In a dark alley, in a shady part of town, something rustled behind a collection of forgotten garbage bins. A sound like a very small thunderclap was heard by a few rats, but since they kept no written records - or indeed any records at all - the sound might as well not have happened. And since the rats didn't even go to check on the sound, the slightly dented tin can that slowly rolled to a halt in the middle of a rainbow puddle of oily water could have stayed there, unnoticed, for a very long time.

But it happened that a girl, somewhere in her early teens, wandered through the alley, kicking things as she went. She was not in a good mood at all. She had been fighting with her parents, and was now wondering about how bad it would actually be to become a homeless person. The sun was shining down between the houses, the smell from the garbage wasn't too overwhelming, and the rats kept a sensible distance... how bad could it be? It'd surely beat having to take out the trash and keep ones room clean.

The rainbow puddle had nearly dried out at this point, and the girl obliviously stepped in it while aiming a sandalled kick at the tin can lying there. Her foot never connected with the can, though. The can rolled a few inches, just in time to make her sandal pass through the space it had previously occupied, making her stumble a bit, and stop.

"...what on earth?" she said. Not in those words, since she was a teenager, and an annoyed one to boot, but it's close enough.

The can rocked back and forth a few times, and lay still.

The girl took a step forward and carefully lifted her foot as if to kick the can. The can rocked.

"That's a very rude thing to do you know, young lady!" a voice said. The girl said "!"

She bent down to inspect the tin can. There were no strings attached to it. The only thing out of the ordinary, if you discount the fact that it moved on its own accord, was the tiniest wisp of smoke curling from an opening at one end. She leaned closer.

"Okay. What's going on?"

The can didn't answer. She continued: "I can stomp on you if that helps."

"Well, really! No need for that at all."

The voice had a tinny quality to it. Coming from a tin can that was only to be expected. It also sounded very petulant. The girl thought about that for a second. If someone was trapped inside a tin can it was small wonder that that someone was petulant.

"Are you... trapped in there?" she asked, and felt immediately silly for asking. Anything small enough to be trapped in a tin can ought to be unable to articulate any complaint regarding its predicament. But there, the question had been asked and needed answering.

"As a matter of fact I might be", the voice said. "Technically I am not, but in a more practical sense of the word I am."

"Do you mind making some sense?"

"Well... You could pick up the can and take it somewhere a bit less disreputable, and I'll explain."

The girl, being of the adventurous kind and not having anything better to do, picked up the can between two fingers. It was not very clean, and there seemed to be something almost sentient growing in one particularly deep dent. She didn't comment on it though. By now she was really wanting to hear the explanation the tin can had promised to provide, so it was probably best to avoid insulting it.

A ten minute walk brought her to a small park with a fountain and a bench. She put the can on the bench and sat down beside it. A group of children played by the fountain, but paid her no attention. She cleared her throat.

"Well?" she said. "What's the story?"

"Erm...", said the can. "It so happens that I am a Jinn. Or a genie, as some call it. I prefer Jinn, though, since--"

"Gerouttahere!", the girl exclaimed, and laughed. "You're never a genie. They don't live in old tin cans!"

"Oh, you're an expert, are you? Are you a genie?"

"Of course not."

"Well then! Please be quiet. And don't interrupt, by the way. Very rude, I'd say."

The voice had been petulant before, but now it was decidedly testy. "If you rub the can with a piece of cloth, I'll come out, and I am only telling you this because I am a gracious Jinn. Most people have to figure it out for themselves."

"Why would I want you to come out? How do I know you're not dangerous or... ugly, or something?"

The sound coming from the tin can would best be described as an explosion of gigantic proportions bundled up really small. Like an atomic sneeze. The can rocked sharply and tipped over. The girl righted it and sat back, waiting. "I am not... dangerous", said the voice after an angry silence. "And I'm not ugly! Don't you know anything about Jinns in this place?"

The girl shrugged. "Some", she said. "They grant three wishes or something. But that's genies anyway, and I've only ever heard of them living in lamps. Not..."; she peered at the remains of the label; "... 'First choice sweet' something something-cans. And the stories don't say anything about genies being pretty or ugly."

A thin column of smoke rose from the can. Silence ensued.

"Well, okay then", said the girl finally. "If I rub the can and make you come out, can you fulfill three wishes for me?"

"Yes!" said the jinn impatiently. "That's the whole bloody point."

"No need for profanities", said the girl.

"You're a fine one to talk! I heard you in the alley. In my scroll "sodding fuckmullets" is to find under "Bad Language"!"

"Whatever. Well then I'm taking you back home, and then you're going to make some wishes come true. You'd better be very good at it too."

The girl picked up the can again, and set off for home, taking care not to shake the can around. Deep down she was quite a nice girl, but as these things go that side of her would probably not become apparent for another ten years.


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