Barb and Joe had been living in their small town for more than thirty years. They had raised two children, three dogs, and a couple cats. Joe owned the local gas station and Barb ran the local book club and the local bakery club. The bakery club had donated more than five thousand muffins and cupcakes to school bake sales over the years. Their younger child was Debra. She had moved to New York to pursue a career in some legal field. The couple would always hum and haw over what she would tell them, but generally had no idea what she would talk about when it came to her career. Their son, Dave, had become a traveler. They knew little about how he managed to pay for all his excursions, but he was able to go just about anywhere he wanted. When he had decided to make a career out of traveling he had sent them an atlas so that when he sent post cards they could find out where he was. It was nice of him, and for a long time they would leave the atlas open to the page that showed where he was at any given point. After the years, and pets, went by they decided to put the atlas away and only bring it out when he sent a new postcard.
One Saturday a package came from Dave. It was from some obscure place in Africa. It took them a while to find it on the atlas, it was so small. The letter inside was much longer than the usual postcard and Joe took it out to read before they went through the rest of the box. It went like this:
Dear Mom and Dad,
I would like to start with a greeting and my love. I have missed you both every day I am traveling, but know that you are unable to travel with me at this time. I have included some pictures, a few souvenirs and an object I will explain in a moment. The pictures are from the last major trip I took. It started deep in the heart of China and wound its way through Russia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and then finally through Egypt into the heart of Africa.
In each location I took a few photos that I thought you would both enjoy. Dad, there are a few gas stations, and I also took some pictures of the different kinds of beer that I have tried. I must say, though, I often enjoy the teas better than the beer in some of the smaller towns. There are also a few pictures of the different churches I have found in my travels. I know how much both of you enjoy seeing the different styles of churches from around the world.
Mom, I have not as yet found someone to be my wife, but I have found a few traveling companions that have agreed to go with me as long as the adventures continue. I am not lonely in that regard, so don’t worry about me too much. I did find a great number of little places to take my eventual wife-to-be so that I might propose some day, but don’t hold your breath.
I love you both and hope you enjoy the various pictures and souvenirs I have included. There should be explanations on each so you might know where they were found and why I took them, or bought them.
Now, for the object which I included. It is not something that I send you lightly. It is something that founds its way into my belongings somewhere along my travels. I asked my friends about it and none of them knew where it came from. My guess is that it was placed in my bag by some spiritual leader of one of the smaller towns we went through. More importantly, do not take it out or place it in the open for anyone to see. It is a little macabre, but has far more power than it might seem at first. When I asked some of the local witch doctors about it here in Africa, some spun out into a crazed dance ritual that I was told later was to ward off evil. Others spat and some had no idea what it was at all.
I do know this. Whenever anyone holds the object and wishes for something, that wish comes true. I don’t know how to explain it, but it works every time. There is a downside, however. After the wish comes true, something horrible happens as well. One of my companions wished for a companion of his own one night to share a romantic evening. Not five minutes later a beautiful woman walked up to him and kissed him on the lips. He went off with her and the next day said it was the most amazing night of his life. Later in the day a group of dangerous looking men came to us asking about my friend. We did not admit to knowing where he was, but asked about why they sought hum out. They said little, but a man’s name. We asked a local about him and were told that he was a local drug lord. The woman was his wife!
We left the area as soon as we could and moved on. My friend started to act strangely in the next city as well. He broke out in a fever and was saying that he had to go back to see the woman one more time. We told him it would be suicide, but he refused to pay us any heed. I have never seen him since that day.
So, I warn you, don’t use it yourself. The only reason I sent it to you was to keep it hidden. In the dangerous places I have visited, it would not be a good thing to let the object out in the open to be discovered. I ask you, I plead with you to hide it away and never think of it again. I could not be happy with myself if any harm came to either of you by the use of it.
I am now off to another country, and possibly another continent. I will send more postcards and more souvenirs as I come across them. Be well, I love you.
Dave, your son
Joe put the letter down and looked at his wife.
“What do you make of that?” he asked her.
“I’m sure I don’t know, but lets just look at all the things he gave us and put that strange thing he was talking about in the attic and forget about it.” She was already going through the pictures and had pulled out the atlas to find where they had been taken.
Joe went through the souvenirs and placed them in a neat order on the dining room table before he got to the bottom of the box. There another package was tied up in wax paper and a small note was written on it. The note said:
“DO NOT OPEN”
Joe left the thing on the table next to the other souvenirs and went on to inspect everything they had been sent. There were some great little baubles and other trinkets from the different places their son had gone. They both went over everything and gasped at some pictures, and cooed at others. Joe was impressed with the orderliness of some of the places, and discouraged by the chaos of others. Barb merely said it was a different culture and went on to the next picture. By the time they were done they had gone through everything and put all the pictures and the souvenirs away.
Joe laid in bed that night and thought about a few things he had always wanted. It was true that he didn’t trust the thing in the wax paper, but he was certainly curious. He put his curiosity to rest and went to sleep. As soon as he did, Barb got up and went down to see what the thing was. She turned on one dim lamp and started to unwrap the wax paper. At first she couldn’t quite tell what the thing was, but soon discovered why Dave had written that it was macabre. Barb let out a small stifled scream when she saw what it was. She looked at the stairs to see if Joe had woken up, no sound, he hadn’t. She wrapped the thing up again and vowed to hide it away somewhere in the morning.
The object was a hand. It was covered in hair. There was far to much hair for the hand to be human, but it did have a look of a human hand. Barb had decided that it was a monkey hand. She didn’t know anything about monkeys or apes and decided it was better not to find out at this point. She laid in bed for a long time before she could go to sleep. The next day she went down and found the thing gone from the dining room table. Worried, she called Joe.
“Joe, did you put that thing in the attic like I said?” Barb kept the worry out of her voice as best she could, but there was still a bit that made its way through the phone line.
“Did that story in Dave’s letter scare you? Yeah, I put it away. It’s up in the attic and won’t be coming down anytime soon.” Joe put the phone down when their conversation was done and he went back to his lunch in the fridge. On top of the fridge was the thing. He took it down and looked over the wax paper. He tossed it up ad down a couple times to see how heavy it was. The thing couldn’t be very big, even though there was quite a lot of wax paper. He started to unwrap it when the attendant came bursting in to ask him a question. He put the thing down and went out to help the attendant.
Barb wasn’t sure if Joe had told her the truth, so she went up to the attic to check. It was closed, just the way it should have been. She went up and looked around for a little while not finding anything. There were a lot of different hiding places in the attic, and Joe was very good at hiding presents from her, so she wasn’t convinced that it was or wasn’t there.
Joe was back at the wax paper. He finished unwrapping it and held it, not sure what to think about it. It was a monkey paw. He had seen a couple monkeys up close in his day. This was definitely a monkeys paw. It had an old string tied to the wrist just below where it had been cut from the rest of the monkey. Joe looked it over. Other than being rather odd, not much like a rabbits foot, but similar to him, it wasn’t all that strange.
Just then the attendant yelled back for his help once more.
“I wish that kid would just get out of my hair.” Joe muttered.
As Joe got up he heard a gun shot. He grabbed the phone in his office and called the police.
Later that night he told Barb all about what had happened. It turned out that when the boy had called out to him the customer was pulling out what looked like a wad of cash. It turned out that the wad of cash was just an odd colored bag that had a gun in it. The man demanded money, and when the kid fumbled and couldn’t get the register open fast enough the man had shot him in the chest. Joe sat on his porch and drank a beer. The kid had died before the ambulance made it to the hospital.
The next day Joe went in to work. He had to get everything cleaned up. He called a few places that could help and when everything was taken care of he went into his office and sat down. It was going to be hard for a few days. He looked down at the floor and saw the monkeys paw half under his desk. A shudder went through him. He then remembered what he had said right before the shooting had happened.
For a moment he sat there stunned. He shook his head and let out one, curt laugh. That wasn’t any magic. He had just had bad timing, that was all. Nothing to get worked up about. He reached down and picked up the paw. One of the fingers of the paw looked odd. He inspected it closer and found that it had aged. The one finger looked older than the rest of the hand. He hadn’t noticed that when he had first took it out of the wax paper. No matter. He put the paw down and went about his work.
All that day the thought nagged at him. Maybe it had done something. Maybe the paw did have some magic quality. He kept pushing the thought out of his mind, but it kept coming back. He decided to test it. He picked up the hand and wished for a sandwich. That couldn’t be too bad. What could go wrong with a sandwich?
Someone came in to the gas station. It was a woman from a new restaurant down the road. She asked if she could leave some fliers for her place there. He didn’t mind. She also had a few sandwiches to give away to the local businesses. He smiled and accepted. He had already had his lunch for the day, so he put the sandwich in the fridge and went about his work. He left the monkeys paw in his office and went on about his day.
When he packed up and went home he took the sandwich with him, but left the paw there. When he got home he told Barb about what had happened during the day. She smiled.
“I guess we can have a sandwich for dinner then. I don’t feel like cooking anyway.” he pulled out the sandwich and they ate it. Joe looked through the sandwich before eating it, nothing strange there. It was a very good sandwich.
That night both Joe and Barb got up about three times to run to the bathroom. Something hadn’t agreed with them. Joe made a note to go and talk to that restaurant owner the next day. They took some medicine and slept the rest of the night through.
When Joe went to talk to the woman there were a few people in her place all wanting to know why they had been given bad sandwiches. The woman tried to calm everyone down and apologized for everything. She said that later that day, after she had gone out everywhere, she got back and discovered that there had been a problem with some lettuce. She had called most of the places, but she hadn’t had all the numbers. She gave everyone there a coupon for a free meal as an apology. Everyone accepted and they all went on their way.
Joe went back to his gas station and into his office. He looked at the paw again, pondering. This time he noticed that another finger was now aged. He thought this was strange, but didn’t think any more of it. He went about his work and later that day he noticed that he wasn’t going to make as much that quarter as the last. He picked up the paw while he was trying to think of something to do about it.
“If you’re so magical, little monkey paw, then why don’t you give me something worthwhile. No sandwiches, but some real revenue. If I don’t make enough money in the next two weeks then I won’t be able to take Barb on our monthly date night. So, you’ll give me something worthwhile, won’t you?” He looked at the paw as if it was going to talk to him, to say something in response. It just dangled in front of him. Nothing happening at all. “Alright then, I wish for some extra revenue before the quarter ends. How’s that?” Still nothing happened. He threw the paw on his desk and went about his business in disgust. He was upset more at himself for letting things get this bad. He could have tightened up a little more over the past couple months. He could have seen, if he was looking a little closer, that he was going to have a tough quarter.
The paw had landed behind a pile stuff he had to go through, yet. There it lay. There two more fingers shriveled up.
The next day they got another package in the mail. This time Dave had sent them something new. He had discovered a great new herb in a rain forest that had amazing curative qualities. He had provided them not just with the ability to sell some, and use some, but also grow their own. Barb and Joe thought it over. Joe decided to take some of the herb to the gas station in order to see whether it would sell. Barb tried some herself, she had had a small ache in one of her knees the past few days.
At the gas station the people who tried the herb came back demanding more of it. Joe didn’t have much to say, other than that he would be able to get some ore to sell in short amount of time. He went home and found that Barb was not only better but had done some gardening, and cleaned more of the house than usual.
“It makes me feel great! I don’t know what it is, but it’s definitely got something in it that heals up anything that’s wrong with you! I was able to kneel down for a few hours without having any trouble at all.” She went on talking about how great the herb was.
Joe went out back and plated a bunch of it, well, what was left of the seeds. Barb had planted a lot of them already. The next day someone in a business suit came into the gas station to ask Joe about the herb he had sold the previous day. Joe gave him some and asked what was going on. The man tried some and then offered Joe a contract for quite a lot of money, if he would sell them what he was growing. Joe looked over the contract and signed immediately.
The next day Joe and Barb got a check in the mail for a large sum of money. They went to the bank and deposited it, then went out for the best date night they had ever had. They both agreed that their son had finally struck gold.
The quarter ended and Joe had more than met his goals for sales. That check from the big company was enough to take the burden off the next quarter too. Joe took a long weekend and went out fishing. He hadn’t done that in years. When he got back Barb met him at the door with an odd expression.
“What is it dear?” Joe put down his equipment and came in to hear what was going on.
“Well, Joe, there’s some good news and some bad news. The good news is that Debra just called and told me that she just got a case that could make her career. She’s very excited. It seems her firm in New York was hired by a bunch of people for something. She didn’t say what the details were.”
Barb shuffled her feet a little before the next part. Joe waited patiently. “Well, the other news is, well, Joe I think Dave is going to have to keep traveling for a while yet.”
Joe didn’t have to ask what she meant by that. It meant that the miracle herb Dave had sent home didn’t do as expected. He sat down before they continued talking.
“What did the herb do? Are you ok?”
“Oh I’m fine. It’s just that my knee feels worse than before, and the garden where we planted the herb has started to wither. All the other plants are being killed by that herb.”
Joe shook his head. That contract was about to be worth as much as the paper it was written on. At least he knew in advance that he was going to have to buckle his belt a little tighter this next quarter to make sure things weren’t so bad the next year.
“Well, we can get in touch with him the next time-” Joe was cut off by the phone ringing.
“Hello?” Barb had picked it up, hoping for some different news to talk about.
“Yes dear. … That’s great! I can’t wait! … … ok, I love you too. That’s great news dear!” Barb put down the phone and looked at Joe. “That was Dave. He’s at the train station. It seems he came home early to see us and see how the herb was doing. He rented a car, so we don’t have to pick him up.”
Joe looked at her. They both just stayed where they were for a moment. Then Joe got up and went over to give his wife a big hug.
“It’ll work out alright. Don’t worry about it, we’ll figure something out.” They went to bed that night feeling the weight of the day hang on them. Dave didn’t call again until the next morning. He came over and they had a great breakfast, then another man in a business suit knocked at the front door. He handed Joe an envelope and walked away.
“What is it dear?” Barb got up and cleared the table.
“It’s a summons. The gas station is being sued by everyone who bought the herb.”
“What?!” Dave jumped up. He grabbed the letter and read it over. It said that the herb was the reason for the summons. It was vague after that.
“What are you going to do dear?” Barb put everything away and came out of the kitchen.
“Well, I’ll take the blame, I’ll just say that I found it growing in our backyard and that I tried some. It was such a great herb that, that…” He trailed off. Joe didn’t know what he was going to do.
“No,” Dave said. “I’ll take the blame. It was my mistake to send it ahead of me. I should have told you to wait until I got back. I should have had it tested before I told you to sell some. I should take the blame.”
The three of them all sat down at the dining room table and talked and cried for a while before Joe went back to the gas station and took all the rest of the herb off the shelves. He went home early that day and tried to get in touch with Debra about what to do, but she was unreachable for the rest of the day.
They tried a few more times to get in touch with her, but her company had set up an answering service for her and said that she was going to be too busy the next few weeks to take any calls. The day of the trial came and Joe, Barb, and Dave all went in to take the blame together. They had found a lawyer that would take their case, and all of them sat and waited for the prosecutor to show up. After a few minutes Debra came into the courtroom.
The four of them looked at each other. Debra then went up to the judge and requested that a recess be taken before they continued. The judge begrudgingly agreed. Debra went over to her family.
“I had no idea it was your gas station we were suing! I am so sorry! When did you change your name?” Debra was in earnest.
“Oh, about four years ago, darling. We needed to change a little to be newer, so we changed the name and got everything set up. You were away at school, and work so we didn’t think it would worth interrupting your life to let you know about such a small thing.” Joe sat there, not really sure what to think. He had barely been able to get that out.
“Dear, don’t you worry, we’ve decided on what we’re going to say. You just do your job.” Barb tried to encourage her daughter, but her heart wasn’t at its best.
“It’s all my fault sis, you just do your job and we’ll own up to our mistake.” Dave looked the most downcast of all of them.
“It’s not that easy. They’re going to crucify you guys. The herb you sold isn’t simply ineffective, but harmful. It’s also a little toxic. Not that any amount of toxicity is ok, but this stuff, in large quantities can be lethal.”
Barb started to cry, Joe, sat and put his head in his hands and Dave stood there with a defeated look on his face.
“No, I can’t do this to you guys. I can’t do this to my own family.” Debra went to her co-council and told her that she had to make a call. She called her firm and told them what was going on. She left the court room and came back a few minutes later with tears in her eyes.
“It’s, it’s all done. The trial will continue tomorrow. I will help you prepare something and the firm is sending someone else in to take my place.” Debra wiped her eyes and fixed her make-up.
“But dear, won’t the firm be upset about you taking up a case against them?” Barb looked at her daughter with a wise mothers sense of intuition.
“Don’t worry about that, mom, I’ll be alright.” Debra gathered up everything and told the judge what was going on. The trial continued the next day.
The gas station lost a lot of money. Debra was able to drop the cost to her family by a substantial amount, but it was still so much that Joe and Barb had to move out of their home and sell it for a smaller place. They moved into a small apartment while the transition happened.
Dave went to jail for a few months, Debra was able to knock off quite a lot of time for him, and was restricted from traveling anywhere anymore. His passport was revoked and he was stuck in the US until further notice.
When Barb pressed Debra all she found out was that she had to take care of a few things. Barb knew that she lost her position at the firm in New York. Joe had figured it out too. He went back to the gas station and filled out all the paper work to have a silent partner come in and save the place. While he was working he found the almost completely shriveled hand. When he did stopped and cried. He remembered what he had wished for.
He took the paw home. On the way he wished that Barb no longer had to suffer the way she had through all this. He wished she would be taken care of. He didn’t see, but the paw shriveled up completely. Joe kept on wishing all the way home. Not until he got home did he notice what he had been doing. He grabbed the hand and ran into their apartment. He gasped and dropped everything he had been carrying.
There on the floor, Barb was lying in a pool of blood. Joe went pale. He knelt down and turned her over to see what had happened. She had been cleaning. A knife had been on the table in the living room area. Somehow she had dropped it and fallen over on top of it. Her knees had been getting worse. Joe knew she had had no chance. He pulled the knife out of her just as the police showed up. He was arrested for her murder and sent away fro a long time.
When the scene was cleaned up they found a monkeys hand covered in blood. The only thing about it was that it seemed to be freshly cut off whatever animal it had come from.