by Conor Friedersdorf

A man walks into a bar.

He wears a charcoal gray suit, a charcoal hat, charcoal socks, black leather shoes, and a silver Porsche watch on the wrist of the hand that carries a rather large briefcase, which he carefully sets down before straddling a stool and addressing the bartender.

"A Knob Creek Manhattan, up," the man says.

"Sure thing, buddy."

As the bartender turns his back to mix the drink, the contents of the briefcase are emptied, and when he returns, serving the drink on a square napkin, he sees spread out on the shiny wooden bar top a miniature piano, a tiny piano stool to scale, and atop it a little man, 12 inches tall, playing faint music that sounds like Brahms' Piano Concerto 2 in B flat major.

"Well I'll be damned," the bartender says. "Where did you get a little guy like that?" He hunches over to scrutinize the musician more closely. "Look at those long, tiny fingers!"

The man, having gulped half his drink, says nothing, but the bartender presses him, and finally he erupts. "It's a long story," the man says. "But it all started with this magic lamp." At this he reaches back into the briefcase, produces in his diminutive hands a small, golden lamp, and shoves it toward the bartender, who yanks the towel from his waist and begins polishing.

POOOF!

When the smoke clears, a genie is revealed hovering in the air between the man and the bartender. "You've got one wish," the genie demands. "Use it or lose it."

The bartender stammers. "I'll be," he says, feeling rushed. "Well I guess I wish for... I wish for... I wish for $10 million bucks!"

POOOF!

The genie is gone.

The bar is quiet, except for the faint sound of Brahms rising from the bar top, and the bartender, regaining his composure, starts to worry.

"Hey, what about my wish," he says. "Nothing happened."

But that very moment, over at the open door, a fluttering is heard, and then a quack, and in waddles a duck, followed by a second duck, and a third -- and soon the bar is filling with a badelynge, a bunch, a brace, a grouse, a whole flock of quacking mallards. They stream in without end.

"Now wait just a minute," the bartender cries. "I see what's happening here! I didn't wish for a million ducks! I wished for a million bucks!"

The man, world weary, sighs knowingly.

"Do you think," he said, "that I wished for a twelve inch pianist?"

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