If I were to be given three wishes, what would I wish?
I must have pondered this question many times over the years. The smart arse I used to be thought wishing for unlimited wishes would be very clever, although I would have made that wish number three in case it upset the genie and he stormed back into his lamp without granting me anything. Nowadays I wouldn’t dream of risking the wrath of such a benevolent genie, so I’ll take the three wishes with thanks and make sure they’re good ones.
So, what would I wish? A wise friend once advised me to be careful when I make a wish, because it might come true. ‘Imagine your life if all your dreams became reality,’ she said.
Imagine? Yes I can do that. Let’s imagine my personal genie is standing in front of me right now, tapping his twirly toes and waiting for an answer. Quick – what shall I wish? Shall I wish for a more patient genie? I think that might elicit a response similar to that of the ‘unlimited wishes’ wish, so no. Think again…
How about untold riches? Yes, let’s go for mountains of money. Book a trip round the world; buy the biggest house in Cambridgeshire; test drive an Aston Martin; lavish wealth upon my friends and family. It all sounds wonderful, until I stop and think about my life as it is now. I don’t have the mansion, or the world trip, or the Aston Martin; but I do have my friends and family, and I’m happy. How would untold riches affect my invaluable relationships with the people around me? Could our uncomplicated friendships survive if I suddenly took on the role of benefactor and they were the beneficiaries?
Hmm. I’m not sure, and I’m not going to risk it. Please, Mr Genie, may I modify wish number one? How about: I’d like to have enough money to live in comfort and never have to worry about my finances again. I’m slightly more comfortable with that, but it’s still not right. From where is this money going to come? Embezzlement? A bank robbery? Drug dealing? Will I end up not worrying about finances and living in comfort at Her Majesty’s pleasure?
OK Mr Genie, bear with me. This is the third modification to wish number one, and it will be the last. I would like to make enough money from writing to live my life in comfort and never have to worry about finances again. Happy? Indeed I am. Yes, Mr Genie, that is wish number one – and yes, I will get a move on with wishes two and three.
Do you know what? I’m struggling. Wish number one (which a petulant genie might have considered to have been all three wishes the amount of times I changed my mind) has pretty much covered everything I need, so wishes two and three are going to be pure self-indulgence.
Wish number two: I would like Dory’s Avengers to be made into a hugely successful film, which remains as true to the book as a film possibly can, and I’d like to be the one with the director’s clapper-board thingy who says ‘Dory’s Avengers, scene one, take one’, and I’d like to be the one to say ‘It’s a wrap’ once it’s finished. Could I imagine life if this wish were to come true? Absolutely – I’ve been daydreaming about it from the moment Dory’s Avengers went to print!
One more wish, then Mr Genie can float back into his lamp and relax with Mrs Genie. Wish number three – decisions, decisions. Would I like to be the most skilful guitarist since Hendrix? Tempting, but then I’d miss the super-satisfying moments when I finally get something right after months of practice. Would I like to be an amazingly good wakeboarder? I’d like to be a slightly less cowardly wakeboarder, but beyond that it’s the same answer as I gave to the guitar question. Would I like to have climbed all the fells in the Lake District? What, and deny myself the delicious anticipation of that particular achievement? I don’t think so. Would I like the singing voice of an angel? I can already belt out a mean version of ‘I Predict a Riot’ on karaoke, and that’ll do for me.
What is wish number three to be? My Genie is fast losing the will to live, and I’m no closer to deciding…
Oh, go on then: world peace. Done.
What would your three wishes be? I’d love to know.
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Book Guild Publishing
In a stifled and oppressed United Kingdom, nothing can be achieved without the approval of the dictatorial Sponsors, at whose head is the malevolent and cruel Lord William St Benedict. In Britain’s cities the Sponsored live narrow, if privileged, lives, while the Unsponsored are confined to menial roles and to ‘less desirable’ districts. Among the Sponsors’ many victims is Lord William’s own son, the forthright and charismatic Theodore – ‘Dory’ – held captive by his father since he was a boy.
In the unassuming town of Applethwaite, in the shadow of the Cumbrian fells, an unlikely revolution is brewing. Albino gymnast Louis Trevelyan and his motley group of friends are fiercely proud of their Unsponsored status and gradually forge a plan not only to liberate the beleaguered Theodore but the whole of the United Kingdom.
‘Dory’s Avengers’ are coming…!
Louis slept remarkably well that night considering that the next day he would be setting off on the ﬁnal leg of his journey to ﬁnd Theo. There were already sounds of life from the children when he woke, coming back to reality from a dream about Abi which left him too embarrassed to move from his makeshift bed on one of the Lonsdales’ sofas.
‘Morning, Louis, sleep well?’ Rick asked, appearing with three hungry children in tow and putting the kettle on.
‘Very well, thank you, Rick,’ replied Louis, shoving Jenny out of his bed as fast as she tried to climb in it.
‘Jenny, let your brother drink his tea in peace,’ said Rick, laughing as he handed Louis a cup of tea. ‘What do you kids want for breakfast?’
The chaos of three children and four adults crammed into one small ﬂat helped to relax Louis as he sipped his tea and waited patiently for his turn to use the bathroom. It took quite a while to get everyone showered and fed, but eventually the time came when Louis could procrastinate no more.
‘Right then, Louis,’ said Rick, handing Louis a pocket-size London A to Z atlas, ‘you are currently here.’ Rick pointed to the location of his home before continuing. ‘I’m not going to mark the map in case you lose this book. Sorry to be over-cautious, but we ﬁnd it’s the best way to survive. Can you see that OK? Can you remember? Good man!’ Louis stared at the page in the A to Z, memorising the exact location of the Lonsdales’ Walworth home before nodding at Rick to continue.
Flipping the pages, Rick pointed to another area of London. ‘Kensington,’ he said. ‘Home to the rich, the famous and the powerful. Lord William is all three. He could be called a lot of other things too; I won’t list them now, but sufﬁce to say none of them are good. Your tree-lined road is this one here.’ Once again Louis stared, focused and memorised.
‘OK,’ he said, thinking he’d never felt so scared in all his life.
‘Getting from here to Kensington is going to be a problem. The Unsponsored are only allowed to use public transport at designated times. This isn’t one of those times; the next one is two days away, but I’m guessing you don’t want to wait that long. We could drive you part of the way, but the roads in the more afﬂuent areas of the city are closed to all but holders of Gold Sponsor cards. Also, I think it would be safer to leave Sarah’s car in the garage and out of sight.’ Louis nodded in agreement. ‘So,’ Rick continued, ‘that leaves two options. Walking or cycling. We do have a bicycle and all the kit which you’re very welcome to use, but not a lot of people cycle, so it could make you a little conspicuous.’
‘How long would it take to walk?’ asked Louis, wanting to remain as inconspicuous as possible.
‘A couple of hours I should think. Probably for the best, though.’ Referring to the A to Z once more, Rick said, ‘You don’t want to be stopping to consult this too much, so I’m going to work out as simple a route as possible for you.’ Rick talked Louis through the best route from the Unsponsored ﬂats to Westminster Bridge, and once again Louis looked and memorised.
‘Once you get to Elephant and Castle, Westminster will be signposted. When you’re on the bridge you’ll be able to blend in with the other tourists, so consulting the A to Z won’t present a problem then. Now, have you got a hat? The more you can blend in the better, which means covering up that bright white hair of yours.’
Louis pulled his huge sunhat from his rucksack, dismayed when Rick burst out laughing. ‘Louis, you can’t walk through London in that thing. Here,’ he said, handing over a navy-blue baseball cap, which Louis put on his head.
‘Excellent,’ said Rick approvingly. ‘Luckily it’s a bright day so your dark glasses won’t make you stand out. Right, I think that’s pretty much it. I’ll walk some of the way with you if you like, but my place really is here with my family.’
‘Of course,’ said Louis, wishing he could take Rick up on his kind offer but realising that Rick would rather he didn’t. ‘I’ll be ﬁne, Rick. Thank you. Thanks for all your advice too, and the book and stuff...’
Louis fell silent; and Rick, sensing the young man’s fear, hugged him brieﬂy.
‘Stay safe, Louis. Be careful.’
‘I will,’ said Louis, ‘I’ll be back before you know it. Come here, Jen, give me a hug.’
‘Where are you going, Louis?’ asked Jenny distractedly, more interested in her game with Matt and Charlotte than in listening to her brother. Trying not to feel hurt, Louis told himself it was for the best as he kissed his little sister on the head. It would have been far more difﬁcult to leave had Jenny been clinging to him and crying.
‘I’m off to see a friend, darling,’ he said. ‘Bye then, kids.’
‘Mmm,’ said the children without looking up from their game.
‘I’ll see you out,’ said Sarah, leading Louis to the door.
‘Bye, Rick, Lisa,’ called Louis.
‘Bye, Louis, you got everything? Map?’
‘In my pocket.’
‘In my head.’
‘Good, good. Well, good luck!’
Walking with Louis to the lift, Sarah punched in the code that Rick had taught them the previous night and rode down to ground level with him.
‘Do you have to go?’ Sarah asked, making one ﬁnal attempt to keep her precious Louis safe by her side.
‘Yes, Sarah, you know I do,’ replied Louis, hugging her tightly. ‘Please don’t cry or you’ll start me off!’
‘Go now, darling,’ said Sarah, returning his hug ﬁercely. ‘The sooner you go, the sooner you can come back to me.’
Letting him go, Sarah turned abruptly on her heel and walked back into the building, leaving Louis alone to fend for himself for the ﬁrst time in his life. By the time her tears had subsided enough for her to re-enter her brother’s home and face the children, Sarah had been gone so long that Jenny was starting to fret that she wasn’t going to return.
Louis walked. He walked away from the warm, friendly homes of the Unsponsored, realising that he’d never think of them as ugly again. Sticking to the route that Rick had talked him through so recently, Louis soon found himself on the busy New Kent Road; passing shops, markets and food stalls as diverse as the Unsponsored people who ran them. Reaching the Elephant and Castle roundabout without incident, Louis found directions to Westminster Bridge just as Rick had promised. Luckily the signposts were large enough for Louis’s weak eyes to focus upon, so he didn’t have to draw attention to himself by standing squinting for too long.
Beyond the roundabout the surroundings changed rapidly, became much more attractive, the shops and passers-by obviously Sponsored, and Louis realised that he’d left the Unsponsored neighbourhoods behind him for the time being. A past master at not being noticed, Louis found he had no problem slipping past the people around him, all far too preoccupied with their Sponsor-endorsed lives to pay any attention to a pale ﬁgure in dark glasses and baseball cap. There was one heart-stopping moment when he heard a shout of ‘Oi, Unsponsored scum!’ and the sound of running feet, followed by relief when he realised the shout had been aimed at the runners, not him. Crossing over Westminster Bridge to the north side of the Thames, Louis allowed himself a second to gaze at the famous sights of Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye before trudging on his way. Again Rick had been correct; Westminster Bridge was thronging with visitors, so Louis didn’t stand out at all as he looked at his A to Z and got his bearings. Lake District boy Louis always felt comfortable beside water, so it was reluctantly that he left the river behind him to make his way through the wealthy streets towards Kensington. The further he went the more afﬂuent his surroundings became, until ﬁnally he found the road he was looking for. As he walked deep into Sponsor territory, Louis’s nerves returned with a vengeance, and by the time he reached the now-familiar tree-lined road he was starting to feel some empathy for a terriﬁed rabbit caught in a vehicle’s headlights.
‘Oh God, I want to go home,’ said Louis to himself, before summoning up every ounce of his will-power and walking along the road to the St Benedict residence. Louis had no idea what he was going to do once he got there, realising all of a sudden how woefully unprepared he was. Just as well, then, that no plan was needed. As Louis reached the house, he saw that a means of entry was right there in front of him; and without giving himself time to think, he took it.
Alison Jack has spent much of her adult life working in book distribution – Dory’s Avengers, however, is her first foray into the world of books as an author. She is a keen walker and has a particular love for the Lake District fells – the atmospheric setting for much of her novel.
Aside from writing her own novels and blogging, Alison spends a lot of time editing the work of other authors. When not writing, Alison enjoys reading, playing guitar – with more enthusiasm than skill – and wakeboarding. She lives near Cambridge with her partner and three cats.
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