The Monkey’s Paw: Revisited?
by L. Stewart Marsden
When I was a kid, I watched an Americanized version of W. W. Jacobs classic short story, “The Monkey’s Paw“ on TV. If you are somehow not familiar with the story, it centers about greed, and the underlying moral is “be careful what you wish for.” The TV version I saw was set in the deep south, on the small farm of poor sharecroppers.
Given a monkey’s paw by a stranger traveling through as payment for their kind hospitality, the farmer, his wife, and their young son argued about using the paw for three wishes. They had great need, and buying the farm had been a long-time dream.
But the stranger had warned them that each wish would incur some sort of “settlement,” as it were. A kind of for every action there is a reaction thing.
The wife grabbed the paw and made a wish for enough money to buy the farm free and clear from the owner. The paw moved in her hand and she dropped it with a shriek.
Two days later, in a terrible accident, their son was killed in the combine — his body torn in pieces. They buried him in the family cemetery plot. A week later an insurance agent brought a settlement to the house for their son’s death. It was exactly the amount they needed to buy the farm.
Later that night in her grief, the farmer’s wife wished her son alive again. The paw moved. Thinking on it, the farmer realized that his wife had only wished her son alive, and not as he had been. When they heard a moan and a dragging sound outside the farmhouse front door, he grabbed the paw and wished his son dead again, just as his wife rushed to the door to let her son in. The paw moved. The farmer threw the paw into the fire in the hearth.
When she threw the door open, there was nothing.
* * * * *
A preacher I once knew used to talk about the way monkeys were caught in the jungle. Hunters would take a glass gallon jug and tie the jug to a tree. Then they would place the jug on its side on the ground. The last bit of preparation was to put some peanuts in the jug, then leave.
They would return days later to find a monkey with it’s hand in the jug, shrieking to get away. Problem? Flat, the paw would fit into the narrow jug opening. Once the monkey closed his paw around the peanuts, however, his paw was too big to fit back through. All the monkey had to do was open his paw and let go of the peanuts, but he wouldn’t!
Some jars had only the paw left in it — the monkey had chewed through his wrist to escape the trap. Perhaps this is how the stranger got his monkey paw. It was left behind in a glass jar.
USA Today has reported that the United States is paying the families of the 17 Afghans recently murdered by a US soldier $50,000 per death.
What do you do with that? $50,000? What do you do with the announcement, and what, if you are the family of one of the victims, do you do with the $50,000?
I suppose, in Afghanistan, $50,000 is quite a bit of money.
Maybe one or more of those Afghani families had wished on a monkey’s paw.
I seriously doubt it.
Maybe one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had a monkey’s paw.
Please, would you contact your senator or congressional representative and express your feelings about the pittance given to these grieving families? I understand that such a payment is an admission of guilt.
But then, aren’t we? Guilty?