An Empty Vessel

I wanted a gift to remind my friend, landlocked in Switzerland, of the sea she missed so much; something unique but small enough to take in hand luggage. Arriving late at a remote craft shop when it was about to shut, I found a sculpture like a wave, curved and irregular; iridescent blue edged with a froth of white. I thought it was a small vase but it was filled in just below the edge.

The vendor came over and said “I’m fond of that even though it’s not quite right.”

He paused, “Business was bad. I’d come in to find things smashed, clay dried out, once even a dead cat. The day this pot sealed itself up in the kiln, things started turning around. So I think of it as a lucky piece.”

Good bit of spiel I thought. It would entertain my friend. I pulled a dubious face, he knocked off a few quid and I took it home to put in my suitcase.


The flight was not busy, but I stowed my bag carefully overhead. I sat in my aisle seat, wincing when an inebriated passenger squashed his case next to mine and then, tripping over my legs, fell into the window seat and started to peruse the drinks menu. Cabin crew followed, subduing bags and forcing the bulging lockers shut. Halfway through the journey, everything started to shake. I could hear luggage shifting above me and when the plane lurched, all the lockers popped open.

As quickly as it had started, the turbulence ceased. A crew member came to reorganise things, sooth nerves, and remind the person between me and the drunk that his seat-belt should be on. The person who hadn’t been there before. We looked at each other.

“Thank you,” he said, his voice musical. His aftershave was richly spicy and his clothes were made of a clinging silk which didn’t look suitable for a Swiss November. His eyes had the depth of universes. I blinked.

“I am in your service,” he intoned.

“Who’re you?” slurred the drunk, “Where you from?”

“I’m a djinn.”

“I’m a bourbon if you’re buying,” sniggered the inebriate.

The djinn repeated, “I am in your service. I will grant you up to three wishes, for I was cruelly imprisoned and you have released me.”

“I wish you had warmer clothes on,” I said before I could stop myself and boggled as the silks were replaced by tweeds. The drunk stared and turned to the coffee options on the menu.

“I will stay with you, master, and watch over you every day.”

“Honestly you don’t need to bother.”

I definitely need this break, I thought.

“But master, two more wishes…”

“I wish you’d leave me alone,” I said, closing my eyes and putting my earphones in to block him out.


I lost him in customs then forgot him entirely. As ever, my heart leapt when I saw my friend waiting for me, achingly lovely. I dug about in my bag for the gift and found that it had a hairline crack and the lid was detached.

“Never mind,” she said, “it’s beautiful anyway.”

She flung her arms around me and I mouthed my longing into her hair.

With a soft chime and the scent of cinnamon, shimmering lights appeared then faded.

My friend looked up. “I didn’t realise it until now, but I’ve always loved you. Could you love me?” she said.

Out of the corner of my eye, a man in tweeds with a shimmering silk cravat and eyes like universes, raised a hand, smiled and disappeared.

waves drop

Copyright 2016 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission

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