Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Monkey's Paw

So another story I read as a child was The Monkey's Paw. You can find a hard copy in almost any anthology of gothic short stories. The author, W.W. Jacobs, wrote a number of sea tales which are humourous, pleasant stories of the life of sailors. The Monkey's Paw is a drastic change from those "nice" stories.

If you haven't read it, do so. If you don't want to, here's a summary. A couple in England, late 1800s entertain a British soldier one evening. As they sit around the fire after supper, the visitor removes a monkey's paw from his pocket, a souvenir from his time in India with the British Army, and throws it on the fire. He explains that it was given to him and he was told to make 3 wishes. The husband resuces the paw from the fire, though the visitor advises him not to do so.

After the visitor leaves, the couple wish for some money. The next day, a man from an insurance company comes to them with news that their son was horribly disfigured and subsequently died the night before at an accident at the factory where he worked. He gives them a compensation cheque.

The story becomes more horrific and downright scary, but the main idea is that you should be careful what you wish for.

That message has stayed with me since I read the story in elementary school. And for most of my life I have been careful about what I wished for. Until 10 or 11 years ago. In my "Horseshoe" post, I mentioned Dr. Murray. He is currently one of "my" neurologists. But even before I had met him, I had heard of him. He was an X grad, he guest-lectured often about medical subjects, and his hobbies included diagnosing the illnesses of historical figures based on accounts of their lives and behaviours. Very cool stuff as far as I was concerned. I met a friend for lunch one day, only to discover he was doing some work for Dr. Murray. "That must be so interesting," I was very excited for Charles to be working for Dr. Murray. "I'd like to meet him sometime'" I told Charles.

A few months later, I met a woman, Roxy, who was Dr. Murray's secretary at the Department of Humanities at Dal. Again, I was thrilled. And I told Roxy, "I'd like to meet him."

4 months later, a week after my diagnosis, I was sitting in the MS Clinic in a johnny shirt shaking the hand of the man I had wished to meet.


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