The Monkey’s Paw

The Monkey’s Paw is a supernatural short story by author W.W. Jacobs. The story was also in a chapter of Tales from the Crypt, which featured horror stories with unexpected ending.

The story presents a door to door salesman. A neighbor asks him what’s the strangest thing he brought from his trips abroad, and the salesman said it was a bewitched monkey’s paw, imploring him to buy anything but this item:

“Don’t buy it! It has magical powers, a fakir put a spell on it. Whoever owns it can ask for three wishes to come true. Your wishes will be granted, but they come to you in the most unexpected and malicious way.”

The man was intrigued by the story, and bought the paw all the same. He did not believe all the magic nonsense, and to prove his point he held the paw and said: “I wish to get 20000 pounds by tomorrow”.

Nothing happened, and the following day seemed to pass just like usual.

But in the evening the family received an unexpected visit. It was their son’s boss, who had come to inform them that their son had a terrible accident at work and lost his life. As he was well loved by his friends and co-workers, they all gave some money and raised 20000 pounds for the grieving family.

Some days after the funeral, mad with grief, the man’s wife demanded him to ask the monkey paw for the second wish: “Bring my son back to me!”

A few hours later they heard strong knocks on the door.

As his wife ran to the door, the man, terrified of what might be waiting out there, asked for the last wish, to cancel his second wish, and so as the door opened, there was nothing out there but the wailing wind.

After this little horror intro, dear readers, let’s say that you are holding South’s cards in your left hand, and the Monkey’s Paw in your right hand:

Dealer North, E-W Vulnerable

Your partner liked his hand a bit too much and upgraded it to a 3 overbid. You asked aces and went to slam.

West lead the Q and you took the A, then stopped to count losers from hand: 1 Spade, 1 or 2 Hearts and 2 Diamonds.

The diamonds could be ruffed in dummy, the Spades could be thrown on the Clubs and the K could be finessed.

Holding the monkey’s paw, you finally decided to make use of it and said:

“I wish for the Heart finesse to succeed”, and asked for a low Heart from dummy at trick 2.

And sure enough, your wish got granted right away as the K immediately appeared in East.

You happily won the A, ruffed a Diamond, returned to hand with the Q (East discarded a Spade), ruffed your last Diamond with your last trump in dummy, returned to hand via the ♣Q, cashed the J, and now… You are stuck: If you play your last Heart – West will get the 10 and opponents will take 2 more Diamond tricks. So, you continued playing your Clubs instead.

But West ruffed your third Club, played his last Diamond, and you had to ruff and lose a Spade trick for 1 down.

You were pleased to see that Spade finesse didn’t work, so choosing to finesse Spades instead would not have saved you.

But was there anything else you could have done?

Yes!

First, be more specific with the monkey’s paw: When you ask for something – be clear! You could have asked for the Heart finesse to succeed and for Hearts to split 3-2. That would have gotten you 13 tricks.

Second, when you ask a wish from the monkey’s paw, you should expect things to go wrong. Seeing the K fall at trick 2 should indicate that Hearts break badly and that you still have a Heart loser. So, play carefully, and you can make it: Allow the K to win the trick!

Win the Spade return from East with your ♠A, ruff a Diamond, return to hand via the ♣Q, ruff you last Diamond, and play your last Heart from dummy to your remaining AQJ in hand, collecting the remaining trumps from West. You can continue with Clubs now and discard your ♠QJ on them. You made 12 tricks, despite the monkey’s paw curse and an unfavorable Heart break: 3 Hearts, 1 Spade, 1 Diamond, 2 Diamond ruffs and 5 Clubs.


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