The bedraggled man stepped off the street, ducked behind the waste compactor and began to dig about in the trash, searching. As he ran his fingers over the dirt, he espied a glint reflected from a shiny surface. He rummaged deeper and dug out an old, tarnished lamp from beneath the decay. Enchanted, he rubbed the side of it with his sleeve.
“Thank-you, master, for freeing me from a thousand years of torment. I may grant you three wishes,” spoke the genie.
The man stepped back, his ragged clothes hanging from his scrawny body, and his brow wrinkled as he thought deeply.
“For my first wish,” he said, his voice dry and cracked, “I would like wisdom.”
“Alas, I am afraid that I cannot bestow wisdom, master – it must be earned, not gifted, or it has no worth. Again, master, what are your wishes?”
A pause. The man’s eyes glazed as he stared into the distance for a moment.
“There is nothing else that I would wish for,” he said, finally, “for there is nothing else that can bring me happiness. You are free of your duty to me.”
“Then I think that you may have already realised your wish,” announced the genie, and he disappeared in a wisp of smoke.
The man straightened his back, set his jaw and, with a smile creeping onto the corners of his mouth, he returned to the street, a new purpose in his stride.