Mina Sparrow never took vacations. She worked inside a labyrinthine law firm, eighty floors that buzzed with depositions, due diligence, tort and malfeasance. The top lawyers defended high-price clients, banks and bureaucrats. They drove sleek cars, wore shiny shoes and groped their secretaries.
The owner of the firm had a large wall full of selfies, a comb-over and a spray tan. Mina met him only once and was surprised to find him small, in spite of belly fat. But Mina worked mid-level and rarely saw the brass. For sixty hours a week, she typed up tricky contracts, hunched behind a desk marred by rings of dried coffee. Mina kept her head down, following the rules (but hoping they would change).
Who knows what tips our scales?
For Mina, one short note, handwritten, slipped through cracks to reach her desk. A plea for help. The spidery, old-fashioned script fished in Mina’s memory, dredging up her grandma. The old woman seemed to rise and shake a scolding finger, an admonishment to do right. Mina listened.
Of course, she lost her job.
On the day that she was fired, Mina took the train out to the seashore. Along the winter pier, Abel’s Marvelous Wish Emporium had a “Going Out of Business” sign plastered on its cracked front door. Its packed shelves held a motley spread. One tarnished lamp caught Mina’s eye. The brass felt strangely warm, bearing echoes of unbridled women’s laughter, Irish jigs and cherry cobbler. She bought it.
Back inside her cramped apartment, Mina cursed her luck, herself. Her decision to “do right.” A lamp that didn’t work. But, as she polished the old brass, she remembered grandma’s stories of Aladdin and she couldn’t stop herself: Justice, Mina wished. Justice.
The next day–her first without a job in years–Mina drifted through the morning before deciding on a walk. Habit led her feet back to the office. And there she found the lamp–her lamp–hanging in the lobby, perfectly restored. Can’t be, Mina thought. Its light winked through the glass.
Sirens sounded. Mina stepped back quickly as a fleet of FBI agents rushed the building, reporters in their wake. In the gathering crowd, she heard the rumors, though she might have guessed their substance. Fraud. Extortion. Theft. Gross misconduct. The long list rattled on through months of prosecution. Mina watched the news and saw the fancy lawyers, shoes unshined. She saw the firm’s owner shouting at the cameras, hair bedraggled, waving tiny, too-pale hands. She watched until they locked him up.
Then Mina took a beach vacation. Halfway through the week, she saw that Abel’s Marvelous Wish Emporium had a “Help Wanted” sign fastened to its new front door. Inside, the lamp–her lamp–gleamed with mischief. The shelves displayed a bounty of the curious and strange. Mina filled out an application for employment.
She was hired on the spot.
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