and duck a l’orange and Beluga caviar served to me on a tiny silver tray and—(Amber clears her throat. Jasper, having gotten carried away, recovers himself). Unfortunately, I don’t have a favorite restaurant because my mistress, in her infinite wisdom, never takes me anywhere. She makes me slave away over a hot stove all day, and does she appreciate it? Noooo…

(Jasper attempts to look pathetic—at least, as pathetic as a 6’4”, pro-wrestler-sized genie dressed in biker leathers can look. Over his left shoulder appears a tiny violin, playing sad music.)

Amber:  (rolling her eyes): You love to cook. And anyway, if you don’t feel like cooking, all you have to do is wave your hand and gourmet food appears, complete with swan-shaped napkins.

Jasper:  If you really loved me, you’d take me somewhere nice once in a while.

Amber:  Who said I loved you?

Jasper:  (whispering loudly to Laurie) She does. She’s just embarrassed to admit it. (Amber shakes her head.)

Laurie:  Do you two have any special routines or rituals?

Jasper:  Other than the one that calls me out of my samovar? See, after Amber makes a wish, I have to go back in the samovar and I can’t come out like I did just now. I have to wait until she rubs it and says the incantation that’s engraved on the lid.

Laurie:  I see. And how many wishes does she get?

Jasper:  It’s in the hands of Destiny.

Amber:  It’s really in the hands of Jasper’s supervisors, who like to toy with human beings the way a cat toys with a tiny, helpless mouse—(Jasper clears his throat). Right. Um, no one will say how many wishes. One of these days I’ll rub the samovar after a wish, and he won’t come out again.

Laurie:  Does that mean you’ll never see him again? (Amber shrugs. Her face is unreadable.)

Jasper:  That’s why she won’t make another wish. (He leans over and whispers in a pretend-confidential voice.) She’s afraid of losing me.

Amber: Are you kidding? I’m afraid it will turn out even worse than the first one.

Jasper:  I know, I know. Blah blah Mafia, blah blah held you at gunpoint, blah blah kidnapping, blah blah explosives…like any of that was my fault.

Laurie:  (Once again heading off an argument) Okay, here’s a question for Amber. What would we find under your bed?

Amber:  (looking slightly embarrassed)  Umm, my Garfield slippers, I guess. And a storage box with my high school yearbooks, my gymnastics medals, stuff like that.

Jasper:  There used to be dust bunnies the size of Volkswagens under there, too. Lucky for her, I clean when I get bored.

Amber:  Thanks for sharing my lack of housekeeping skills with the reading public.

Jasper:   And don’t forget the gun you took away from that Mafia guy. I think that’s under there, too.

Amber:  Is it? I wondered where that went…

Laurie: (to Jasper) What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

Jasper:  That beneath this witty, devil-may-care exterior lies a deeply caring, sensitive soul. (He lays his hand on his heart and simpers at Amber. She rolls her eyes. However, after she looks away, Laurie observes a flash of genuine emotion crossing his face.)

Laurie:  Jasper, if I came to visit early in the morning, would you impress me as being more like a chirpy bird or a grumpy bear?

Jasper:  (Still looking at Amber. A small smile curves one corner of his mouth.) Now, that all depends on where I am when I wake up, doesn’t it?

Laurie: Ahem. Yes. Well, that about wraps it up for today. (Looks at the chocolate chip cookies.) I don’t suppose I could take a few of these with me…

Lauren Sweet was born and raised in New Jersey, spending her formative years sneaking books under her desk to read during math class. After working in business administration for way too many years, she finally escaped to Alaska and earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Alaska Anchorage. Lauren now lives near Portland, OR, and is a freelance writer and editor. Her other esoteric skills include astrology, figure skating, and the ability to do a perfect split.

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1 comment:

jenny milchman said...

Fun feature! The excerpt was perfectly timed :)