In Megan Whalen Turner’s Instead of Three Wishes, mere mortals go up against crafty fey and magical mayhem with only their mundane wits to protect them.
Selene was only trying to help the cantankerous old man across the street. He seemed frozen by passing cars and probably would have been hit were it not for Selene taking him carefully by the arm. She did not realize that that she was escorting elfin royalty.
When they reached the other side safely, he took three small white cards out his wallet, and pushed them at Selene."They looked like business cards. Instead of a printed name, a filigreed gold line wrapped itself in a design in the middle of each white rectangle.
'What are they?' Selene asked.
'Wishes,' said the elf prince. 'You've got three. Just make a wish and burn a card. It doesn't' -- he looked her over with contempt-- 'require a college education.'"
Selene worked in the high school cafeteria to support herself and her disabled mother, but she was not stupid. She said no. Behind the nice suit and tie, he was just as she thought a malevolent sprite might appear. She was certain whatever she wished for would turn out to be a horrible mistake.
But according to the rules of magical kingdoms, Mechemel, prince of the Elf Realm of South Minney, owed her one. He refused to give up trying to pay her back. His first attempt rang the doorbell the next morning. The shockingly green, small man bowed and waved his arms to the magnificent golden coach pulled by six black horses standing at the curb of her small, suburban house. Surely the stupid girl would appreciate such a magnificent gift. She didn't. He had to keep trying.
Megan Whalen Turner's collection of funny short stories run the gamut from crusty New Englanders dealing with “A Plague of Leprechaun” to a bug-smashing teenager who is transported to Sweden's heroic age in “Leroy Roachbane.”